Monday, March 10, 2008

All pets, no peeves

Now that we’ve settled into our new house and my wife Kara no longer needs to send me links to websites featuring potential homes in which we could spend many years amassing positive memories and negative equity, she has turned her attention to websites featuring potential pets that could spend many years shedding on our sweaters.

Kara has heard the Call of the Domestic. She sends me emails with links to pictures of puppies on, adding her own editorial comments like, “Aren’t they sooo cute?” and, “Check out these puppies!”

And of course they are cute. But certain recent cultural trends have made prospective dog ownership less appealing to me, namely those trends that involve plastic baggies and steam of unappealing origins. If you’re already a parent, there’s nothing about dog ownership to make you queasy. What haven’t you already had to touch with your bare hands? But people like me sit around wondering if it might be possible to train a dog to do its business on some sort of catapult or trebuchet-type device.

I actually can’t wait to have a dog around the house, my aversions to their byproducts notwithstanding. The real opponent to such a household addition is our ferret Chopper, who is an old man by varmint standards. We’re quickly closing in on the seventh year since he declared sole authority to relieve himself upon our carpets. His favorite pastimes are sleeping twenty-two hours a day and, presumably, not having his head stepped on by a galloping puppy on its way to gnawing the stuffing out of the couch.

As crotchety as Chopper has become, he still enjoys coming home after being boarded (most graciously) at my folks’ improvised weasel kennel. Upon returning with him from vacation a couple of weeks ago, Kara and I let him loose in the hallway to watch him take his traditional romp around the house. As I followed him into our bedroom, I flipped on the light to find a nasty surprise waiting for me.

“Babe, our bedroom’s been ransacked!” I yelled, looking at our things strewn all over the floor.

She came running down the hall and looked in. “No, that’s just how you left it,” she said. Then I remembered flying into a frenzy trying to find my good headphones before we left, a fruitless quest that resulted in the contents of my dresser drawers swirling around the room, a maneuver that didn’t help to find the headphones but still offered some therapeutic value.

Chopper prefers our house slightly on the disheveled side anyway, especially if there are some choice sweatshirts on the floor for him to sleep in. My slovenliness is really just an effort to create artificial animal habitats, like when they sink a ship offshore.

I wonder how things would have turned out differently all those years ago if Kara had let me get a fish tank instead of a ferret. She insisted a ferret would be more fun, and I eventually caved because I figured the two were pretty close, alphabetically.

After finding out more about what goes into fish tank maintenance, I’m glad Kara saved me from that fate. Our buddy Jon recently exclaimed over dinner, “I got a fish tank!”

But Jon doesn’t have a fish tank. He has a water tank. It may become a fish tank at some point in the future, but right now he just has a giant rectangular water cooler with no spigot. Parents spend less time preparing your average nursery than Jon has spent preparing this water tank.

“Well, first you have to grow bacteria in the water,” he explained. “The bacteria eat the ammonia and turn it into nitrites. Then a different bacteria eats lead and turns it into gold.”

Or something like that. I lost track halfway though his explanation, wondering why he didn’t try an easier hobby, like collecting coins or defusing land mines.

You can curb Mike Todd at


  1. Come on.... get a puppy. Your ferret will show it who is boss in about 2 seconds and all will be right in the world.

    ps dog poop stinks way worse than a baby's poop. hint hint

  2. Sheri, whatever are you getting at?