Sunday, November 6, 2016

Something Fishy


Fred was a fish that we had in our aquarium that wasn't especially notable except that he was roughly ten times larger than any of our other fish. So that made him kind of cool. 

The other thing that made him interesting (in a horrifying way) was that one day, out of nowhere, Fred started swimming upside down. At first, my sister and I thought, "Hey! That's funny!" Until my dad said, "Looks like Fred's not doing so hot." Then, we knew that the worst was coming for Fred. 

We were all prepared for a quick fishy death. We'd seen it many times. Goldfish that you win at the local fair just never seemed to survive for more than a few days at our house. But Fred wasn't giving up. He swam upside down for days. Days turned into weeks. He seemed to have adjusted to this new upside down life. And then he started swimming sideways. 

At this point, we had said our goodbyes to Fred a few times already, so he was like that awkward house guest that you tell, "Hey! Just lock the door on your way out today and leave the key under the mat!" and then they are still waiting for you when you get home. Yikes. "It's okay Fred. We can see that you are increasingly distressed from not being able to swim in a normal fish way. You don't have to be brave. Just go into the light."

Eventually, Fred did go into the light. About 15 years later, when I decided to tell this story to a coworker of mine, (because I clearly have a poor understanding of social norms) she told me that you can actually adjust something in the fish's water to make them turn right side up again. Oops. Sorry, Fred. 

This is a terrible photo of our old fish tank,
but includes Brittany Beason for scale. 

Bullwinkle & Cowwinkle

For a few years I had a beautiful Betta fish named Bullwinkle. He wasn't one of our shared family pets, either. He was all mine! I changed his water, fed him, and told him stories. (Okay, you caught me. I ran out of real fish owner responsibilities to name.) He had a good fishy life. Then, one day, he died. Honestly, I was not devastated. I was a little sad for about a minute. A normal amount of sad that one should be when their Betta fish dies. But, I think my father was worried about my reacting poorly, so he immediately asked me if I would like a new Betta fish. Without really evaluating my feelings on the matter, I said yes. 

Turns out I didn't really want a new Betta fish. First of all, none of the fish at the pet store were nearly as beautiful as Bullwinkle. And none of them were nearly as lively. Bullwinkle used to swim around so quickly, and he would always go to the top of the water when I gently tapped on the side of his bowl before giving him food. However, I thought I should still pick out a fish, so I did. He was the prettiest of the fish there. I'd give him a B- in Betta attractiveness. I named him Cowwinkle. 

Cowwinkle was the most boring fish ever. The only real reason I remember him was that he was a much less exciting version of Bullwinkle. He didn't live as long, and he died in a boring way that isn't even useful to this blog. However, he has the honor of being the last fish I have owned. In his unremarkable life, he taught me that sometimes when an animal dies it doesn't need to be replaced. Or, at least, you should take your time replacing said animal with an equally awesome animal rather than just taking in whichever fish crosses your path next. 

Work Fish

I work in an office with a fish tank. The fish are pretty and people like them. Occasionally, there is fish tank drama. I strive to have as little to do with the fish as possible. 

I used to be the only person in my office on Saturdays. I worked Saturdays for a year before anyone asked me, "Hey - do you feed the fish on Saturdays?" I responded no, and my coworker was horrified. Maybe that makes me a terrible person, but in roughly 50 Saturdays it had never once crossed my mind to feed the fish. It wasn't even on my radar. However, after feeling rather ashamed of myself for neglecting this responsibility for a year, I decided to make a point of feeding the fish every weekend. 

I have had a lot of fish, but I guess I forgot (or never knew) the appropriate amount to feed a tank full of fish in a day. So instead of asking anyone for their opinion or reading the fish food, I decided that two heaping teaspoons worth of food would be enough. What I didn't realize is that you can actually overfeed fish. Luckily, the same coworker who was shocked when I didn't feed the fish for a year also mentioned a few weeks later that she only gives them half a teaspoon. When I revealed how much I had been giving them, I was officially relieved of my weekend fish-feeding duties. And I readopted my former policy of ignoring the fish. 

For example, one Saturday when I came in to the office and I was told by a child in the waiting room that there was a dead fish in the tank. And also a plastic spoon. Apparently someone had tried to get the dead fish out of the tank with the plastic spoon, but upon failing to do so had left both the spoon and the fish. I immediately decided that I could have nothing to do with this, and texted my boss to let her know the situation. I was tempted to send her a picture rather than attempting to describe the situation, but decided against it. She handled it quickly the next time she was in the office, and I was glad to have nothing to do with it. 


