The day I met you, I did not even know I wanted you. We had gone to the animal shelter for a different dog. We thought we wanted one who was a little bigger and more hearty, so it could survive our children. That dog was labeled, "No children," so I thought we were going home without a pet. Mr. Everything convinced me to at least look at other dogs, but I had no intention of taking one home. Then, there you were. Two little eyes looking at us from the back of the cage. You looked so scared, and you had the biggest ears. Mr. E pointed you out, and I said I didn't think so. I said, and I quote, "That is one of the ugliest dogs I have ever seen." (By the way, sorry about that.) Mr. E said we should at least give you a chance, so we asked the attendant to take you out of the cage. We took you to a nearby room where we could put you on the floor and get a good look at you. Then, I knew. You were mine. From the first moment we met you, you had the sweetest disposition. You were small enough, but you were big enough that the Beetle and the Goose wouldn't crush you. We decided to take you home. We thought we were doing you a favor. Little did we know how much you would do for us.

-You taught my children to love animals. Before you, they were afraid of baby ducks. (Baby ducks, for goodness sake.) They were a little timid with you at first, but you never growled, nipped or bit, and quickly, the Beetle and the Goose learned to trust you.

-You were my constant sidekick. The whole family thought you were our dog, but really, you were MY dog. I knew it. You knew it. You stayed by my side day and night for 13 1/2 years.

-You patiently endured the Goose. While she painted your toenails, spray painted you and even dressed you in baby clothes, you looked at me longingly, asking me to save you. Sometimes, I did. Sometimes, I didn't. But either way, you endured.

You survived the summer of the hurricanes with us.

You were there to comfort the Goose after she scraped her forehead so badly the skin had to be glued back together.

-You were there to comfort the Beetle when he had his tonsils removed.

-You gave the same comfort to the Goose when she had hers removed.

You were a quiet comforter for us all.

-You were there with us when we had to leave our home. (In fact, my furry friend, you were the last remaining piece of "home" I felt like I had left, and now that is gone. You will be sorely missed.)

-You were there for us when we moved.

-And moved again.

-And again.

-And again.

-And again.

-And....again. And regardless of where we were living, you were happy, as long as you could be with us.

-You were there to comfort us when we lost 2/3 of our income in a fire. You didn't even care that we were broke.

-You were there to comfort me and calm me when Mr. E had his face burned.
You tried to lick away the tears, though I really, really did not want you to do that. (Sorry. I've seen you eat poop.)

I could go on and on and still not name all the ways you have given to us. While we thought we were saving you, you saved us.

You were a true friend, when I sometimes felt like I had no others.

You made me feel accepted when I otherwise felt rejected.

I am so thankful you did not suffer, and I am also so glad I did not have to make a decision about when to let you go. You went naturally. Even your death was as low maintenance as you had been for all those years with us.

As I sat there and watched you take your last breath, I knew I would never find another dog lik
e you. Surely, I couldn't. You were weird. That's probably why you fit our family so well. There could never be another dog like you, that's for sure. You were my companion. You were my constant buddy. You were my Pepe Chihuahua.


Hey Jude!


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Have I ever told you I have a pet cat?  Well, it’s true.  Sort of.  Okay.  I don’t actually have a pet cat, but I have a cat who thinks he is my pet.

The cat belongs to my neighbor.  His name is Jude.  The cat.  Not the neighbor.  I’m not sure why his name is Jude.  I don’t know if it’s as in, “Hey Jude.  Don’t make it bad,” or if it’s as in, “1 and 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation.”  I’ve asked him why his name is Jude, but he didn’t answer me.  The cat.  Not the neighbor.  The neighbor is a woman.

Anywho, this cat has adopted us, and he is needy.  He wants to be petted constantly, and he must have my full attention at all times.  He and the Goose compete for that.  Luckily, the cat lives outside, so if I want to ignore him, which is all the time, I just go inside.  Unfortunately, the Goose follows me in.

