The Pet Menagerie

by | Oct 12, 2016 | The Writer's Life | 4 comments

Sahara or “Kitty”

So this week we’re talking about our pets. I’ve had a lot of pets over the years and all have enriched my life, but the cats, well, they’re something else. I can see why the Egyptians revered these animals.

I grew up in what was then a rural area outside of Chicago and, with the exception of our first dog, a super intelligent poodle named Princess, most of our animals just showed up. There was a trestle about a mile from the house and people routinely dumped their animals there. They’d eventually find their way to our doorstep, where my mother would take them in for a short while before finding them a new home.

My first cat marched right in the front door. There we all were, sitting down to eat dinner and my brother’s friend, who was leaving for his own family dinner, called from the front hallway, “I let your cat in!”  We all stopped eating and stared at each other, perplexed.  We didn’t have a cat and my mother claimed not to like them very much. Around the corner came an adorable white and black kitten, half Persian, who stumbled into the kitchen, sat down, and looked at us with these wide blue eyes. Princess was sitting in the corner and looked from my mom to the kitten and back again as if to say, “Uh, oh.”

Mom insisted that the kitten could only stay until we found her a home or sent her to the shelter. That lasted about one day. After a week my mom fell in love with “the Kitty.” Princess, the most wonderful dog in the world, tolerated her well enough, and the rest of us loved her. Kitty stayed for nineteen years until she died of old age in my Chicago townhouse.

My son wanted a turtle and the next pet in the house was Will. He’s a desert tortoise and just about the perfect pet. He lives in our backyard all summer and hibernates in a terrarium in our cool and dark crawlspace all winter. Will comes when called. Well, I suppose a big part of that is that he knows I call him when I bring his romaine lettuce outside. He lumbers out and stops in front of me, his neck craning upward. He knows his name, I’m sure, but I imagine he calls me “She Who Brings The Lettuce.” 

He enjoys greeting people when they sit in the yard and I usually hear someone yelp when he appears and crawls onto their shoes. He enjoys shoe sitting, I don’t know why.

Will gets along with all of the urban animals that visit him outside. Once late at night I looked out and saw a mouse sitting on Will’s broad back and cleaning its paws. Will didn’t seem to mind at all.

Our next cat, Sahara—also called Kitty– joined us from the PAWS shelter when my daughter begged to have a cat. Kitty is sweet, afraid of her own shadow, and inordinately attached to my daughter. The cat will jump in the shower with her if she could. I usually find her pressed to the bathroom door waiting for “The Goddess” to emerge. When there’s a girl sleep over I find a pile of teenagers asleep on the bed and one female cat draped on top.

And for me, that means life is about perfect.

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  1. Karna Bodman

    Jamie, what a great list of adored pets in your family. I never knew that a turtle would "come" when called….amazing. And the fact that all of those abandoned animals found their way to your home sounds like they had some sort of secret code saying, "Right this way, guys, this family will take care of us!" Thanks for posting.

  2. Gayle Lynds

    Will the Tortoise is a great one. I burst out laughing at his addiction to shoe sitting. A tortoise with personality. I've been bigoted for years and dismissed his species as ground crawlers. How wrong I've been. Thanks for a great post, Jamie!

  3. Jamie Freveletti

    Thanks guys! Yes, Karna, I think you're right and I do believe that the abandoned animals knew our house was safe because they bypassed others to get there. And isn't Will a hoot? Gayle, I never knew those types of animals could have a personality, but after getting Will I realize that they do, which is nice.

  4. Chris Goff

    I love the words you've put into your animals mouths. Our dog Winston goes crazy when we've been gone and return–even from a trip to the grocery store. As my daughter once said, "It's like he's thinking 'OMG, you're back, you're back. You didn't die.'"