My youngest sister (age 10), much like me, has enjoyed having Betta fish to take care of. At one point, she and my parents were going out of town for vacation, and they asked my older sister to act as a fish-sitter for a week. My older sister happily agreed, and kept "Fishie" at her house so that she could care for it. After all, a short-term fish-sitting gig was about the easiest pet-sitting job that you could ask for in my family. 

During the week, my older sister and her husband provided enthusiastic updates about how Fishie was doing, and shared how much they were enjoying their little house guest. Meanwhile, it turned out that my younger sister was not overly attached to Fishie, but she was pleased that he had found a good home with people who clearly loved him. So she decided that rather than picking up her Betta at the end of the vacation, she would generously gift it to her oldest sister. She communicated this by letting my older sister know that she had already gotten a new Betta fish! 

Fishie was loved by my oldest sister and her husband until his final day. At one point, I even acted as fish-sitter for them when they went on vacation. But I was sure not to seem too eager in my daily updates about the Betta. I didn't want them to get the wrong idea...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Love of Animals

I love all animals. I mean, sometimes people aren't my favorite but most other animals are awesome. I don't even hate most bugs (exception: roaches). When I was little, in addition to having to deal with my love of stray animals, my dad had to keep me from playing with wolf spiders. 

But there is one big exception. One animal that I have been afraid of forever and would prefer never to have to be near. Or hear about. Or see pictures of. In fact, just writing about this animal has my heart racing anxiously. 

Ostriches. I hate them. 

Wildlife Preserve

My grandparents have always been very involved in my life. For as long as I can remember, we've spent time together almost every weekend. One weekend when I was about 12 years old, my Grama and a friend of hers drove me to a wildlife preserve. The kind where you can drive your car through a field of wild animals and watch them roam. What a cool experience! 

Upon entering the ostrich field, I immediately became uncomfortable. I didn't know why, but my heart began racing and I was certain that one of these large birds was somehow going to peck its way through the window and demolish my face. I felt trapped.

Then, the worst happened. Not knowing that I was already terrified, my grandma's friend decided it would be hilarious just to roll down my window a few inches. Not enough to actually let the flamingo tigers attack me, but just enough to make me scream bloody murder as I tried to shield my face and eyes from the large birds just outside the car window.

First Sighting

After this incident, just the word "ostrich" would send me into a panic. At one point, I confided in my dad.

Me: Dad, I'm afraid of ostriches.
Dad: Oh, I know. You've always been afraid of ostriches.
Me: What do you mean?
Dad: Well... one time when you were very little you watched me feed an ostrich a tomato that was almost as big as your head. And when you saw it swallow the tomato whole and watched it moving down the ostrich's neck you just started screaming and crying.

Now it all made sense. I had always been afraid of ostriches, and I hadn't even remembered why.

My Husband is Mean

One day I made the mistake of telling my boyfriend (now husband) that I have a fear of ostriches. He felt that he could "cure" my fear by making his computer screensaver a picture of an ostrich. He searched Google for the perfect picture, and was highly amused when this appeared:

I could not find a source for this, but if you want credit
for this monstrosity please feel free to comment on this post.
Thus, I was subjected to several months of staring at ostrich fangs. And I still married this man. 

I'm a Survivor

Now, I know you may be thinking, "How often do you really encounter ostriches?" 

You would be surprised. I work with kids. For some reason, these monsters sometimes get grouped up in puzzles and books with cool animals like zebras and peacocks. Then I have to explain what the heck those giraffe eagles are. Then, there are the random inclusions of ostriches in TV and movies. You really ought to have a trigger warning for those. I mean, I couldn't even watch season 4 of Arrested Development. This fear is clearly impacting my life. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm glad I'm not afraid of something I would have to encounter regularly like spiders or something. But when you have Target selling Halloween costumes like the one below, you can't tell me that I'm not a brave person for continuing to leave my house despite the existence of actual dinosaur chickens on our planet. 

Toddler Girls' Ostrich Rider Costume - One Size Fits Most

Monday, January 4, 2016

Sunshine, The Possessed Cat


My Uncle Tim tells the story of Sunshine, the Possessed Cat. The first question that may come to mind is, "BUT AREN'T ALL CATS POSSESSED?" Apparently some are more possessed than others, as this story illustrates.