I am highly allergic to cats.  My eyes swell up, and I have troubles breathing.  My throat itches, and my neck turns red.  I’m quite a beauty.  So, I avoid cats whenever possible.  The problem is, they don’t avoid me.  Cats love me.  I am a cat magnet.  They love to rub up against me.  They love to try to sit in my lap.  They love my very essence.  At least someone does.

Pepe Chihuahua hates Jude.  He wants the cat to die.  Actually, I don’t guess he really wants the cat to die, because he won’t even attempt to touch it.  When he sees Jude, Pepe tears off after him like he is going to eat him.  However, Jude usually will only run for a minute before he stops.  As soon as he stops running, Pepe stops chasing.  He never gets closer than 10 feet away from Jude.  Maybe he’s allergic too. 

Jude took an interest in us as soon as we moved to the camp.  He began coming around to see what we were doing.  He then started sleeping on our cars.  I tried to convince him that under the tire was a nice warm spot, but he didn’t fall for it.  He’s a smart cat.

Jude follows us all around the camp.  If we dare try to walk, he is right there, trying to rub up against our legs.  (More precisely, my leg.  I’m telling you.  A magnet.)  Now, if you’ve never tried walking while a cat is trying to rub up against your leg, you should try it sometime.  It’s loads of fun.  It does not work nearly as well as it did in that Friskies commercial back in the day.  That cat was obviously trained.  Who knew?

When my best friend, Willow, and her family came for a visit, we decided to have a cookout at the camp’s fire circle.  We were all sitting around on the benches by the fire, and we had our hot dog buns, condiments, fixings for s’mores, etc. on the benches.  One by one, the items started falling off onto the ground.  We wondered what was going on.  It was Jude.  That stupid cat was rubbing up against the benches, and his tail was sweeping the items off and onto the ground.  I fussed at him and told him to go home.  He rubbed up against my leg.

Now, Jude has discovered my porch swing.  I put cushions on it, and apparently, he believes they were put there for him.  I find him curled up there constantly.  He has grown so used to being there, he just looks at me when I tell him to move.  Then, I send my killer Chihuahua out to take care of business.  Usually, Jude is so scared by Pepe that he doesn’t come back for 5 whole minutes.

Jude has gone as far as to try to come in my house a few times.  It was at that point that I told him I would kill him.  Okay, I wouldn’t really kill him, but I would do permanent damage.  Alright.  I couldn’t hurt him, but I would send my attack dog after him.  That’d teach him.

While I can’t stand this cat, Mr. Everything has taken a liking to him.  He talks to him every time he goes outside.  He pets the cat and rubs the cat and loves the cat.  Jude just lets him do it, until I come out.  Then, Jude wants to be near me and my magnetic personality.  Stupid cat.

Mr. Everything informed me today that if our neighbor ever wants to get rid of Jude, we’re taking him.  I said that was fine, as long as he did not come in my house.  Jude looked at me as if to say, “We’ll see about that.”  Somehow, I’m afraid he might be right.  -Al

The Beetle & Speedy, 2006
I just never bonded with the second set of guinea pigs.  I was not a very good owner to them because I didn’t like them.  In fact, if it hadn’t been for the Goose’s tears, my answer to the news of Zap’s death might have been, “One down and one to go.”

My attitude about rodents has changed since we owned our first set of guinea pigs.  Those were cute, and I liked them.  However, a few run-ins since then have made me more leery of rodents.  I’m not afraid of them, exactly, but I just don’t really want them near me.

Between sets of guinea pigs, somehow, I let the Goose talk me into a hamster.  She was going to buy it with her own money.  It was going to live in her room, and she was going to take care of it.  I talked to her about the fact that she would have to change the cage by herself, because I knew a squirmy little hamster was out of my comfort zone of things to touch and hold.  She agreed.  She was prepared.  She knew what to do.  In fact, she even read a book from the library about the care and keeping of hamsters, so we were all set.

