Tag Archives: tales of the animal hoarder

A Surprise in the Litter Box

I’ve written before about my mom’s latest in a long line of animal obsessions: Her pet pig Wuzzle.

When you have a pig that lives in the house, you usually have a litter box for that pig. Wuzzle prefers to hold it and do most of his business outside, but she keeps the litter box inside for Wuzzle just in case he has to go potty while she’s not home. Wuzzle usually used the box about once a week. Suddenly, my mom noticed Wuzzle was using the box every day. She actually got a little worried about him. Why was Wuzzle suddenly using the box so frequently? Did he have a bladder infection? Was it pig diabetes? What was happening?

Then one day my mom walked into the “pig’s room” and found her dog in the litter box. Peeing. Her Australian shepherd Dusty had been watching the pig use the litter box and decided she wanted to get in on the action too!

The dog has apparently been using the pig litter for a while. All those extra litter box presents were probably from the dog and not the pig!

The dog was really embarrassed to be caught in the act. Really, she should be praised! I mean, that certainly makes some parts of life with a dog easier… but others harder. Who wants to change the litter box of a 50 pound dog?

What I’m confused about is why it took a pig to convince the dog to use a litter box. She’s been living in a house with cats her whole life.

By the way, the “pig’s room”? It’s my childhood bedroom. That’s right, my childhood bedroom is where a pig lives now. I feel really special and loved and… piggy.

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Only with My Mom

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Tale of the Animal Hoarder. Things haven’t changed much with my mostly harmless animal hoarding mom. This year they’ve “only” expanded their menagerie by one peacock and a new boarding horse. The pot-bellied pig they got last year has become my mother’s obsession (aside from riding horses every single day).

Wuzzle* the pig has become a celebrity among my mom’s and my friends. He has been visiting vacation Bible schools and nursing homes. He has learned a variety of stupid pet tricks and recently obtained a pair of pink butterfly wings to wear while he performs. He’s a flying fairy pig who is secure enough in his masculinity to wear pink sparkles.

My mom and Wuzzle recently came to visit. I had been making the girls some no-sew tutus out of tulle and elastic. My mom got really excited and wanted to make a tutu… for her pig. Only, she had a lot of trouble making a slip-knot and was indecisive about color patterns. It was taking forever for her to get anything done on it.

Finally she decided I should make the tutu. For her pig. At 11 pm on a weeknight.

I ended up staying up until 1 am making a tutu. For a pig. That’s right, under my mother’s encouragement and scheming, I stayed up until 1 in the morning making a tutu for a pig.

There’s a good chance that I’m the first person in the history of the world who has been forced to stay up until 1 am to make a tutu for a pot-bellied pig. My little girls have matching tutus with their cross-dressing pig uncle.

That’s right. I’m told this pig is my brother. Pigs have insatiable appetites. If that pig is my brother, that sure explains a few things about what happened to all the Halloween candy.

Believe it or not, my pig brother was probably the cleanest thing in my house when he was visiting and way easier to deal with than my mother’s bad influence country dogs.

*Indiana ISTEP kids of the 1980s and 1990s would be able to fill in this example from the vocabulary section of the annual standardized test. The test had the same five-ish words on it every single year. “A balou is a bear. A yonker is a young man. Wuzzle means to mix.”

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Swine Invasion

Chances are, you do not have a picture of your 3 month old like this.

Or if you do, you took it at a petting zoo and not in your own backyard or living room.

My parents came to visit this past weekend and when they come to stay, a small menagerie comes with them. It used to be “just” four dogs traveling with them, but two of the dogs recently died and now they are traveling with their newfound best friend for life, Wuzzle the Pig and two dogs. As odd as it is that my parents have a house pig, I’m sort of surprised it took this long to happen considering all the odd things my mom has brought home before.

So I have a pig as an overnight guest. He comes with a giant kennel and a litter box. Whenever my parents make a rest stop on the trip here, they are rushed by a crowd of pig fans who take his picture like he’s some sort of pig celebrity. What do these people do with these pictures of a pig stranger they saw at the rest stop? That’s what I want to know. I suppose it would make a cute “OMG, look what I just saw at the rest stop” facebook status, but I find it hard to believe that that’s what all those people were doing. I like cute animals as much as the next girl, but I don’t need a picture of the random pot bellied pig I saw at a McDonalds by the freeway.