One more editorial note before we begin: My grandmother, who plays a major role in this story, has been known to dispute many of its pertinent facts. But in Texas the stories get better with the telling, and Uncle Tim has been telling this story since the late '80's.

Sunshine, The Possessed Cat (as told by Uncle Tim)

It was 1987 and I was attending Texas Tech University. Out of the blue, Mom called me up and asked me if I could take care of Sunshine, the big black-and-white cat that we had grown up with. Mom had recently migrated to Dallas and she and Sunshine were currently living with my Aunt Lou. After a few weeks of this arrangement, Aunt Lou announced that either Sunshine would be moving out, or both Mom and Sunshine would be moving out.

I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of having a cat in my tiny apartment, but how could I say no to Mom? She quickly made the six-hour car trip to drop Sunshine off.

Shortly after Mom had departed, Sunshine began racing up and down the stretch of my long narrow apartment, over and over again. Whenever any friend would come over, Sunshine would zip between their feet, causing them to lose balance and almost crash through my glass coffee table. It wasn't long before no one would come to visit me.

After a week of this, I called Mom up and said, "What's up with Sunshine? He's not the same cuddly animal that I knew from my childhood."

There was silence on the end of the phone. Then Mom said, "There was this incident..."

My Aunt Lou was into crystals and gurus and just about anything else attached to the New Age Movement. A few weeks prior, Lou had decided to hold a seance at her house in order to contact her dead husband. Two things happened during the seance:

  1. All the lights in the house went out.
  2. The cat lost its mind.
I'm holding the other end of the phone taking all of this in. After a moment of silence, I said, "You gave me a possessed cat?"

Mom replied, "We don't actually know that it's possessed."

Shortly after this conversation, I woke up in the middle of the night. The door to my apartment was standing wide open, and the cat was gone. After spending the minimal amount of effort possible looking for the thing, I resolved myself to the fact that Sunshine was hopelessly lost. I closed the door and went back to bed, relieved to be rid of the creature. I never saw Sunshine again, but I can only assume that it joined the legions of the damned as they trek their ghoulish way across the haunted regions of the earth.

More from Tim

A big thanks to my Uncle Tim for volunteering to be my first guest author! If you'd like to read more of his work (it's all super funny and highly recommended), you can find his articles at:

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pretty Rainbow Cat

A Stray Cat 

We owned Pretty Rainbow Cat when I was roughly four years old, so the details of this story are a bit fuzzy. Here's what I do remember:

We took in a cat that was living in our neighborhood because she was just too pretty not to! My older sister Megan and I named her Pretty Rainbow Cat because she was a black Calico, so she was basically all the colors cats can be at one time. In case you don't know what a "Pretty Rainbow Cat" might look like, here is a picture of a black Calico for reference. (To be honest, I think PRC was way uglier than this cat. I couldn't find any photo documentation of her, but even as a four year old I thought she looked a bit... rough.) 

Photo Credit: Dieter Simon (licensed under Public Domain)
Not long after giving Pretty Rainbow Cat a home, my family decided to move across the state. Which, at the time, meant driving a pick-up truck with many of our possessions about six hours east on the highway.

At this point in the story, dear readers, you may once again choose your own ending. While ending #1 may not be the most satisfying, it is the story I was content with until recently - when I got the full story from my father. While ending #2 may be more complete, you will almost certainly regret reading it. You have been warned!

Ending #1

As someone who had not fully formed the ability to retain memories, I remember arriving at our destination without Pretty Rainbow Cat. It was just me, Megan, my mom, and my dad. What a shame! I really liked that cat! I guess we found her a new home before we left... 

Ending # 2

I recently discovered that we intended to bring Pretty Rainbow Cat with us on our journey. The five of us set out in the truck, but only four of us made it to our destination. As it turns out, cats do not like to be relocated. I now faintly remember that we took turns attempting to comfort Pretty Rainbow Cat, as she was meowing and very distressed to be in a moving vehicle. This strategy would've worked out fine, had someone not rolled down a window while we were on the highway. Apparently Pretty Rainbow Cat decided that she would rather take her chances jumping out of a car moving at full speed down the highway than stay with us for one more minute. 

I remember having some mild anxiety as a child any time we would have an animal in our vehicle, thinking that it would somehow escape. I would constantly check to be sure they were still with us. Now I know why. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Chocolate-Covered Raisins

Pets are family

I am fairly new to this whole "pets are family" business. I mean, I've always believed in the idea of it. I've always claimed that my pets are family. But it wasn't until recently that I realized that some people mean this more literally than others.