The Goose & Lucy I, 2006
The Goose had saved her money and had enough for the hamster, the cage, the bedding and the food.  The big day had come, and we were headed to the store.  We had already been to the pet store once to hold a hamster, to make sure she would hold one and wasn’t afraid.  She passed the test with flying colors, so she was ready to be a mouse-owner.

Before we left for the pet store, the Beetle started being nice to the Goose.  I should have known something was up.  Over an hour of being extra sweet to her, he talked her into letting him mooch off her.  He had enough money for a hamster but not for all the supplies.  He talked the Goose into letting him buy a hamster and keep it in her cage and use her bedding and food.  Smart boy.

All the way to the pet store, I talked to the kids about the fact that these were their animals.  I did not want to hold them or have to take care of them.  They said they understood.  I said they would have to buy the food and supplies, and they said they knew.  We got to the store, and they picked out their pets.  They held them and giggled and loved them.  It was great.  And then we left the store.

On the way home, the Goose said she wasn’t sure if she could sleep with the hamsters in her room since they were nocturnal.  I reminded her that we had discussed this and they were sleeping in her room.  She said she wasn’t sure she wanted them near her.  I said we had discussed this.  The Beetle said he didn’t want them in his room.  The Goose asked if they could sleep in my room.  I told her we had discussed this.

When we got home, we set up the cage in the Goose’s room.  We got the bedding placed in it and put food in the bowl and water in the bottle.  The new home was ready for the hamsters.  They were packed in separate cardboard boxes with little air holes.  I told the Goose to put her hamster in the cage, and she said she didn’t think she could.  I knew I was in trouble.  I told the Beetle to put his hamster in the cage, and he said, “Can’t you do it for me?”  It was all downhill from there.  After several minutes of me lecturing them about the fact that I didn’t want these rats in the first place, I did not talk them into touching the new pets.

I figured out that if we opened the flaps of the box and pressed the box up against the cage, the hamster would have to go in.  This was my approach.  We put the Goose’s rodent in first.  By the time we actually got the hamster in the cage, it was so completely worked up and scared.  As soon as he jumped (fell?) into the cage, he started climbing the bars of the cage.  At this point, my children were screaming and running around the house in circles.  Then, the unthinkable happened.  The hamster squeezed right through the bars of his little jail and was FREE (!!!).  He looked and me, and I looked at him.  I knew only one of us could live in the house.  I quickly grabbed the box he had come from and put it over him.  Over the next few minutes, with lots of screaming at the mouse and at my kids, I managed to get the hamster to go back in the box.  The Beetle ran and got packing tape, and I taped that box up good enough to keep an elephant inside.

We loaded the cage, the opened bedding, the opened food and both boxes holding the rodents back in the car.  We put them in the trunk for safe measure and headed back to the pet store.  When I got there, I immediately asked to speak to the manager.  I explained to him that the cage that was designed to contain the rodent had not worked and that I could not have rodents running loose in my house.  He immediately gave me a full refund, even for the open bedding and food.  I’m pretty sure it was because of the wild look in my eyes, but the manager did not question the refund at all.  He just did it. (By the way, major points for Petsmart and the way they handled the situation.  It could’ve been ugly.)

As we left the store, I told my kids that we would not ever own rodents again, and they agreed.  A year later, we got the second set of guinea pigs.  So much for consistent parenting.

While we already owned the new rodents at this point, any hope of me wanting to touch the guinea pigs went right out the door last year at camp.  We were at Bible camp, and we got there a few days early to get the cabins ready for the campers to arrive.  I was rearranging furniture in the nurse’s cabin, which was the cabin where I would be sleeping for the week.  As I moved a piece of poster board, something scurried over my foot.  I didn’t see it, but I knew what it was.  A mouse had touched my skin. (EEKK!)  Out of instinct, I tried to jump on top of a set of bunk beds.  Unfortunately, my foot slipped through the bars under the mattress, and I fell onto my arm, leaving a huge, ugly bruise.  I ran out of the cabin and pledged not to return until the mouse that had attacked me was captured and executed.

