As subscribers to my monthly newsletter Mil Mania are already well aware a significant part of my "artistic insanity" involves experiences with the various "non-human" members of my family, past and present. With that in mind I thought it about time I gave these very special individuals (of many species) a page of their own.
Read my Autumn 2007 Rat-a-Tat Chat article
As many reading this also know, my husband and I became pet rat owners quite by accident a couple years back when we stopped at our local post office's drive-up mailbox to drop a letter off one March day, and were shocked to see below it a tiny shivering animal. It had snowed that morning, and we were hesitant to leave this poor creature in such an inherently dangerous locale (surrounding by parking lot, driveway and road) so my husband reached down at last to see if it might allow him to pick it up for relocation. Much to our surprise, the grateful little gal (as we later learned her to be) reached eagerly for his hand and climbed aboard! We quickly called our vet to find out how to take care of her for whatever time she might be with us, and were informed these creatures make excellent pets, were given a bit of info about feeding, etc. As she made no attempt to bite or show aggression of any kind, but kept nibbling gently on my sleeve, we decided she must be hungry, so bought her a small bag of Chex party mix, which she happily consumed -- holding each piece delicately between the cutest tiny "hands". We pretty much fell utterly in love with her within an hour and, although we watched the lost and found ads in our paper faithfully for the next several days, must admit we were thrilled when it became clear "Molly" was now ours. Of course, knowing so little about this species we had no idea that the mountain she made out of the tissue we gave her for bedding over the next couple of weeks signaled anything significant...until we walked in one evening to take her out of it for playtime and discovered two pink piglet-like little babies!
Read the full story of Molly and her boys' introductions to our household in the "Pet Peeves and Paranoia" column of the December '05 issue of Mil Mania. And, of course, in every issue you can get advice from the perspective of a rodent single mom via the "Molly Madvises" column, originated by Molly and now carried on by Keela.
Here are a few shots of Keela's "babies"...
Now that's a "roundtable"!!!
And, here are a
few photos of other rats we've owned, adopted or raised since Molly and her
Sunny and Noah...
...the last of which, as you can see, quickly proved a real character (despite looking more like a cartoon one)!!!
In this short video, you can watch Noah in
action -- I told you he's a character...
(the above is in .wmv/Windows format...here
it is again if you need it as a Quicktime file.
Finally, here are a few of our newer friends... Ruby, Ollie, Lydia, Orvietta and Rain, Topaz
Watch for more rat photos and adventures to be shared!
www.facebook.com/rodentreader (facebook page for our magazine, The Rodent Reader Quarterly)
Rat Fan Club
Recommended Rat/Rodent Reading (fiction/literature)
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
by Robert C. O'Brien (Newberry Medal
Recommended Rat Cinema
Ratatouille (2007) (Click here to read a review of this by my rat, Keela)
And, you can follow the book in progress -- Mailbox Molly: A Rat's Eye View ...by Molly (with just a little help from Mil) in The Rodent Reader Quarterly
It may seem odd that a rat lover might also be a cat lover -- and, indeed, it takes a bit of careful household management -- and a lot of doors! -- to maintain both successfully. A love of cats began for me, however, as a child with my family's pet, Sherlock (who joined our French Poodle, Mimi, and was later subjected to sharing his cat kingdom with the lovely calico Scarlett). He was quite a character -- one who even quickly won over my ostensibly cat-hating dad so completely he pretty much became one of us kids. At any rate, given Andre likewise has always been an all-warm-blooded-species lover, we've never lacked feline companionship. And, because our house borders an expansive wooded area to the back, we also never lack a large stray population which we feed and care for, and from which we've adopted several truly wonderful friends. Of course, there have been various standout kitties over the years -- including my beloved Mikey, obtained from an animal shelter at age three when his previous owner was forced to surrender him upon entering a nursing home. Clearly she had loved him dearly -- and apparently also loved Italian food, as he's the only cat I've ever had who would come running for spaghetti sauce from at least a mile away! In any case, convinced he was a human, he disdained the company of "cats", but proved an unforgettably warm and wonderful companion to me. As other older members of our populace have also now passed on, for Christmas we brought home two beautiful new brothers (soon dubbed "Shake" and "Speare"). Along with my "one-eyed-monster" Milton and a particularly beloved former outdoor dweller, they now occupy a "kitty haven" we recently converted from a spare bedroom -- complete with a new glueless laminate floor, a few innovative touches of feline decor, and most importantly -- LOTS OF TOYS!!!
www.commonsenseforanimals.org (This is the shelter from which Shake and Speare and many other friends we've had were adopted -- dogs, too!)