When my husband and I first started dating he procured a doggie for us to love. And then I learned how difficult it can be to actually train an already full-grown animal. Because despite the fact that I had owned more animals in my eighteen years than most people do in a lifetime, I had never actually taken responsibility for training one.

Differing Opinions

Here's a paraphrased conversation we had about it at the time. (It should be noted that during this time I was technically living with my grandparents. My dad had been very clear that he didn't want me moving in with my boyfriend the day after graduating from high school. Which meant that all my rarely used possessions were at my grandparent's house, all my regularly used possessions were at Stephen's apartment, and I kept the everyday essentials in my car.)

Me: Oh my god. This sofa smells like urine.
Stephen: (sighing) Angel peed on it again. I already cleaned it but the smell doesn't go away. I'm probably going to have to gate her in the kitchen tomorrow when I go to work.
Me: Why don't you just, like, permanently leave her in there? She's clearly incapable of learning to pee outside.
Stephen: ....That doesn't seem very fair to the dog. She's getting there. That's the first accident she's had in a week.
Me: It doesn't seem very fair to me when I'm over here trying to seduce you and your couch smells like dog piss.
Stephen: Well, this isn't your house. It's Angel's. And you're trying to get her locked in a tiny kitchen indefinitely.
Me: I don't really see the problem here. She's a dog.
Stephen: Yeah, well, dogs are family.
Me: (laughter) ... Wait... you're serious right now?

Today, almost eight years later, people often assume that Angel was originally my dog. Because I am head-over-heels in love with my dog. Then I have to admit to them that, no, Angel was originally adopted by Stephen. He painstakingly trained every bad habit out of her after years of neglect from previous owners. And now she is my perfect puppy. She has her run of the house every day. She is better potty-trained than some of our friends after they've had too much to drink. She is a big part of our little family.

Angel is not sure how balls work.

So although I have my fair share of... questionable... pet stories, I like to think that I am a reformed pet owner. If anyone questions my love of my dog, they need only to look around our house. Where Angel has three beds in various locations throughout the house and a small shrine dedicated to her on our mantle. (Is it that obvious we don't have kids?) This shrine includes a small quilt of Angel's face, made by my mother-in-law.

You can see the original photo of Angel here.
(insert shameless plug for my MIL's business)

The Incident

We're lucky people and Angel is a lucky dog. She was especially lucky to be family on one occasion in particular. It was after a midnight showing of one of the Twilight movies (Eclipse, I think?) and someone-who-will-remain-nameless left an unfinished box of Raisinettes in our bathroom trash can. (Hint: it was one of my sisters but I have so many that I still feel like I'm protecting the guilty.)

As you might have already guessed, Angel found the box and ate the chocolate-covered raisins. Being the wonderful pet owner that I now am, I caught her in the act and was able to recover the box with about twenty chocolate-covered raisins remaining. I immediately texted the sister in question (Still could be the little one, y'all. She has a cell phone!) and asked her how many raisins had been left in the box. She said maybe seven. And since I had about twenty, I knew she was not a reliable source and that I had to get this dog to the vet.

At the time I was concerned about her chocolate intake, but the vet told me that he wasn't that concerned about Angel ingesting a small amount of milk chocolate (Hooray!). However, she was getting her stomach pumped anyway because apparently any amount of raisin is, like, instant kidney failure for some dogs (Boo!).

And that's how I came to spend a small fortune on our dog for the first time. For three to four years following this incident I managed to spend more money on my middle-aged dog's medical bills than on my own. When I asked my husband for feedback on the amount of money I was spending on things that probably wouldn't kill our dog he said, "Yeah. That's a lot of money. But this is our dog."

Yes. Right. She's a member of the family, after all.

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Half a Cat

Since publishing the list of pets I have owned, people (okay, mostly my grandma) have wondered how I ever managed to have half a cat. Did we have a deformed cat that only had half a body? Did we have an especially obese cat that somehow counted as one and a half cats? I told my grandma that she would just have to wait and see! The real answer is very simple - I was once invited by my very kind Aunt Carolyn to "own" a cat of hers. 

She was actually about half the size of
a normal cat, so that makes sense.

Pet Ownership

The concept of pet ownership is a little bit strange. Can you really "own" a live animal? I used to think so! For instance, when my parents would admit to people that they owned four or five dogs, they would say, "Well... we have four (or five) kids so they each have a dog of their own!" And they were right. It was always that way in my house. Everyone had one animal that they preferred over the others in the house, and which they claimed as their own. Even if the animal was clearly inferior to the other dogs/cats/birds it was still yours and, therefore, the best.