The men at camp did not find this situation nearly as life threatening as I did.  In fact, they had the nerve to laugh at me.  They said they would try to catch the mouse, at some point.  On the other hand, Mr. Everything realized the seriousness of the situation.  He knew good and well that I was serious about not going back into that cabin, and unless he wanted me to leave camp and never come back, he better catch the mouse.  Mouse traps were set.  Within 24 hours, the men said they had caught the mouse.  They didn’t actually show me the mouse, but I chose to believe they were being honest with me.

The cook started teasing me that mice always travelled in pairs.  He used Mickey and Minnie as his proof of that.  I don’t actually know if that’s true or not, but it made sense to me, given the whole Disney example.  So, then, I began worrying about where the other mouse was.  (This is how fears turn into phobias, you know.)  Before the week of camp actually started, the men told me they had trapped the second mouse.  I made them promise they were telling the truth and that they weren’t just saying that to get me to go in the cabin.  They promised.  Mr. Everything wouldn’t promise, because he said he didn’t know for sure (and, come to think of it, he wouldn't look me in the eyes, either...).  For my sanity’s sake, I chose to believe that these Christian men weren’t lying to me.

Every night for three nights in the nurse’s cabin, I would lie there in bed and worry.  I could picture the mouse climbing the wall right beside me (shutter).  (This is the problem with having a vivid imagination.)  It would take me hours to go to sleep because I was so worried about a stupid mouse.  Then, I would tell myself that I was being stupid, and I would go to sleep.  As the days progressed, it became easier to fall asleep.  Since nothing had chewed on my toes or pooped on me in the night, I began to feel safer.  I had all but forgotten about the mouse when, one evening, I headed to take a shower.  I walked in and put my towel and clothes on top of the toilet.  I turned and closed the door and found myself face to face with a mouse.  I let out an little “EEK!” and slowly opened the door.  The camp nurse and a few girls were sitting in the medical office right in front of me, and they looked at me.  I just stood as still as I could and began to sing, “M.  I.  C.  K.  E.  Y……M. O. U. S. E.”  They started laughing.  I tried to be very still because I didn’t want to scare the little critter and make him run into the rest of the cabin where he would be lost forever.

At that exact moment, a teenaged boy came walking up to the door of the nurse’s office.  I said, “You!  How are you with mice?”  He said, “Fine?”  I said, “Come here.  I have a job for you.”  The boy obediently came in, and I told him to catch the mouse.  I left the room, because I did not need any more visual aids to add to my imagination.  He grabbed a hand towel, scooped up the mouse and took him outside.  The boy may not have come to the door expecting to be a hero, but when duty called, he answered.  I declared him my hero, and he beamed from the compliment.  (As a side note, we threw the towel away.)

After that, I relaxed a little more at camp.  I’m not sure if it was because I knew the mouse had been captured or if it was because the mouse looked so sweet and innocent.  He wasn’t nearly as bad as my imagination had made him.  Either way, my fear did not turn into a real phobia, but it did make me never want to touch a rodent again.  -Al

This morning, we awoke to the sad news that our beloved guinea pig, Zap, had gone on to his eternal reward.  Okay, maybe “beloved” is an exaggeration.  “Our admired guinea pig?”  No, that’s a bit much too.  “Our usually-forgotten-and occasionally-held guinea pig, Zap.”  That sounds about right.  Maybe that’s what I’ll put on his little gravestone.

I don’t mean to be insensitive.  I really don’t.  The Goose is sad (a little), so I’m sad for her.  She and Mr. E are burying Zap now.  I chose not to attend the services.

