In April 11 IssueRussell County NewsBy Wade Daffron, Columnist
I cursed myself, didn’t I?
You can tell me-I mean, I figured that’s what happened.
I just had to go on and on last week about getting a dog.
Somehow, someway, we keep having more and more animals show up at our humble abode.
(And by animals, I don’t mean people I went to college with-I mean the furry ones. Well, come to think of it, I went to college with some furry people, but that’s a story for another day).
It seems as if there is some kind of "Underground Animal Network" (UAN) through which animals communicate with each other, and let each other know where to go for food, water, shelter, etc.
Our house seems to be at the top of the UAN list.
"We’re starting to have our own menagerie around here, aren’t we?" my wife, Renee’, cheerfully said.
To which I replied with some kind of guttural groan.
Since our new puppy has managed to mark its territory (literally) over the past couple of weeks, she’s been joined by a family of three deer, and a kitten.
The deer? I don’t know where they come from, or where they go. We live pretty much right in Jamestown, so I can only assume they either bed down within the few trees near our house, or perhaps they have a small apartment somewhere nearby.
Every evening around dark, I’ll catch the flash of a white tail in the backyard, and sure enough, one...then two...then three deer amble up to our carport.
They get a little braver each day, and I expect I’ll come home from work next week to find them sitting on our patio furniture reading The Star or National Enquirer. (I don’t read that stuff myself-I guess the wife does. Well, I may scan an issue if it’s got Miley Cyrus on the cover, or if it has an article on Brangelina, or one of those "Can You Find the Six Differences in These Photos?" things.)
I hope they are "good" deer, and not some kind of rouges who will try to steal a vehicle and go on a joy ride like in that one Far Side cartoon.
The only trouble I’ve had with the deer so far is they have a habit on knocking over our trash cans.
They will walk right past the salt block I sat out for them, and knock over every stinkin’ (for real) trash can that has dirty diapers in them.
And I so very much enjoy picking up a bunch of shredded, wet, dirty diapers...not.
Our latest "animal adventure" this past weekend involved a hamster and kitten.
Kate (who just turned three, but still acts two) and Drake (who just turned five) had a birthday party at the house, and there was, by my estimation, 147 kids there.
OK, maybe not that many, but we had children ranging from just months old to late teens.
(Six pizzas-that what we fed them in case your wondering, because that is a question likely to come up when you talk about a large group of kids.)
Toward the end of the party, our resident emo expert, Evan, came walking toward us with something in his hand.
"Uh," he said to Renee’ and me, "I think there’s something...uh....not right."
When he opened his hand, there laid one of our two hamsters. It was face-up, with it’s front paws curled up against its neck.
A crowd of kids had gathered around us.
One of them started to ask, "Is it...
"DON’T SAY IT!" I sputtered-pointing at the smaller children.
"Oh, yeah, I guess it’s...like...you know...SLEEPING," one of the teens said.
"Yeah...just...RESTING," another said.
"It’s OK, it’s just...PLAYING," yet another cautious teen said.
"Is it dead?’ Kate asked.
"NO!" we all said in unison.
"Not dead...definitely not dead...anything but dead...most certainly not dead...of all the things it could be, dead is not among them."
I said something about putting it back in it’s cage-but what I did was snuck it back in our bedroom.
I had Evan hold it as I took a bottle of Children’s Motrin, and poured a tiny drop in the hamster’s mouth.
"Um...like, why are you doing that?" Even asked.
"Can’t hurt anything at this point," I told him. "Or can it?"
Racking my brain, I was trying to remember what not to ever give animals.
Was it chocolate? Table scraps? Antifreeze?
Thankfully, the hamster squirmed a little, and seemed to slowly return to "normal" over the next few hours.
The new kitten? That’s an interesting one...
That same day, our other cat (which Renee’ seems to think I am not aware of) apparently dragged a small, black, gray & white kitten to our back door.
The kitten (which appeared to be a couple of days old) was lifeless, and in terrible shape.
"I think she (the cat I am supposedly unaware of) drug her up here to eat,’ Renee’ said.
"What?" I replied? "Cats don’t eat other cats."
"No, no," she said, "I’m pretty sure that’s what she was going to do."
We determined it wasn’t her (the cat I am supposedly unaware of) kitten.
"See," Renee’ said, "that proves she was going to eat it."
"Does not!" I protested. "Was she (the cat I am supposedly unaware of) leaning over it with a fork and knife?"
"NO!" my wife said, "you can just tell these things when you’re a mother."
I made a mental note to tell the kids not to go near their mother if she’s hungry.
Renee’ swooped the kitten up in a wash cloth, and was rummaging through the medicine cabinet-looking for an eye dropper.
"You’re not going to..." I started to ask.
"Yes, I am!" she said.
She sat for what seemed like hours trying to put a drop of milk into the kitten’s mouth, and it carried it everywhere she went.
That night, the kitten slept on her chest.
"It can feel my heartbeat," she said.
The next day, the kitten meowed around in an empty, cardboard diaper box he had been put in.
We would all stand around the box and watch "Carter" (not named after the president) crawl around.
That evening, I saw Renee’ sitting on the bed with a quizzical look on her face as she cuddled the kitten.
"I think the kitten is dead," she said.
I picked it up, and it exhaled.
"No, not dead," I said, "I think."
We put it back in the box, and took turns checking on it every few minutes.
It never moved.
I went into another room and tried to think of what to tell the kids if the kitten was dead.
"NO, OH, NO!" I heard Renee’ scream.
She came running toward me with the limp kitten in her hands.
I took it, held it close to my chest, then after a few minutes of trying to rouse it back to life, folded the wash cloth around it, and sighed.
I buried the kitten at lunch time the following day.
I wasn’t crying-it was raining, and rain drops were running down my cheeks.
At supper, I attempted to talk to our five-year-old, Drake, about what happened.
"Are you upset?" I asked. "Do you understand what happened to the kitten?"
I knew it would be difficult to explain the process of life and death to him (heck, I don’t even understand it myself), and I feared he would have trouble letting go, and moving on past this tragedy.
Drake held his finger up, as if he was making a point.
"Dad," he said, "I’ve made a decision.
"Will you take me to the pet store?
"I would like a new pet."