I do, however, understand and like pictures of a pig I happen to know, especially when he’s standing next to a baby I know even better.

Based on the pig paparazzi my parents encounter, you all WISH you had pictures of your baby like this.

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Bald Chickens

For about 10 years of my life, there were NICU incubators about 3 feet from where I sat eating my breakfast.

No, I wasn’t in the NICU. Or a hospital. These NICU incubators were in my parents’ eat-in kitchen.

Why are you looking at me like I’m strange? Surely everyone has such incubators in their kitchen. No?

These incubators did not contain babies, if that’s what you are thinking. Let me modify this: They did not contain HUMAN babies. This is where my mom kept her bald baby macaws and African grey parrots. When you think about baby parrots, this is probably what you are picturing.

 

But what was actually in my kitchen was this:

 

Appetizing.

My mother bred and raised African greys and ruby macaws for many years. The breeding parrots were feral and lived in our basement. A few weeks after the babies hatched, my mom had to remove them from the nest to hand-feed them for months until they were old enough to feed themselves and sell to pet stores or private parties. The birds went for quite a bit of money in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I believe she sold the African greys for $800 each and the ruby macaws for $1200, but I could be mistaken.

It wasn’t easy work, though. The babies needed to be hand-fed with syringes of foul-smelling mush every few hours. The bird formula was a mushy brown that looked something like hummus, but smelled kind of funky. The birds gobbled up the food like it was delicious. It sure didn’t smell that way.

The birds gradually gained feathers and got bigger, but for a long time they looked like plucked chickens, just what most people have in their kitchens, except most people keep plucked chickens in the refrigerator. Ours were in baby incubators. In our kitchen. Next to where we ate.

I’ll bet most of you can’t say you’ve ever eaten lunch next to that!

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For Sale: Fishy House

You know what helps sell a home quickly? The smell of fish and a 4-foot-tall wild bird in the basement.

This is another crazy animal tale my father reminded me needed to be on the blog.

When my parents were selling their first home 26ish years ago, a vet asked my mom to help rehabilitate a great blue heron that had flown into some electric wires and had to have part of his wing amputated. This was not mom’s first wildlife rehab. We had recently rehabilitated a squirrel and had had other odd wild animals. We weren’t living in the country yet. Mom was doing this in our 1,400 square foot home on a small lot in a small residential neighborhood well within city limits. By the way, abandoned infant squirrels are possibly the hardest wild animals to keep alive. It almost never works out, even with a vet heavily involved in the process.

Anyway, my mom jumped at the opportunity to take care of the great blue heron. Of course she had to say yes to the giant, bizarre wild bird. How could she not?

Because her house was FOR SALE. That’s how.

 

 

She named the bird Chumley and gated off a portion of the basement that she filled with shavings. At first, Chumley ate a steady diet of smelt, which of course stunk up the house. Later, Chumley’s health started to fail him more and they had to switch to live bait to keep him interested in food. My mom kept buckets of water in the basement full of live fish she got from a bait shop.

Meanwhile, realtors were showing our stinky house to perspective buyers only to have a big reveal of a 4-foot bird on pine shavings in our basement. Keep in mind that whenever we had a house showing, we quickly loaded the cats and dogs into the car so the perspective buyers wouldn’t see THEM, but we left the 4-foot wild bird in our basement.

Can you imagine walking through a realtor’s tour only to discover a 4-foot wild bird on pine shavings in the basement?

 

My mother’s father to my father: “You can’t let her do this! You have to put your foot down! You have to stop her!”

My dad still isn’t sure where my grandfather got the idea that my dad had any say in any of the animal madness decisions, or that he was in any way the boss of my mom.

I’m not sure how long this all went on, but it was pretty crazy. I was only six, but I remember standing a safe distance from the bird who towered over me. He was very strange.

Unfortunately, the Chumley didn’t end up making it, so jeopardizing the sale of our house was all for nothing.

And the house DID sell eventually after we got the bird and the fish out of there. AND we later successfully rehabilitated another big bird like a great blue heron, but we can’t remember if it WAS a great blue heron. This was after we sold the “city” house were living in the country.