I guess the reason for my lack of upset is because of how the last year has gone with these animals.  My kids liked them for about 2 months.  Then, the fighting began.  Common phrases around our house have been, “I fed them last time,” “It’s your turn to clean out the cage,” and the all-popular, “You have to give them water or they’ll just die of thirst.”  I have been wishing for them (the rodents, not the kids…okay, usually the rodents) to go away for quite a while now.  While I didn’t mean to wish death on the poor little creature, I did, in essence, get what I wished for.

I never bonded with these guinea pigs.  I know what you’re thinking; you can’t bond with rodents.  Well, actually you can.  We had two other guinea pigs several years ago. (I did this to myself not once, but twice…)  Their names were Lucy and Speedy.  For whatever reason, I liked them.  I used to talk to them and feed them every day.  I even practiced attachment parenting and carried them around in a sling sometimes. (I don’t want to talk about it.  I have gotten medical help since then.)  Lucy and Speedy brought me joy, and I loved their little noises.  That was when we lived in a 2000 square foot house, and their little noises were across the house.  Now that we are in a 900 square foot trailer and my kids are taking up twice as much space as they were then, this set of guinea pigs, Lucy II and Zap, have just taken up precious space.  They are loud and annoying, and, they fling poo; lots of poo.

I think that is part of the reason I never bonded with these two critters.  They take up my space, breathe my air, drown out the TV with their noises and defile my floor.  The other reason I haven’t felt all warm and fuzzy about these two is because of a few run-ins I’ve had with rodents since owning the first guinea pigs.

One encounter happened about 7 years ago when we were still living in our house.  Our pseudo-child, Jeanie, a teenager who we “adopted” as our own, was staying with us.  The kids had gone to bed, and Jeanie, Mr. E and I were in the family room watching TV.  Then, we heard something in the chimney.  It was a scratching sound, and it was definitely a mammal.  Mr. Everything, being brave as he is, said he would look and see what it was.  We tried to talk him out of it, but he said he had to get it out.  I said he could just let it die there, but he said then it would stink.  So, I agreed with Mr. E’s plan to look and see what it was.  Jeanie stood nearby, ready to run, and I stood behind her, holding her as a human shield. 

Mr. E opened the flue, and we heard something scurrying down the chimney toward the family room.  I squinted my eyes and held my breath as I waited to see what was about to run into my house.  I pictured a cat or a mountain lion with as much noise as this thing was making.  Out came a bushy tailed rat (also known as a squirrel).  Jeanie and I screamed and ran to my bedroom.  We closed and locked the door.  I’m not sure why we locked the door.  It just seemed like a good idea at the time. 

There was a lot of banging and movement in the family room, and then everything got quiet.  Mr. Everything finally calmly and quietly said, “Can someone please help me?”  I said no.  He said, “Seriously.  I need help.  He’s standing on the desk.  Can you bring me a towel?”  I asked what the towel was for, and he said he was going to catch the squirrel in the towel.  I said he wasn’t using one of my towels to catch a rodent.  He asked if I would rather let the squirrel go back to the Goose’s room and climb in bed with her.  I said I would get a towel. 

I handed Jeanie a towel and told her to take it to him.  She said she wasn’t going out there.  I talked her into opening the door and just handing it out.  I said, “You can close the door right back.  Be brave.”  So, Jeanie opened the door to hand the towel out to Mr. E.  As the door opened, I shoved her out and closed and locked the door as I said, “Every girl for herself.”  She didn’t find this nearly as funny as I did.

After much pounding on the door and begging me to open it, Jeanie finally gave up and accepted her fate as Mr. Everything’s assistant animal wrangler.  She did whisper through the door to me that she would never speak to me again.  I was too busy laughing to answer her.  Then, I heard Jeanie bravely say, “Okay.  Let’s get this thing outta here.”

I heard Mr. E devising a plan.  It involved a few flat cardboard boxes and an old mattress.  He said they were going to make a pathway to the front door and the squirrel would follow the path and run out.  After much moving of things, I heard him say, “Go,” and I heard Jeanie and Mr. E start stomping their feet to get the squirrel to run.

