Cats. As you can see, we always had plenty of cats.
I'm sure they appreciated all the lovin and squeezin I gave them. I think the one that made the great escape in this photo is Fry-Fry. Fry-Fry was a big, orange tom-cat, that looked like Morris from the 9 Lives cat food commercials. He was always fairly aloof. And how did Fry-Fry get his name? We got him from a family with the last name of Fry, of course.
Coonie - the cat - was a fat tabby. Or maybe she was just always pregnant. She must have had 200 kittens in her lifetime. Sometimes I would find the new litters hidden away in the barn, and sometimes I wouldn't. When I did, the kittens would mysteriously disappear over the course of the next few weeks. I found out many years later that my dad took it upon himself to keep the cat population in check. (My sister-in-law, Christy, mentioned to Dad one time that she wanted a mouser for their place and Dad said that he would "save one" for her.) At some point, Coonie was involved in some sort of accident that left her with only a 3" tail. Her stubby tail made her look fatter and only added to her cuddle quotient.
When I was in junior high school, we adopted Missy. Mom saw a listing for Missy in the paper - a Persian - and thought I would like to have a beautiful, white, long haired cat. When we picked Missy up, we found that she was not Persian at all. She was a white, short haired, regular cat that was pregnant. We took her anyway. She turned out to be a complete nut case. She spazzed out on the way home and ran all over the inside of the car - hair flying everywhere. Even though she was declawed, she managed to catch a lot of mice. The only thing was that she never actually killed a mouse. She would present them at the back door and toy with them until Mom came out and finished the job. Mom hated that cat. For the short time we had Missy (2 years?) she ruined every pair of nylons my mother had. A new pair was like a magnet for that cat! In the time it took Mom to walk from the house to the car, Missy would dart out of nowhere and snare Mom's hose. How she did that without claws, I have no idea. She was just that good at being that obnoxious.
Most people wouldn't count pigs as pets. I considered them something in between a true pet and an all-out farm animal - at least when they were babies. I obviously sucked my friends into believing the same. But pigs grow up too fast, and then they become huge, obnoxious and mean. Sad, but true.
We had orphan calves or calves that needed a little TLC from time to time. Dad would put calf milk or formula in a glass Pepsi bottle with a big nipple on the top, and I loved to help feed them. I named one of these poor things Bennie. Like the cute little pigs, Bennie grew up too fast and was put back with the rest of the cows (I don't even know if Bennie was a boy). For years after that, when we would have hamburgers, Denny would ask if we were having "Bennie burgers". Funny. Really.
We had sheep too, and it seemed that lambs wanted to be born on the coldest nights of the year. I was home for break my sophomore year of college, during a real brutal stretch of weather. Dad brought a sickly newborn lamb to the house one evening and we set up a nursery in a corner of the kitchen. I held it under a heat lamp, swaddled in blankets. I remember my boyfriend called and asked what I was up to. He was a city boy from the Chicago suburbs, and when I answered, "Trying to keep a lamb alive", it took a moment for him to wrap his head around it. That poor little lamb shivered all night. It didn't make it, but I like to think I made it's brief time on earth a little nicer.
I had plenty of hamsters and mice. The little guy I'm showing to my niece, was Squirt. I think I named him that because of what he tended to do every time he was held for a little too long.
Lucy was a good hamster, and even survived "the ball" incident. I used to love putting her in one of those plastic balls, where she could run around on the floor. She was in her ball one day while I was cleaning out her cage and I wasn't paying attention to where she was. She rolled down the hallway and bounced down the stairs. I found her with all 4 limbs stretched out in the ball as if she where saying, "DUDE! Make it stop!"
We had animals that visited often too. This is Christy, Dennis and baby Bender.
I had a love/hate relationship with Bender. (Hate is too strong of a word. It was more like a love/uneasiness thing.) He's a cute, little, adorable puppy in this photo, but Bender was a Doberman Pinscher. He grew up to be a pretty big one too, and he could be intimidating. He made it apparent that he didn't particularly care for people with light colored hair. When you sat in a chair, Bender would sidle up to you, wedge his nose under your hand and flip it up on top of his head - as if to say, "Pet me now, minion." When I was in college, Den and Chris had to travel, so I stayed at their place to care for Bender. Bender needed medication for some forgotten ailment, and I was supposed to administer a huge pill to this huge dog every day. He never fell for the hide-the-pill-in-a-clump-of-food trick, so I was instructed to pry his mouth open, throw the pill at the back of his throat, clamp his mouth shut and rub his neck until he swallowed. Uh-huh. Sure.
Looking back, with the fish in the pond, toads and the chickens across the road at my aunt's house, I practically had my own personal zoo. That's something you don't fully appreciate until you write about it a few decades later.