Next Thursday, I’ll talk about the business of breeding parrots.

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Because the Cats Were Lonely

My father reminded me of this story and declared it must be on the blog.

When my parents moved into their current house 25+ years ago, Mom had grand plans to move our cats down to the basement so my father, who was allergic to them, would no longer be exposed to them on a regular basis. Our basement is partially above ground and used to be rented out as an apartment. The whole house needed a lot of work when they moved in. Though technically it was finished and dry-walled, the basement wasn’t nice enough that anyone felt like hanging out in it for any amount of time.

So, of course, my mom was worried that the cats would be too lonely if we never hung out in the basement with them. She decided we needed to refinish the basement so the cats wouldn’t be lonely.

Cats’ feelings are obviously worth thousands and thousands of dollars.

My parents dropped a second stairwell down to the basement so you wouldn’t have to enter through the utility side and knocked down all the walls between the tiny rooms in the basement apartment to create one large, fantastic family room. For the cats. They pulled out the run-down kitchen and put up walls of bookcases. They put couches around a big tv and a pre-existing fireplace. They put in new carpeting. There was also a full bath and bedroom in the basement, though it was mostly used for storage and later parrot breeding. Yes, parrot breeding. I guess I’ll have to talk about that later.

The cats’ basement turned out amazing. Clearly these cats would never be lonely because we were going to spend a lot of time in this area. In addition to a media area, there was space for a home office and a toy room. When we were kids, it was probably the best place in the house. It was really nice. In fact, it was probably a little TOO nice.

After spending thousands and thousands of dollars so the cats wouldn’t be lonely, my mom decided that the cats, who sometimes had accidents/marked their territory as cats are wont to do, would ruin the basement. That’s right, the “cats’ basement” was too nice for the actual cats.

And so, the cats stayed upstairs where my allergic dad (and later allergic my sister and I) slept while the basement became a cat-free zone.

So instead of getting rid of the cats so my dad (and my sister and I) wouldn’t feel sick, my parents spent thousands of dollars to keep them and keep people healthy, but then kept the cats where they would make people sick anyway.

If that’s not devotion to ones’ pets, I don’t know what is.

At various points in my life, there’s been talk of not replacing the cats when they die so the allergic people won’t feel sick. This has never come to pass. My parents currently have two indoor cats years and years and YEARS after those original lonely basement cats have died.

And my dad can blame my mom for the current cats all he wants, we all know that he’s deeply in love with both of them despite his allergies.

Next Thursday in “My Crazy Childhood”: You know what you should keep in the house when you are trying to sell a house? Buckets of live bait for your rescue bird.

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Because The Peacock Got Lonely

Today’s tale of animal insanity is actually 75% due to people other than my mother, if you can believe it.

You already know what happened when the horse and the miniature horse got lonely, so I bet you can guess what happened when the peacock got lonely.

I'm sure you find peacocks on your car all the time!

But, wait, you say, who the hell has a peacock on their property anyway? My mother, that’s who. What’s funny, though, is that my mom had nothing to do with the first peacock coming on her property. Believe it or not, other people collect strange pets too– and in stranger ways than my mother does.

My parents’ land is part of an old family farm with houses clustered together around a barn. It’s really a strange arrangement. Originally my parents had purchased a 2 acre parcel of the property with one house and one tiny barn on it, but several years ago two adjacent portions of the family farm with two houses, several outbuildings and 8 acres of hilly pasture became available. My parents bought the properties and now rent out the two houses that came with them.

The people who live in the rental houses live very near the barn– closer to it than my parents do, and get to live in the country and feel like they have horses even though they just happen to be renting next door to a stable.

One of my parents’ tenants decided such a life required that he get a peacock. True, he has nowhere to take this peacock if he ever stops renting. True, this peacock will probably always live on my parents’ farm. These facts didn’t stop the man, and certainly my mother wasn’t going to say no to another unusual animal joining her brood. The man bought a baby peacock named Phoenix.

See? Other people buy strange animals too sometimes!

Anyway, Phoenix the peacock boards for “free” at my mother’s stable. Mom’s tenant built him his own little roost and Phoenix has the run of the property.

When Phoenix had been around for about a year, he started getting lonely. Like the miniature horse, he showed his loneliness by acting out.