Now, I’m not sure what happened after that, but in my mind, Mr. Everything had a squirrel on his back, just like Clark W. Griswald in “Christmas Vacation.”  I don’t think it really happened that way, but doesn’t that sound funnier?

After several minutes of, “There he goes!” “Get him!” and, “Hurry up.  He’s over here!”  the room grew quiet.  I waited for about 10 minutes and decided to be brave and look out.  When I did, I found Mr. Everything and Jeanie on the couch, watching TV.  I asked if the rodent was gone, and they said he was.  I asked why they didn’t come get me, and Jeanie, with a smile on her face, looked at me and said, “Every girl for herself.”

Come back tomorrow, and I’ll tell you about my other run-ins.  -Al

"I feel so betrayed."
Before anyone alerts PETA, let me say that it was non-toxic temporary hairspray that colored the dog.  We didn’t spray paint him.  He did not get cancer or the cooties from the products we used.  We didn’t even let other dogs see him like that, because we did not want him to be embarrassed.  So, relax.  We didn’t hurt the dog.  The dog is my favorite child (since he can’t say, “No.”), and I would never hurt him.  Okay, now on with the story.

Pepe Chihuahua is a very patient dog.  He puts up with a whole lot, mainly from the Goose.  He has had his toenails painted many a time.  He has been painted more than once. (Again, non-toxic.  Don’t call the cops.)  I’m not sure how our family ever existed without him.

I really had no intention of getting a dog.  I felt like I was doing good to keep one husband and two kids alive.  However, we learned on a homeschool field trip to a petting zoo that our children needed an animal.  Since I would stop breathing and die with a cat, horses aren’t supposed to live in the house and turtles don’t like to cuddle, a dog was the most logical choice.

It all started at the petting zoo.  The Beetle was almost 6, and the Goose was almost 2.  The other “normal” children were all holding and petting baby ducks and baby chicks.  Our kids were terrified and ran if any of the animals came toward them.  Mr. Everything grew more and more agitated as the day went on, mainly because he was embarrassed that his children were little weenies.  The final straw was when they were afraid of the baby bunnies.  We knew something had to be done.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the Mr.’s exact words were, “Something has to be done.”

I started researching dogs.  We knew we wanted to get one from the pound, partly because we wanted to help society (blah, blah, blah) and mostly because we did not want to have to housebreak a puppy.  I hadn’t quite housebroken the Goose at that point, and the Beetle was questionable.  I didn’t want to deal with the urine of anyone else.  I had looked and looked at the SPCA and animal shelter websites.  They posted photos of their prisoners, er, I mean, rescues on the sites.  Finally, I found a dog that I thought would work.  It was not a big dog, but it was big enough to survive my children.  It looked pretty hearty, and the website said it was in good health.

We prepared the kids to go to the SPCA.  We talked to them about the responsibilities of having a dog, and we discussed the dog we were going to see.  I told them all (including Mr. E, the Tenderhearted) that we were NOT coming home with just any dog.  If that particular dog was no longer available, we were leaving.  (Mr. E had been known to bring home strays now and then, and he couldn’t pass up sad eyes.  Remind me to tell you the story of Jake the Wonder Dog another time.) 

We went to the SPCA and found the dog from the photos.  He was everything I had dreamt of, except for the large red sign that said, “Not for families with small children.”  So, there went that plan!  I said we were leaving, and Mr. Everything suggested we just look in one other area of the shelter.  I was pretty sure that wasn’t a good idea, but I lost control of the situation.  We went into the other room, and I saw the cutest little white dog.  It had curly hair and looked like a poodle mix.  It was so sweet, and it wagged its tail at me.  I was hooked, until I heard the death rattle come from its chest.  The dog got so excited and was wagging its body, and it started hacking this terrible, awful cough.  I decided maybe that one wasn’t the dog for me.  Then, Mr. E said, “What about this one?”  I looked in the cage and saw nothing but ears and eyes looking back at me from the corner of the cage.  “What is it?”  I asked.  Mr. Everything, AKA The Dog Whisperer, got it to come from the back of the cage, and I saw one of the ugliest dogs I had ever seen.  He was trembling, and I knew I was in trouble.  I knew the sad eyes and a trembling body would be more than the Mr. could resist.  Of course, I was right, and we ended up with Pepe Chihuahua.

