I had the exhilarating experience of being the “Critter Girl” for an animal shelter. I have been an advocate for the humane treatment of all creatures since I was a child. Of course, my family has had a few mishaps along the way. My grandparents would give their hyperactive dog a sedative to calm him down going across the border into Canada. They neglected to check who was responsible for the task and both ended up giving Spike the meds. After getting through customs they stopped at the nearest park so he could relieve himself and the poor little guy tried to lift his leg and fell over. It wasn’t until I was 30 that I discovered that my pet rat (I got to keep the class's experimental rodent for scoring the highest on a science test) did not die of natural causes as I was told. I overheard my Mom relating how my dachshund got a hold of him and took him under my bed. Apparently, my Dad had to keep from getting sick as he swept up rat bits. I guess I shouldn’t judge, especially after roasting my hermit crabs by keeping the heat lamp on too long. The next generation had a few issues too. My girls lost their slugs from Zoo camp in the back of our Chrysler minivan. Gee, I wonder if the people who bought that van ever found them. We even had a gold fish jump to its untimely death after seeing one of his buddies get sucked up the filter and the other float sideways on top of the water after my mom thought the tank needed a good spiffing up … with bleach.
Through it all, our pets have been a wonderful part of our lives. Being “Critter” girl seemed like it would be, as my friend from India would say, “a walk in the cake park." It proved to be more challenging than I expected. My first assignment was to plan and execute a pet photo session with Santa. Other than a few random “humpings” (I am referring to the dogs of course) everything was going fine until a woman, dressed in Chanel and heels, arrived with her two felines. She placed them on Santa’s lap. “Desiree, Prada, look at Mommy!” she chirped. A wand with a feather somehow materialized from her skin tight outfit. She then proceeded to “flit” around the room in her stilettoes in hopes of getting their attention. It got ours. The poor cameraman was shaking so severely from trying to contain his laughter he looked like he was having a seizure.
As part of my responsibilities I had to appear on live TV weekly with animals from the shelter. I made the mistake of bringing a cat named “Pretty Pretty Princess” onto the show. To say I am near-sighted would be a gross understatement. Therefore, I did not see the “on-air light” when the weatherman said, “Today we have Pretty Pretty Princess with us,” to which I responded, “Dave, you really shouldn’t call me that in public.”
They say if you don’t want to be upstaged do not work with kids or animals. I have done both on a regular basis. A shepherd mix canine accompanied me to a speaking engagement. “What to do with unwanted amorous attention from large mammals” is nowhere to be found in my “Public Speaking for Dummies” manual.
I must say, being “Critter Girl” was very similar to my role as a mom. You get slimed, you have to clean up messes (BTW you don’t know MESS until a Bull Mastiff drools on your annual budget report) and it seems you are in one constant state of feeding hungry mouths. Occasionally your heart breaks. As with my children, my “critters” keep a constant residence in my heart. Maybe seeing my “fur balls” go off to their newly adopted homes prepared me in some way with having to deal with watching my kids head out of my “shelter” and into the big world. MAYBE.