Like lonely horses, lonely peacocks hang out with llamas.


That’s right, peacocks can act out. Just like teenagers, really.

To show his angst, the peacock started flying up to the horses and pulling their tails.

No really.

Needless to say, that’s not a smart thing for a peacock to do. In fact, my mom was sure he would get kicked to death at any minute. So, she decided something should be done. Obviously, the peacock would behave himself if he had a friend. Based on what, I don’t know. But this is what she decided.

Mom told her friend C, the owner of Annabelle the miniature donkey, she thought Phoenix the Peacock needed a friend. C used to board a horse at my mom’s farm, but the horse passed away last year. She didn’t buy a replacement horse and the only thing bringing her back to mom’s property is a) friendship and b) a miniature donkey. The donkey can’t be ridden. Annabelle just exists to be cute. So she’s keeping Annabelle at my mom’s stable for the price of food. I give you this background because of what happened next.

C decided she should be the one to buy Phoenix a lady peacock friend. The lady peacock would live on the property indefinitely as C doesn’t own her own stable or have any place to put a peacock (or a donkey, for that matter).

Two peacocks in love. At least, I think it's those two...


So C bought Penelope the Peacock. My mom offered to pay for half of the peacock, but C turned her down.

Do you know how much adult peacocks cost? It’s kind of crazy. My pure-bred Australian shepherd (bred by my mom) could have easily gone for $800, probably double that in a pet store. An adult peacock is $80.

That’s right, for less than $100 you could also have a peacock. Isn’t that insane? I would have thought an exotic-ish bird like that would cost far more. My mother used to breed exotic parrots (African greys and ruby macaws) that went for more than $1,000 in the 1980s and ’90s. I can not believe a peacock only cost $80!

What’s even more surprising is that a baby peacock costs even less. The breeder was selling baby peacocks for $25.

I think that bears repeating as a surprising statement: My DOG costs $800, but a baby PEACOCK costs $25.

In what world does that even make sense?!

Armed with this knowledge, my mom and her friend C both decided they couldn’t pass up a good deal and thus bought two baby peacocks in addition to the lady peacock Penelope. “What choice did we have?” says my mother.

Four peacocks, just like the ones you undoubtedly have at home.


Although most of us would have probably said “Not get a peacock at all because who the hell has a peacock?” the obvious answer here was buy three more peacocks.

“How could I pass up a $25 peacock?” says my mother.

And thus, because of the peacock was lonely and no one can pass up a $25 peacock, my mother now has four peacocks wandering around her property probably permanently even though only one of the peacocks is actually hers.

In case you were wondering, yes. My mother was right. The peacock was acting out because he was lonely. Now that the peacock has friends, he no longer picks on the horses.

That’s my last lonely animal tale, but I’ll have another “My Crazy Childhood” story for next week. Yes, the last three stories have not technically been from my actual childhood, but believe me they are par for the course of things that happened living with my mother as a child!

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Edit with Pictures

If you’ve already read Because the Miniature Horse was Lonely, I recommend going back for another look. My mother emailed me pictures this morning and verified a part of my story I was questioning. Plus I threw in a couple more things about free horses… so go check it out!

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Because the Miniature Horse was Lonely

As promised last week, this week you get to hear what happened when the miniature horse got lonely. Given that my parents got a llama because the horse was lonely, I’ll bet you can guess where this is going.

Shortly after Lily was born, my mother got a miniature horse for free. My mother always seems to know someone who wants to give her some sort of strange animal. It’s really uncanny how she attracts these charity animals to her.

My mother in the comment section of this very post:
“Little Charleyhorse was a freebie! How could I say no?”

There’s no such thing as a free horse. Let me assure you. There are vet bills and food and much more. BUT ANYWAY, she got Charley Horse, who is at least her second free horse, maybe her third. As anyone ever offered you a free horse? I didn’t think so.

He looks downright sexy in this picture-- like when Donkey in Shrek got turned into a stallion!

If you aren’t familiar with miniature horses, they are just that: dwarfed horses. They are smaller than most ponies and usually have the same build as horses. Word to the wise: Ponies are not baby horses. Ponies are a smaller breed of horse with a stockier build. Foals are baby horses.