Pepe started out as the perfect dog.  He used his best manners and said, “Please,” and, “Thank you,” for the first two weeks.  Then, the bad habits began.  Day by day, he developed a new irritating trait.  The dog licked us, constantly.  Then, he began licking the couch.  Then, he began licking my sheets.  I would get in bed at night, and my feet would hit wet where the dog had been licking.  In case you haven’t had the joy of experiencing it, let me tell you that is a nasty feeling.  Then, Pepe showcased his most annoying habit of all.  The dog bit his toenails.  I’m not kidding.  I wish I were.  I really was beginning to wonder what kind of creature we had adopted.

Luckily, the bad habits settled down.  I think he was just nervous.  He still occasionally bites his nails.  He does lick the couch and the sheets if I don’t keep an eye on him.  More than anything now, he just goes to bed without us.  We’ll go to get in bed and find him under the covers sleeping.

Probably the worst thing he ever did happened one night about 4 years ago when I was brushing my teeth.  I was wearing my nightgown and my Crocs.  There’s a mental picture.  As I stood at the sink brushing and Mr. E sat on our bed in our nearby bedroom, I suddenly felt a warm sensation.  Then, all at once, I realized what it was.  The dog had pee-peed on my leg, and it was running down my calf into my Croc.  Crocs hold a lot of liquid, by the way, because of the shape of the shoes.  I instantly started gagging.  (I don’t handle bodily fluids well…especially canine bodily fluids.)  The Mr. was laughing hysterically.  I was yelling with my mouth full of toothpaste for him to help me.  He couldn’t help me because he couldn’t catch his breath from laughing.  My knight in shining armor.  I managed to get to the shower without spilling (gag) the urine (gag) anywhere (gag).  The fact that I didn’t kill the dog that night is a true testament to my love for him.  I guess it was payback for making him live with the Goose, the graffiti artist.

All in all, I’m glad we ended up with Pepe Chihuahua.  He’s as weird as the rest of us, so he fits right in.  I’m not sure if the dog shaped the family or the family shaped the dog, but however it worked, he ended up being the perfect dog for us.  -Al

Swim, eat, poop and terrorize the neighbors.  That’s all the Murderer does.  We never intended to have a pet goldfish.  I’m actually not even sure it is a goldfish.  The thing may be a mammal for all I know.  It just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.  I joke that, one day, we’ll come home to find the fish’s tail hanging out of one end of the aquarium and its head hanging out of the other end.  At least, I hope I’m joking.

It all started in January of 2008.  We had just moved in at my mother-in-law’s house, and my kids found a turtle.  It was not just any turtle, you see.  It was an itty-bitty baby turtle.  How could I possibly say no to an itty-bitty baby turtle?  It was so cute.  We measured the shell, and it was only ¾ of an inch long.  It wouldn’t eat much or cause much trouble, right?  So, I allowed the turtle in, and I sacrificed one of my Tupperware bowls to be its house.  We named him Dash, but later found out he was a girl.  Yes, I can tell the difference between a girl turtle and a boy turtle.  That’s how deep this illness runs.

After we moved to where we live now, a little boy up the driveway asked us if we wanted his turtle.  “Sure,” we said, “Dash wants a roommate.”  By this time, Dash had grown to about 3 ½ inches long and was living in a very large corner aquarium in our family room.  So, we got Peanut (God rest his soul) and added him to our menagerie.  Peanut was itty-bitty, but he grew quickly.  It’s something about that aquarium that makes things grow quickly.

