PROBLEM PETS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve had some crises with pets in my day. I’ve also had a wide variety of pets, both when I was a kid and when my kids were growing up. I’ve had gerbils, rabbits, birds, cats and dogs. Thanks to my son, I’ve had a lot of reptiles and amphibians too, like turtles, frogs, an iguana and several snakes. We kept five frogs alive in a home-made terrarium for five years! That could be some kind of frog longevity record. I’ve also had tanks of tropical fish. These were my least favorite in terms of care and clean up.

One of my favorite ‘pets gone wild’ stories, is about my childhood dog, Schnitzel, a dachshund. I had Schnitzel from the ages of eleven to twenty-six. When he was young, he had a habit of jumping into our lake to chase ducks. Usually he’d come back to shore after a short chase. One day, he was chasing three ducks. The ducks would swim together until Schnitzel got close. Then they’d split off and go in three different directions. That made Schnitzel crazy. He would bark and chase one and then turn around and go in a different direction after a different duck. The ducks stayed calm throughout.

Schnitzel photos

My grandfather and I couldn’t get him to come back to shore. I was afraid that Schnitzel would get tired and drown. So, Grandpa and I got into our canoe and went onto the lake to chase after Schnitzel. So Schnitzel was going after the ducks and we were going after him. As soon as we got close to Schnitzel, he’d take off in another direction and allude us. Just like what the ducks were doing to Schnitzel.

We finally managed to herd him close to shore. I jumped into the lake and grabbed him. We were both covered in mud. So I threw Schnitzel into the swimming pool to clean off and I went in after him, fully clothed. We all came home soaked and exhausted!

Another pet incident happened with my college son’s Python, Princess. My son was at school and my daughter and I were scheduled to leave for Germany the next day. I fed Princess the night before, but I must have forgotten to put the top back on the tank. The morning we had to leave, I discovered the top off and the snake gone! Frantic, my daughter and I searched and searched but couldn’t find Princess.

This is probably our second python, Turbo, but Turbo and Princess looked alike

We had to leave for the airport so I called my son and told him that he had to drive the three hours home to find his lost pet, ASAP. I worried through the entire flight that I had killed my son’s pet, or lost her forever. When we got to Germany, I called home immediately. My son had no trouble finding Princess. He had put her back in her tank and had gone back to school. Crisis averted!

The next pet story involves my nine-year old daughter’s rabbit, Coffee. This rabbit loved to chew wires, eat paper and explore whenever my daughter let her loose in the house. Probably not the best idea, even though we watched her closely when she was out of her cage.

My daughter, Sarah, and Coffee

One day, Coffee hopped into the bathroom. Before we could grab her, she wedged herself behind the built-in sink cabinet. We could not get her out. To make a long story short, we had to call a carpenter we knew and told him that it was a life or death emergency. I doubt he got too many calls like that in his line of work!

The carpenter had to take the entire cabinet apart, piece by piece to get the rabbit. Each time he’d get close, she’d move farther back into the built-in. It was not cheap to have the carpenter basically rebuild the entire cabinet. We never let Coffee roam free again.

One other pet problem we had was really not the pet’s fault. We rescued a tiny baby turtle from my mother’s swimming pool. We created a terrarium for him, complete with a swimming pool. We named him Jaws as a joke, because he was so small and cute. The joke was on us. He grew and grew and turned into a humongous snapping turtle. He grew into his name. We couldn’t keep him anymore so we donated him to the local Audubon Society. He was on display there, in a huge tank, for years. Hopefully happy years.

So these are a few of the ‘adventures’ we’ve had with our numerous pets over the years. Nothing earth shattering. But I’ll bet a lot of people have similar stories to tell about their pets.

14 thoughts on “PROBLEM PETS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

    • Some things get funnier with time. When these things are happening, you know they’ll make a great story, but you’re pissed as hell while they’re happening! We tried to get creative with our pet names.

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  1. I especially love the story about Schnitzel. I had no idea Doxie’s could swim! I am picturing those little legs going a mile a minute in the water. so cute!

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    • Most dogs can swim. Schnitzel loved the water and would dive into the lake whenever he could. I’m not sure though if he liked swimming more than chasing ducks and geese. He would chase the geese on land and they would try to bite him. In the water, they would just swim away.

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    • Frankly, I was more worried that the python would get injured or would get stuck somewhere or lost and would die of starvation. You get attached to any animal you take care of and I felt responsible for a living creature. I was also worried about my son’s reaction if we couldn’t find her. That would have been tough!

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  2. In the middle of reading your post, no kidding, my youngest cat has gotten herself trapped INSIDE my husband’s vintage Marshall speaker (amp) cabinet!!! I wish I could send you the photo in this comment. It’s hysterical (and terrifying!)

    I need to go now!

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  3. Love your pet stories, Ellin. No glass menagerie (sorry, couldn’t help myself!) around your house. Young Sarah and her wabbit looks like Zoey Bartlett, youngest POTUS daughter on “The West Wing”.

    As for Princess, the Python, I’ll keep my distance. I’m like Indiana Jones. I do love the baseball statuette. Who was it? Joe DiMaggio? Do you still have it?

    Schnitzel was a cutie. Reminds me of our late “Amber” who was something of a drama queen. They look the same. Racist? Too soon?

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    • Glad for your comments, as always, Garry! I used to be afraid of snakes, but now that I’ve taken them to vets and given them shots and fed them and helped them shed, I’m rather fond of them. I’m still a mammal fan above all else though. My son still has two snakes, a bearded dragon lizard and three geckos. Along with five dogs together with his live in girlfriend.

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  4. We have thousands of snapping turtles in our river. In the spring, when they are babies, they come up and cover the rocks. You literally cannot see the rocks for all the turtles and if you hang your feet over the side of a row boat in the river, you can lose a toe. Those guys live a very long time and get absolutely HUGE. We’ve had 300 pound snappers wander into playgrounds and it’s no small task to herd something that big back to the river. I actually had to move one that was probably no more than ten pounds and he scared the wits out of me.

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    • We had no idea he was a snapping turtle when we rescued him initially. He was quite friendly as a baby. We were quite surprised when he kept growing and got feisty. We were lucky that the local nature center took him. Otherwise I guess we’s have released him into a local pond.

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      • For what it’s worth, he would probably have done fine in a local pond. These guys live all the way up into northern Canada and I don’t think they ever really “tame.” It’s interesting that someone sold you one, too. They are not normally for sale because they are pretty nasty critters. He would have done okay in your stream and probably met many of his fellow and/or ladies. I’m not sure how you can tell them apart.

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