“The Dog Ate the Placenta” and other tales from the life of my daughter, the Animal Lover

In high school, my daughter (Auntie “M”) volunteered at a wildlife rescue center. Her duties included cutting up frozen mice for the injured raptors. The fact that she could do this made me wonder if she wasn’t born with supernatural powers.

This happens to babies born in the caul, my midwife said. But what should I expect from a frizzy-haired, Birkenstock-wearing hippie from Taos? Never-the-less, I believed it was true.  Not only was my daughter born in the caul, she came out with one hand plastered against her face.

I was so enthralled with the whole caul idea that I froze her placenta.

On Saturday, “M” turns 29. Here she is with her current pet, a cat named Snookie. Snookie’s eyes are  preternatural. Not only do they glow green, they consume half her face. I have not met this cat personally, but I do the grand-cat thing at holidays.  For Easter I sent Snookie a handmade leather Easter mouse – a little heirloom she can pass down to her kids – oops, sorry Snookie. I forgot, you can’t have kids.

At the age of three, “M” walked right up to a huge, gnarly German shepherd that lived up the street. The sign on the door said, “Beware of Dog.” The owner froze. My heart went up in my throat. I didn’t want to panic. The dog calmly stood there and let her pet him. I wondered if he sensed her confidence, or if she was just really lucky.

One summer “M” and her younger sister “K” puppy-sat for the lady across the street. Lupita was a beautiful Australian shepherd with a fresh litter. Our neighbor wanted them handled prior to adoption. For the girls, it was like going to a birthday party every day. In the end they got to bring home a present: a long-haired runt named Frodo, to whom they are now related by blood.

At the time of Frodo’s arrival I had saved up two frozen placentas – little red birth bundles – one from each of my daughters, the oldest of whom was now thirteen.

It was spring, time for planting.  Hoping to bring shade to the south side of the house, I selected two trees at the nursery; some variety of fruitless fruit trees.

I had read somewhere that human placenta makes great fertilizer. What the hell. I deposited them into the tree holes before planting and stirred in a bucket of water.

The next morning Frodo appeared at the glass door. Blood covered his face. The new trees lay on the ground, destroyed.

I searched everywhere for the placentas, but they were gone. Frodo licked his chops.

Thelma and Louise were another of “M”‘s projects. My husband built a pen out of chicken-wire, and a wooden hutch. The rabbits created such a labyrinth beneath the ground that I thought our yard might collapse. One day Thelma ran off.

But Louise lived a long and healthy life. Her poop fertilized our vegetable garden garden. Then we decided to move. My husband had a job in another state and I remained behind with the kids, trying to sell the house. Suddenly, two days before the moving van arrived, Louise disappeared. She’d burrowed way down deep.

I called the city animal control officer.  We had to get her out, or else leave her there. The day before the move, Louise came out. “M” gathered her up and sat with her on the side of the house, gently petting her and combing her thick gray fur.

We had planned to give Louise away, but there was no need. She died that night.

The cat was our last pet, not including Dundee the parakeet. She was a snowshoe Siamese, a beautiful specimen. We  named her Skya and Rita but called her Kitty. We had told friends we were looking for the perfect cat, and one day someone called with an offer. They’d just rescued a kitten from a gift shop’s ductwork after hearing a tiny cry.

“M” and I immediately went to see about it. The kitten was  perfect, and very young. We nurtured her along and she grew to be beautiful. My daughters loved her. She had not been declawed; even so, we didn’t let her out. One Halloween she escaped, slid out the sliding glass doors and jumped over the patio railing. We searched for her and then waited.  We posted signs all around the neighborhood, to no avail. A woman called one day and said she’d seen our sign. Her cat had also been missing since Halloween. We never saw Kitty again.

Dundee was a death defying little guy that my daughters picked out at the pet store. He was perched on the head of a cockatoo, and they took it as a sign. One day we took Dundee for a clipping, and afterward set his cage on the patio rail (yes, the one and the same). Suddenly we heard a crash. Dundee’s cage had been knocked down. Our little bird was nowhere in sight. The girls jumped the rail and found Dundee – in the mouth of a cat! There he was, still unswallowed.

The girls talked to the cat like a swat team trying to convince a madman to release his hostage. The cat dropped him, plunk, on the ground.  With his wings newly clipped, Dundee flew into a thick pine just a few yards away. “Come back! Come back!” they cried.

Dundee flew down. And in that very instant the cat grabbed him yet again. “Oh, no!!!”

The girls shouted at the cat. It was all too much. Strangely, the cat obeyed. Dundee fell from the cat’s mouth and lay on the ground, this time rather lifeless.

The girls chased the cat away and scooped up their bird. His chest pumped up and down. The vet said we could bring him in and for about $200 he would administer antibiotics. However, if the cat had punctured him, he would probably die anyway.

For $17.50, I told them, they could have any parakeet in the store. We waited an hour, then two, and then overnight. The next morning he was chirping away, rocking out on his perch. That little hell-raiser lived another 14 years.

And then there was Snookie.  FFG

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