Peanut quickly became the most annoying turtle that ever walked (or swam) the face of the earth.  He would stay at the side of the aquarium and wag his tail at us when we walked by.  That part was cute.  However, his bad habit of rearranging the aquarium was not so cute.  The sound of rocks scraping the bottom of the glass got annoying, as did having to replant the fake plants because he would uproot them.  He annoyed Dash constantly, and I’m pretty sure I saw her glare at him a time or two.

Then, there was the mating dance.  When Peanut hit puberty, he wanted Dash to be his “special friend.”  He would swim up to her and wave his hands in front of her rapidly and repeatedly.  It reminded me of a middle school boy at a dance in the gymnasium.  Dash responded by getting back on her log and sleeping.  Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how Dash responds to everything.

When we went out of town in June, we bought a bunch of feeder fish and put them in the tank.  This was to keep the turtles fed while we were gone.  The aquarium was too big to move, and we were going to be gone for almost a month.  It was the easiest way to keep them alive instead of having to ask someone to check on them for us.  So, with about 25 fish, a good sprinkle of food and a wave goodbye, we left the turtles.  When we left, there were 25 fish that were about 1 inch long.  When we came back about a month later, there were about 6 fish left that were about 1 inch long.  Then, there was the Murderer.  The Murderer had grown to about 2 1/2 inches long.  The thing had more than doubled in size!

Once we came back from our trip, the turtles kept eating the fish.  Since we often forgot to feed them, they had to use their natural skills as vicious hunters to survive.  (If you don’t think they are vicious, you should watch a turtle eat a fish sometime.  It’s pretty nasty.)  Finally, one fish remained: The Murderer.

Now, Dash was not interested in the Murderer, but Peanut was obsessed.  He wanted that fish badly.  He would chase it all around the tank.  The fish would hide in a hollow decoration that looked like a pot.  Peanut couldn’t get in the pot.  The fish would dart out, get Peanut’s attention and go back in the pot.  He really was cruel, and Peanut fell for it every time.  Peanut wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box.

One morning, Mr. Everything looked in the aquarium and said, “Where’s Peanut?”  We looked and looked and could not find him.  Then, we noticed that the hollow pot decoration had been moved.  We typically kept it buried in the rocks so the turtles would not get inside it.  We looked inside, and there was Peanut.  That Murderer had lured him into the pot and left him there.  Poor Peanut got his shell stuck and had no way to get out.  He died a shameful death as the Murderer swam nearby and laughed.  Okay, I don’t actually know whether fish can laugh or not, but if they can, this one did.  (In case you didn’t know, although aquatic turtles live in the water, they still need air to survive.)

We gave Peanut a hero’s burial.  The Goose cried.  I was sad but refused to cry over a reptile.  I have my principles, you know, and turtles are related to snakes.  It was a sad day in the aquarium.

Since then, the Murderer has continued his reign of terror.  He swims around the aquarium as though he owns the place.  He has grown to about 6 inches long.  The thing is huge.  Dash just cowers on her log and is afraid to come out.

The kids convinced me to get not one but two more itty-bitty sweet little turtles.  They won’t put them in the aquarium, however, because of the Murderer.  Can you imagine what he could do to babies?  So, what was once a Tupperware bowl with an itty-bitty turtle has now developed into a huge aquarium and two small aquariums.  How do these things happen to me? 

By the way, if you are now questioning my photography skills, YOU try taking a picture of a psychotic fish that darts all around the aquarium.  It was toying with me.  It would stay at the glass until I was ready to take the picture and it would swim away.  It even hid behind the pot and peeked around the corner at me.  Psycho.

Also, yes, the water is dirty.  It's impossible to keep the water clean with a turtle and a giant fish pooping in it all the time.  I promise the rest of my house is cleaner than that tank.  Don't judge me by my fish-keeping abilities.   -Al