If I remember correctly, Charley Horse wasn’t getting along with the other miniature horses on his farm, so my mom took him in to give my then 4-month-old a “pony”. Charley Horse is actually pretty big for a miniature horse, but so little that no adult could ride him. Therefore, he can not be broken and no child will ever actually be able to ride him. He mostly just exists for show and entertainment value.

After Charley had been on my parents’ land for a while, he started bothering the other horses. He had absolutely no fear and would do things well worthy of getting kicked in the face. The thing is, he was so small that if he was kicked by one of the full-sized horses he could easily be killed.

As you can see, Charley was being pretty stupid to pick on a full-sized horse, no?

My mother decided he was acting out because he was lonely due to being the only small horse on their property. Basically he needed to have someone his own size to pick on to prevent getting killed by someone bigger.

And that’s why my mom logically bought herself a baby miniature donkey named Gizmo.

See? A free horse is never free! He needed his own donkey.

Gizmo was only a little baby when my mom bought her and wasn’t weaned yet. The donkey breeder let my mom temporarily take Gizmo’s mother home with her while Gizmo was adjusting to life in a new place. Gizmo’s mother never went back, though. One of my mom’s boarders/friends fell in love with the mommy donkey (now named Annabelle) and bought HER.

So now my parents have two miniature donkeys on their property and probably always will.

Best friends for life!

I mean, it was the obvious choice. How could they NOT get a miniature donkey? The miniature horse NEEDED one. Or two.

Next Thursday: What happened when the peacock got lonely.

No, really.

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Because the Horse Was Lonely

The following is a strange true story about life with my mother.

Seven or eight years ago, Mom lost one of the two horses on her property to old age. The remaining horse, Snuffy, had a long life ahead of him and was used to being a pack animal. Mom was worried about him being lonely, so she started hunting for animals to keep Snuffy company. Instead of looking for another horse like one would expect in such a situation, she looked at cows, miniature donkeys, miniature horses, alpacas and llamas.

“Another horse is just too expensive,” she said.

I was holding out hope for a cow. Ever since I read “Little House on the Prairie” and Laura got that cow with roses on its back, I’ve hoped that we would get a cow. For some reason, milking a cow sounds fun to me. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me either. In any event, a cow seems like a pretty normal thing to put in a barn next to a horse. Whenever you get a farm playset, there is a horse, a cow, a chicken and a goat. We’ve had horses and goats, but we’ve never had a cow. Or a chicken.

But they didn’t get a cow. They got the next most natural animal for a farm. They got a llama.

This isn't actually the llama they got. That llama is pre-digital for me.


I don’t get it either. Have you ever seen a farm playset with a llama in it? No. We actually have a PETTING ZOO playset with a llama in it, but not a farm one.

Now, you may be wondering how on earth a llama would keep a horse company. I wondered the exact same thing. They are different species and, let’s face it, llamas are just plain weird. I thought my mom was insane. She probably is. It turns out she was right though. Snuffy and Buttercup the llama became best friends. Everywhere Snuffy went, Buttercup went. Snuffy was very protective of Buttercup and when my mom’s dressage horse came home over the summer, Snuffy would protect Buttercup from the other horse so the other horse wouldn’t “take” her.

Unfortunately a couple years after my parents got her, Buttercup the llama died of a congenital problem with either her kidney or her liver. It’s been so long and she wasn’t my pet, so I can’t quite remember which, but Buttercup died ridiculously young despite the best efforts of the vets at Purdue University. By the time that happened, my parents had bought the property next door to them and had other horses boarding with them in their new, larger stable, and perhaps even another horse. The progression of animal acquisition gets a little fuzzy to me.

The horse still missed the llama. Or my parents missed the llama. Whatever the case, they got a new one named Chewy a year or two later. Chewy is Snuffy’s best friend. In fact, Chewy is the llama you saw in all the pictures in this post thanks to him being post-digital and Buttercup being pre-digital– or at least so far back that I don’t have pictures of her readily available. The horse and the llama are inseparable. The horse doesn’t like it if other horses try to “take” his llama. The llama doesn’t really want other horses to talk to his horse. They love each other.

And so, Snuffy isn’t lonely anymore and is carrying out another love affair with the llama.

Next Thursday: What happened when the miniature horse got “lonely”.

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