Over the course of my life, I have owned several animals -- pets, I guess normal people would call them. I have also cared for other people's pets while they were spending a week at Hedonism. There were also opportunities to obtain animals that I passed up on for one reason or another. Here are the top ten animals I owned, cared for, or could have owned.
10 (tie). Wild mice (owned)
Not long after my parents separated, my dad began to notice evidence of mice in his new house. For reasons that are still unclear to me, he decided to go with those humane mouse traps that keep the little buggers alive. For reasons that are even more unclear to me, he decided to put the first two he caught into a terrarium. As it turned out, one was a dude and the other was a lady, Soon, two became about fifteen. The problem was that it was nearly impossible to clean the cage because they would jump out, so the cage tended to get stanky pretty quickly. And they would crawl on the metal mesh roof of the cage, making a grating noise that was not conducive to sleep. Eventually, my dad got wise and took them out to a forest preserve, where he released them before hunting them down one by one with a Bowie knife.
10 (tie). Goldfish (owned)
When I was a kid, like most idiots, I had a few goldfish. I won mine by throwing a ping pong ball into a goldfish bowl at my grade school's Fun Fair. I named them Psycho and Pyro. They died like a week later, despite my steadfast care and compliance with reasonable feeding guidelines. Aside from my sister-in-law, who managed to keep the same goldfish alive for something like nine years, goldfish don't seem to last much longer than a month.
9. Betta fish (owned)
Jester and I had a betta named Todd nearly ten years ago, and last year, we got another betta, which the kids named Thomas. Bettas pretty much suck as pets because you can't put them in an aquarium with other bettas, unless you are running some sort of betta fighting ring, in which case, please email me. I want in.
8. Rabbit (cared for)
At some point, Jester and I did some rabbitsitting. The thing pissed on me. I was not amused.
7. Dwarf frogs (cared for)
You might think frogs are pretty cool, but these little guys were relatively worthless. They just swim, and they don't even look at you when you ask them questions.
6. Box turtle (cared for)
Daughter's classroom has a turtle, and we watched it over winter break. It was much more interesting than I thought it would be. Did you know that turtles eat lettuce? I didn't either. Unfortunately, we had to keep it in its cage more than we would have liked because Lollipop is a lot like Lenny from Of Mice and Men. She absolutely cannot be trusted around free-range animals that she can pick up. That turtle got picked up and immediately dropped the first time we let it crawl around on the floor. Thankfully, turtles have hard shells to protect them from careless three-year-olds.
5. Scorpion (owned)
For a period of about two years in law school, I owned a scorpion, which I named Bea Arthur because I wasn't sure if it was a male or female. As a Scorpio, this was more than just a pet. Bea provided hours of entertainment, as my roommates and I stared at it and prodded it with several pencils taped together, hoping to see it sting a cricket. We never did. Then, one foggy April Saturday morning, Bea wasn't responsive. She had succumbed to consumption, a victim of her own cold blood. We had a short funeral, complete with "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes blaring from the stereo. I wrapped Bea in cellophane and buried her several inches under the ground next to our rental property. Then "How Do U Want It?" by 2Pac came on, and we started dancing and then went inside and cracked some Natty Lights. That's what she would have wanted.
4. Garter snake (cared for)
In junior high, my science teacher had a garter snake in his classroom named Action Jackson. I watched it both winter breaks, and it was pretty awesome. Action Jackson ate live goldfish. For a seventh or eighth-grade boy, this was nothing short of spectacular. Hell, I would still find watching a snake eat a goldfish to be pretty cool. One day, I would like to own a snake. I'd probably name it Jake Roberts.
3. Dog (owned and cared for)
Harley, my possibly autistic mutt who is approximately 80 years old now, is the first dog I've ever owned, so maybe my view is skewed. Sure, she's a little skittish and hates nearly every man in the world, but in general, she's been a really good dog. She was easy to housebreak, and she has always been a late sleeper. We have dogsat many canines over the years, and I can't say that all dogs are as willing to sleep until 10 without bitching (pun intended). In general, dogs are cool, though.
2. Piranhas (owned)
Sophomore year in college, my roommates and I bought two piranhas, Double Down and Two-Tone Slim. If we could have afforded more than two, presumably we would have bought more than two. They ate goldfish, and it was really fun to watch them stalk and kill their prey. They were a definite conversation piece. Chicks would always stop by our room in the fraternity and be like "Nice piranhas. Where's the bathroom?" And we'd be all "next door on your right."
1. Buffalo (could have owned)
Back in the summer of aught three, I was getting ready to move out of Bloomington for good. My roommates and I had a problem, though: we had a ton of booze, but not a reasonable amount of time to drink it all. Our solution was to throw a hairy buffalo party, which we dubbed The Muthafuckalo. In case you're not familiar with a hairy buffalo, there are a few variations, but it general goes like this: you take all the booze you have, pour it into a receptacle of some sort (a brand new trash can, in our case), and you make a very strong punch. We cut up a bunch of fruit and let it soak for a while in the booze, which was very whiskey heavy. The party ended up being a total sausage fest, but it was a good time nonetheless. It could have been legendary.
You see, a few days before the party, my roommate and I ran into Dave, an affable stoner who lived across the street from us for the previous two years. We told him about the hairy buffalo party and invited him. "Do you guys want a buffalo?" he asked. We laughed, assuming he was kidding. "I know a guy who can get you a buffalo," he continued, clearly misconstruing what a hairy buffalo party was. Rather than dismiss him outright or question the circumstances under which he became acquainted with a "buffalo guy," we asked, "So you mean, we would rent the buffalo for the party?" "No," Dave replied, "You would have to buy a baby buffalo and keep it." Setting aside the fact that our landlord had an airtight "no pets" clause in the lease, we incredulously looked at this guy and explained politely that we did not have the knowledge, desire, finances, or acreage necessary to raise a baby buffalo. "Okay," Dave said, "Well, let me know if you guys change your mind."
Not buying that buffalo is one of the biggest regrets of my life. Every time I eat a bison burger, I think that could have been our little Dorothy Zbornak. We would have named it Dorothy Zbornak.