Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Our Version of "Animal Farm"

About six months ago, DD announced that what she wanted more than anything in the world for her next birthday, was a red-eared slider. A turtle. I sat with that for a bit and thought about it. We already have two cats and a dog. A 15 year old male Maine Coon with extra toes named Boo Radley, who has been with us since our days in NYC. Got him from a flower shop and changed his name from George to Boo Radley after a particularly weepy viewing of "To Kill A Mockingbird" after which I said I wanted to have a cat named Boo Radley so I could live out my Scout fantasy of being able to whisper 'Boo" in the dark. We also have a 3 year old female orange tabby nicknamed "Kitty," but whose full name is "Buddy Boy Girl Daffodil" and whose name should be Charles Manson because she kills all the birds in the neighborhood. The trio is rounded out by a half Sheltie and half Golden named Milo who I brought home from PetSmart, at first to the dismay of my DH, but who is quite possibly the best dog on the planet.

When I asked DD why a turtle, she responded, "because they are quiet and shy."

Here's the deal. Up until about a year ago, it was pretty much princesses and pink 24/7 in our house. See earlier postings for enlightenment on the color pink. But we have turned that corner and now have entered the Noah's Ark phase of the thing. Animals, especially horses, bunnies, turtles, puppies, kitties. So far two of the three DDs want to either be a vet or have a zoo, but in the meantime, they want to fill our home with as many real, plush and plastic animals our 50s ranch house can handle.

Up until six months ago oldest DD would plug her nose with two fingers anytime we tried to take her near a farm or farm animal. But I recently signed them up for an afternoon of horse back riding. We, meaning me and DH, drove up to a
beautiful ranch just outside of our town, one of those places that reminds me why we live where we do. Walked the three DDs into a large barn where promptly all the parents were handed a release form and essentially told to get the fuck out of the barn and don't come back until the class was over. They were nicer than than, but that was the message. Now, I have gotten to the point where I LOVE the stop and drop approach because the girls are all too big to be hanging on my already exhausted body and besides, I know that the scent of a mama in the vicinity translates into "I don't want to do it." But my DH is another story. He is the father who hovered, true helicopter style, on the playground for every step our oldest DH took on the various equipment and who I had to pull of the same background threatening him if he took a step back on the sand again I would report him. He looked at me when I told him we were only allowed to sit on the hill above the corral and before he could sputter out an overprotective sound, I cooed to him that it would be a perfect time for him to get some writing done and could he bring me back a sweater and a latte? He knew he was beat.

He made it back in time for the parading around the corral and yes, I openly wept at the sight of my three DDs sitting confidently on their horses for their two times round, plus a little trotting. We re-united midway between the hill and the barn and I was the hero of the weekend for finding the best thing in the world to do. We scrambled into the car amidst them saying they wanted to do pony camp, can we do pony camp, mama? Before I could say yes, they all burst into tears and cried their ponies names over and over again for the 5 mile ride home. We had arrived in our own version of
Animal Farm.

When I went to the store with oldest DD to investigate the red-eared slider adventure, I was at first thrilled to see that the little swimmer would only set us back about $15. Not bad. Immediately upon telling the sales clerk that we were interested in purchasing one, he quipped back, "They are the most returned animal in our store." DD's eyes grew big. I asked why and was told, "They are skanky to clean, especially if you don't clean up after them everyday." Now, we are not what anyone who knows us would qualify as a particularly neat family. Our house is clean to the point of, well, whatever we can do before we both collapse from the loads of laundry, endless dishes, clothing to put away, not to mention the toys... The quippy sales clerk then proceeded to tell me that for a 4" turtle, we would need a 50 gallon tank. DDs eyes grew bigger and I could see the sparkling of tears starting to form. "I'm having a little trouble visualizing that," I responded. "Could you show me what that looks like?" Quippy walked me over to a tank the size of a small two door car with a price tag to match. All in all, the $15 red eared slider comes to about $1k when you add in the tank, filter, 'habitat' materials, weekly Finding Nemo-like goldfish sacrifice, etc., etc., etc., to quote Yul Brynner. But then I remembered someone had given us an aquarium that was stored in the garage, so I called DH and asked about what size it was. 40 gallons. Good enough. That would take us down to half the original cost, so DDs eyes returned to normal size and we went off to look at the kittens with her younger sisters, which were totally and completely out of the question. For now.

When I called to order our red-eared birthday present, I was told that when the cold weather hits, they stop getting them and switch to Russian Tortoises. I imagined some 400 lb. tortoise from a show I saw about the Galapagos Islands. No, the non-quippy sales clerk told me, they only get to 8" max and are not aquatic. That means no water! And they are herbivores, so no tri-weekly Nemo sacrifices. I copied some images from the web to send to DD and while at first she seemed a bit disappointed, when we saw them in person, her face lit up and she nodded yes.

Feast your eyes on Dandelion, the newest member of our version of Animal Farm. If you don't agree that he is the cutest Russian tortoise around, then wait until I post a shot of his mug.

Ain't it great to turn 8?

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