Monday, February 17, 2014

First pet

A lot of couples test the parenthood waters by getting a pet. I guess we figure if we can keep an animal alive, we might stand a chance at keeping a baby human alive.
This explains how my husband and I, newlyweds in the ’90s, ended up with our first pet, a gray and black striped tabby cat.
We found our cat stashed in a little cage at a plant nursery near our home in West Des Moines, Iowa. My husband walked by and the cat reached its paw outside the cage like it was trying to grab him with his claws. It worked because we came home with our kitten that day. First we named her Jezebel, but after our new vet pointed out that our new cat was a “he” instead of a “she,” he became Desi.
Desi was with us for all the highlights of our expanding family. He’s in the videos of us bringing home our first baby, then the second and the third. I had wanted a lap cat, but Desi was not the lap type. He’d hang out nearby, but not on top of you. He had all of his claws and he was not afraid to use them.
We have a lot of Desi stories — like the Christmas when he sliced his belly open on something in the basement. He’d catch flies and let them buzz around inside his mouth before opening up and letting them go. One time he let us know he was locked in our car by turning on the turn signal switch with his paw. He also did his fair share of annoying cat stuff like clawing new furniture, barfing on the carpet and peeing in a basket of clean laundry.
He made the move with us back to California, barely. On the day my husband left Des Moines in the U-Haul, Desi was nowhere to be found. I guess he figured this packing up stuff had nothing to do with him. A day later, when the cat finally decided to come home, I had to persuade the new owners of our house to put him on a plane to ship him our way. The cat never knew how close he came to becoming a permanent Iowa resident.
Back on the West Coast, Desi was with us for another handful of years until he died of old age in 2007. I think he was 13. When I took off his collar for the last time, I rubbed his soft little nose, something he would never have tolerated when he was alive. I clipped a little bit of his fur, too, and put it in a little bag to keep. For a long time I missed him every day, even his claws.
I think we went a little pet crazy after that. Dad got a dog. The littlest Huffman started a rabbit breeding business. The oldest brought home a guinea pig and f-e-r-r-e-t-s. There were fish and turtles. Mice. Some kind of lizard thing.
The girls learned how to be “responsible” pet owners. Not every pet was a success — I refer to the infamous “ferrets in the closet” incident of 2012. Today, I’m happy to say that they do a good job of taking care of our animals. There’s even talk of getting a goat for a 4-H project.
But now I think it’s Mom’s turn to pick out a pet. And I know exactly what I’m going to get.

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