Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Recently, a friend and I were discussing childhood pets. I know it might seem weird to write a post about family pets and title it Repulsed, but I promise it'll make sense at the end.

For the most part, we were a cat family. You could classify our cats into three CATegories (ha, get it?): the Buckwheats, the Pumpkin, and the rest.

The Buckwheats: when I was little (under 3 years), we had nine different cats in a row. All of them were named Buckwheat. I don't know why, but what I suspect happened is that my parents bought my sister named a cat, she named him Buckwheat, he ran away or died, they didn't feel like telling her so they bought another one and acted like it was the same one. I think we went through so many cats because they were most likely suicidal. We liked to dress up our cats, treat them like baby dolls, put them in cribs and then throw stones at them when they escaped and sought refuge under the car.

But we broke the Buckwheat trend when we got Pumpkin, who lived until this spring. That's 20 years, people. It was the ultimate kiss of irony: whereas the other cats never stayed around long enough, Pumpkin wouldn't leave. He used up all nine of his lives AND the balance from the cats that preceded him. And yes, Pumpkin is the same cat I wrote about last year that was on thyroid medicine. Pumpkin only did two good things in his 20 year lifespan. The first - he peed in the shower. One time I was walking by our guest bathroom. I saw something small and dark in the shower and I turned back around to find Pumpkin perfectly positioned over the drain, relieving himself. I was FLOORED. How did he know to go there instead of on the carpet? He stared back at me until he had finished his business and ran out of the bathroom. The only other contribution to my life that Pumpkin provided is the time he helped my cat out of a tree (I say "my cat" because Pumpkin was my sister's cat, while the fun, spry ones belonged to me). So one time, my cat Milo got stuck in a tree. Pumpkin sat at the base of the tree watching Milo all alone, howling, and finally Pumpkin climbed up the tree and showed Milo how to climb down. Honestly. He sat there watching, then slowly clawed his way up to Milo, then they both turned around and climbed down. Meanwhile my sister, mother and I sat watching from the kitchen table. It was like our own little Animal Planet show.

Milo brings us to the third CATegory, the rest of the cats. The ones that behaved normally because we were old enough to return the favor. When I was in sixth grade, we got Milo. He was a gift from my dad because I'd had ear surgery. Milo was part siamese, which means he had the hyper attitude and awkward body of a siamese cat (thin long body, pointy head and HUGE ears) with the orange coat of a tabby. So, he looked pretty funny. But he was awesome. Unfortunately, his untimely demise my sophomore year (translation: my sister ran over him in our driveway) made way for Claude, who was the greatest cat ever. EVER. He would do cute stuff like curl up and pose in the bathroom sink or in my suitcase while I was packing. I think he was of french descent because he was so jaunty and smart. Or maybe I think he was of french descent because I named him Claude.

We also had a two different golden retrievers. Jessie was around before I was, but then eventually we gave her away. We later ended up getting one of her puppies, which we named Barkley after the flower girl in my parents' wedding. She liked to stick her head in the sprinklers and thus, was a walking, barking ear infection.

We went through a few goldfish too, all of whose collective life-span probably totals under one week. I remember the one that I won at our Halloween Fall Festival lived in my room. Once or twice I took it out of the bowl and held it in my hand. I wanted to pet it! My mom caught me and I was not allowed to do that anymore.

Unfortunately, we dipped our toes in the rodent waters. Didn't everyone? Chestnut and Copper were our two gerbils that were, to sum it up, thorns in our sides. We thought they were cool for about a week. Then the whole change the cage thing came into play and it was all downhill from there. We eventually had to put those damn gerbils in an aquarium because they chewed through at least three of their plastic cages with the add-on wheels and burrows and stuff. It was like a game we'd play when we'd come home from church: would we spend the afternoon playing Barbies or finding (and cleaning up after) the gerbils? They pooped like it was their job. We eventually gave them away to my fifth grade teacher. Then her two little boys got to deal with them.

But that's not what I'm here to write about. Unfortunately, gerbils with super-pooping powers, suicidal cats, and barking ear infections were not enough.

Without my asking for one, my parents decided to get me a hermit crab. Talk about a thorn in my side.

They brought the hermit crab back from a vacation to the beach. It came in a turquoise cage with rocks and a sponge. Even more embarrassing than the fact that I now had a pet hermit crab is what I decided to name him: Meep. I mean, was he a Muppet?

So Meep lived in my room, on my dresser, and boy, did he smell. There was some hardcore bacteria growing in that cage. I would (accidentally) let week(s) go by without watering his sponge because I hated opening the cage up. It smelled SO BAD. My mother would make me clean it and wash the rocks but even so, it reeked. Therefore, I never wanted to touch him, I didn't want to play with him or even race him like they do at beach restaurants. He was just there, in my room, wasting away. I hesitate to even say he was a pet. I took better care of my crayons than I did this hermit crab.

Which brings me to my favorite story about Meep: when he died. I'm not sure when he actually passed on, but one day I noticed he wasn't slinking around his cage anymore. I remember I got a Q tip and poked him. He just rolled over. He was all shriveled up. I had killed him. Death by dehydration. And from the looks/smell of it, he'd been gone for a while.

Relieved, I picked him up by the end of his shell, carefully carried his smelly corpse downstairs and out onto our patio. Then I did the only thing I knew to do with a dead hermit crab: I cocked my arm back and with all my might and gust, threw him as far as I could into our backyard.

I will never forget watching his little hermit legs flying off in the wind, like the seeds of a dandelion being blown by the breeze. I wasn't even sad to see him go. I was just hoping that the cats wouldn't find him and drag him back up to the porch. And that my parents would never ever buy me another pet crustacean.


  1. unbelieveable. i have no idea why the blog insists on posting the above comment every time i present an interest in making a comment. fortunately, it's pretty much always applicable, so it's not as awkward as it could be. the story of meep the crab is incredible, and i am already working on an illustrated version for children. right now i'm thinking of a cheerful girl lovingly sharpening her crayons and organizing them in the order of the rainbow, meanwhile a dejected and dingy looking hermit crabe peers longingly from the algae covered glass of his cage, using two of his pincers to hold his nose on account of the smell of his shriveled up sponge. sound right?

  2. Meep Johnson
    A beloved friend and pet
    May he rest in peace

  3. Did you just write a epitaph for my hermit crab? Wow.

    Lilley - I think you're onto something. A bestseller for sure.

  4. Did Meep have a middle name? Meep Ernie Johnson? Did you name Meep after the only line of dialogue of Beaker, Bunsen's assistant? I would read Lilley's story.

  5. maybe I should have started a blog about the pets of my lifetime, then maybe I'd have something to write about! A cow named Rooster who likes to sit on the front porch, a hamster named Hermie who escapes his cage and lives for weeks in the closet, a dog named Hub (I mean, does he have to do anything weird if his name is Hub?) Actually, it was "Hubcap of the Universe" thanks to my dad who was getting back at us for naming a cat something stupid that none of us can even remember ... I could go on ...

  6. This really is a great story. You are so entertaining - like watching TV! Hilarious!

  7. You completely forgot Snowball - the solid white cat.


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