After the tragic incident with Brittany Beason, everyone was desperate for a way to get me to stop talking about Brittany Beason. Around this time, we visited my Aunt Carolyn, who had a couple of new kittens (a common theme - they love animals as much as we do). I especially liked one of the kittens, and my aunt decided that I could keep her! Of course, I couldn't really keep her, because we were all still going along with the charade that my dad had "cat allergies". But I could share her! 

Catshare Rules

How do you share a cat, you ask? Well, here are the rules as far as I can tell: 

Cat Owner Responsibilities
  1. Take care of cat
  2. Take pictures of cat 
  3. Share amusing stories of cat via phone/letters
  4. Allow sharer of cat to pet/cuddle them when they are around
  5. Pretend sharer of cat is in the owner
Cat  Sharer Responsibilities
  1. Enjoy cat cuddles
  2. Enjoy cat pictures
  3. Enjoy cat stories
I would recommend this sort of "catshare" arrangement to anyone. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

We named her Cordelia (after the character on Buffy, obviously). And she was just as beautiful and feisty as her namesake. 

A letter from my aunt telling me about Cordelia's adventures!

Kitty in the City

At the peak of their cat ownership time, my aunt and her family lived in the country. There, the cats were free to roam and interact with the local wildlife. However, when they moved to the city... things changed.

Cordelia and the opossum.
You know what they say about curiosity...
After moving to the city, Cordelia escaped the safety of my aunt's house and was hit by a car. Thus fulfilling my cousin's prophecy to all their new cats ("You're gonna get runned over"), and ending our catshare arrangement. Though I'm sure I was very upset by her death, I found that in addition to the reduced responsibility required for a catshare, I also had reduced sadness over her passing. I have not owned a cat since, nor do I have any plans to. But I would participate in a catshare again. Please contact me if you have any interest in allowing me to "own" one of your cats. (But also, be aware of the risks involved in letting me take ownership [even hypothetically] of your animal...)

I was also recently reminded by my aunt that Cordelia was a mommy. One of her kittens, Paris Dale, is now 9 years old and has lived with their family her whole life. It just goes to show - there is always hope for the next generation! 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Animal Shelter

One time we were running low on dogs. We might have only had two at the time and I think we had a recent runaway, so we were trying to fill a hole in our broken hearts. My mother and I went to the local animal shelter to "rescue" a dog. 

Rescue Mission

We began by walking the aisles of the shelter and looking at all the adorable dogs. We happened across a Boxer puppy that was super cute. Having decided that we could not live without this animal, we attempted to take it home with us. As we waited in line to speak with someone at the shelter, we started thinking of what we would name him. The two of us at an animal shelter were like two kids in a candy store. I'm sure we thought of something ridiculous to name him. I remember it was a male Boxer. We had a history of ridiculous animal names, and this one would be no different. Let us now refer to him as "Box". 

Interview Time

The animal shelter conducted a thorough interview with us before allowing us to take Box home. Here are some examples of responses that we may have given to these questions. 

1. Hey, don't I know you two? 
Probably. We have had a few dogs run away and we almost always reclaim them from you. 

2. What brings you in today?
We recently lost a dog, and we are coming to find a replacement. 
I'm sorry to hear that. 

3. Do you currently have any other dogs? 
Yes, one English Setter (pictured below) and one Dalmatian. 
Oh, yes. I remember the English Setter...

Gracie, the English Setter, was an escape artist and famous at the local animal shelter!
4. Do you have any other animals living in the home? 
Yes, we also have two cats - Brittany and Sylvester. But they all get along since the dogs stay outside and the cats (mostly) stay inside. 

5. Where would you plan to keep this puppy?
Outside with the other dogs. We have a covered porch and a gate that is (usually) locked. 
(significant look from animal shelter employee)
...or we might keep him in the garage for awhile...

6. Do you have any experience training a puppy? 
...Oh, sure. We've had several dogs before. 

7. Can you provide vaccination records for your other animals? 
...Yeah. It might take a few days to get all of that together...

Mission Failure

Ultimately, we were not allowed to take Box home with us. My mother was not pleased, as she felt we would be a perfectly adequate home for a dog that might not have any other options. The shelter seemed to think that Box could do better, though. And he probably did. He was super cute.