What animal lover in America hasn't owned a dog -- or two or three or six or ten! As noted in the cat section, it started with a standard size black French Poodle named Mimi as a child. As an adult, there have been various others in various breeds, the most numerous among these being Borzois (Russian Wolfhounds). Appropriately, as artists naturally gravitate to each other, I don't suppose it's a coincidence that until she retired from raising them just before our last pair passed away a couple years back, the woman from whom we'd obtained our Borzois, well, basically forever, is a gifted painter/sculptor...and if you don't want to take my word for that, you can visit the official AKC Museum (among other renowned artistic institutions) to see samples of her work. (The only site on the web I could find with any of it is this postcard one). The Borzois pictured above, however, are pups we located via the internet and had flown in from CO. Dubbed Tristan and Fiona they have since grown into considerably larger adults. However, they continue to provide plenty of puppy-wonder -- and let me tell you, one thing they know how to do is smile! (Of course, I'm yet to catch them doing so on film, so photos of that phenomenon will (I hope!) be added later.) I've also long held a special place for Beagles, which explains the photos of Bronte (pictured below with her companion, Barney the Bulldog...an adoptee from the same shelter from which we obtained the kitties Shake and Speare).
As a kid I read a book called Light A Single Candle which opened me to the world of service dogs, in that particular instance those assisting the blind. I immediately became an admirer of the people training these magnificent animals, and have remained one to this day. Here are a few organizations that work with and provide these noble helpers:
And, here's a link to the national Borzoi rescue association...
...and the Borzoi Club of America...
I recently cleaned out a closet in which I found an extensive collection of old Arabian Horse World magazines. Figuring someone might want them to complete a collection or otherwise find them of use, I decided to make them available on ebay. To my surprise, not only did they sell quite briskly, one went to the owner of a GG Jabask daughter with whom I've come to share a wonderful e-mail acquaintance, and who asked me for any memories I might share from my acquaintance with GG himself. So, for this section, I thought I'd recount a portion of my equine adventures via simply re-printing my reply to her, which read as follows:
Andre's parents relocated to the East Coast from Iowa when he was a toddler. My father-in-law had kept horses for enjoyment there, and when he moved East he brought with him his beloved (Polish) Arabian stallion, "Ben" (officially named Daraak -- and who, incidentally went on to sire his own National Champion son...and who was such a wonderful creature himself I could tell you many stories about him, too). And, he kept a handful of mares/other Arabs at all times, so these magnificent animals were always a part of Andre's life growing up.
Early in our marriage, Andre and I began managing the horse operation that had grown by leaps and bounds when my father-in-law, so taken from the first time he laid eyes on GG Jabask [pictured above], joined with a business partner in purchasing him a year or so after his Reserve National Champion win and bringing him to our farm. We likewise fell in love with his intelligence, beauty and spirit, and felt truly honored to aid him in passing on this greatness by performing the artificial insemination in the mares sent to us for breeding over the next few years. GG was a dream to work with -- obviously possessed of all the fire needed to impress so strongly in the show ring, yet admirably humble and cooperative in his life outside that world. He was never a problem to handle in any way, and couldn't have been more pleasant to both work and socialize with.
During his tenure at our stable, we occasionally held open house events in which he was showcased along with available offspring, a tour of the facilities for prospective mare owners wishing to breed was offered, etc. At these events, Andre's dad would invariably put one of his three or four year old adopted siblings atop GG and lead him around the ring to illustrate his incredible awareness and gentle nature. GG absolutely exhibited the temperament of a petting zoo animal each and every time. He was truly the horse world's king of kings and yet the lowliest of shepherds all at the same time.
My father-in-law eventually sold the farm where we worked so closely with GG, and moved to central Pennsylvania Andre and I remain in NJ where we continue to love and respect these fantastic animals, and forever carry fond memories of not only GG, but also the many other outstanding equine individuals we've had the privilege to know, ride, own and work with...some of whom we still get to visit at the folks' place in PA.
Most recently, our other stallion pride and joy, EJ Jabask (a GG son who Andre's dad purchased at only a few months' age, and who he sold several years ago when reducing his "collection") -- came back into the family's possession most unexpectedly -- and has now come to live with me and Andre! Needless to say this has proved an inexpressibly wondrous and happy event, and I simply can't put into words how thrilled I am for the privilege of seeing him again on a daily basis and knowing he's at last come "home". (That's him pictured above left...more recent photos will most surely be coming soon.)
One might think pet rats the most unusual animals we've adopted, raised or at some point cared for. Actually, they may be, according to hugely incorrect stereotypes, the "scariest", but hardly the least common. Here's a brief sampling of some other interesting and uniquely wonderful creatures we've "owned", some before a return to nature, others their whole lives...
A hedgehog named Pearlie (I can't locate an actual picture of her, so the one below is just a close representative)...
A squirrel named Byron...
A fawn named Israel...
A chipmunk named Moliere...
Llamas (this one is Cyrano the 1st...he's been succeeded by Cyrano the 2nd, who lives at the farm in PA)...
And, so it seems anyway, pretty much everything else short of a partridge in a pear tree...of course, that may be yet to come -- "hey, you never know"!