Wages for Egg Laying Chickens

In case you haven’t noticed, egg prices have soared. According to a recent CNN article, the price of eggs has increased 84.5% due to the Avian Influenza that wiped out most of the egg laying chicken population in the mid-western states. (Click HERE to read article.) Household staples, such as mayonnaise and other foods that contain eggs as their main ingredient, have also seen prices skyrocket as a result of the egg shortage.

Yet, these surviving egg laying chickens, how are they profiting from the increase cost of their eggs? Nothing has changed for them. They can only lay one egg a day as nature intended. Meanwhile, that egg they painfully birthed? It’s being sold for double the original price! All the while, the chickens are clucking away, oblivious to their lack of participation in the increase profit margin of their eggs.

They have no agent, and they are certainly not unionized. When an interview was attempted, the chickens did nothing more than stare at me with their beady little eyes. A braver one strutted forward and pecked the microphone on my recorder. When I listened to the recording later, I heard nothing more than loud explosions.

Local congressmen were incredulous.

“Reimburse chickens for their eggs?” said one after I finally got through to him after several phone calls. “The actual chickens, you mean?”

“Why of course, the actual chickens! They’re the ones laying the eggs! The very eggs that are now selling for double! Hello? Hello? Mr. Congressman? Hello?”

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was less than helpful. First, they dismissed my suggestion that their acronym should really be PFTETOA (People For The Ethical Treatment OAnimals). Second, unbeknownst to me, they are against the entire egg industry. Reimbursing chickens for their eggs was not an option. They don’t want us eating eggs in the first place.

It seemed I was on my own. What would a solid wage be for egg laying chickens? I checked my wallet. Since I had just spent eight bucks on two cartons of eggs, all I had left was two dollars.

I decided to pay the chickens the difference in cost.

“Here chickens!” I said, “Here is two dollars. This is what you are owed. I used to pay two dollars for a dozen of your eggs. Now I pay four. You deserve the difference.”

The chickens watched as I threw the money into their pen. All at once, they scrambled for the dollar bills. Several grabbed the bills with their beaks. A fierce game of tug-of-war ensued, until one chicken (the one who had earlier pecked at my microphone, come to think of it) snatched the money and took off, swallowing it whole.

The second dollar bill was torn to shreds. The chickens pecked at the remains before losing interest. It seemed they had no use for monetary compensation for their egg laying efforts.

“You’re an idiot,” the chicken farmer said.

I tried to explain that I was advocating for the chickens; that they’re underpaid and have no representation. The chicken farmer informed me chickens are never paid. They don’t understand, or care, if their eggs are sold for profit.

The drive home was a let down. I had expected to leave the chicken farm feeling fulfilled, knowing that I had helped a lesser being. Instead I felt foolish. Of course chickens don’t need money! What was I thinking? Now what was I going to do?

Ostriches! There was a bird that needed my help! I’ve heard rumors of ostrich races, where people dressed like jockeys straddle these mammoth birds and race them towards the finish line, feathers flying everywhere, the ostriches looking panicked and thirsty.

I must find an ostrich race to boycott, maybe start an online shaming campaign that targets the owners of racing ostriches. But first, I had to make an omelet.

What Do YOU Advocate For?

Save the Children. Save the Planet. Save the Whales. Greenpeace. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Habitat for Humanity. D.A.R.E.

Chances are, you have heard of one – if not all – of the aforementioned advocacy groups. These groups use various forms of advocacy to influence public opinion to hopefully bring about change. Some actions used by advocacy groups to gain support and further their cause are mailings, fundraising, phone calls, and radio/television commercials (who doesn’t remember the infamous 1987 Partnership for a Drug Free American commercial: ” I learned it from watching  you, Dad!”)

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“I learned it from you, all right? I learned if from watching you!”

Yet, what about lesser known advocacy groups? The ones who don’t have the manpower to make annoying phone calls during dinnertime? Who haven’t partnered with large scale grocery stores that ask for a donation after you have recovered from the shock of your grocery bill? These groups are just as devoted and passionate about their cause as say, Doctors without Boarders or the SPCA. But they are just too small a fish in this great sea of thousands of advocacy whales (which, apparently, are being saved).

This is when The Underground Writer steps in to offer these start-up groups some assistance. After much internet perusing, I have decided to shine the spotlight on 5 groups that are lesser known … and for a reason.

1. Americans for Common Cents

Don’t I mean “sense”? No, actually, I don’t and for several reasons. Americans for Common Cents (Click HERE if you don’t believe me) is an advocacy group for the penny. Who knew the penny needed an advocate! Have no fear, you little copper coin, because there is a whole group of penny lovers devoted to your preservation. Consideration has been given to stop producing the penny since it costs more money to produce each penny than they are actually worth (2.4 cents per penny, according to the Citizens to Retire the U.S Penny – a group advocating to STOP penny production). For many, this seems logical. All one has to do is dig deep into their winter coat pockets, couch cushions or car seats to extract errant pennies. Pennies can be found easily most anywhere. But for others? A coalition to stop the killing of the penny’s creation was necessary. Hence, Americans for Common Cents was born.

2. Save the Pigeon: New York City Pigeon Rescue Central

Established in 2004, Save the Pigeon: New York City Pigeon Rescue Central was established to, well, save pigeons. Volunteers (or Pigeon People as they call themselves on their website) care for wounded or sick pigeons. To quote their Facebook page, “New York City pigeons have a very hard time … New York City makes no provision for their care.” For shame, NYC!  With all of that real estate, I would think a pigeon hospital would be a viable option. Complete with little pigeon ambulances. If you, too, wish to be a Pigeon Person, click HERE.

3. Use Plastic Bags, Save Trees

Not only is this group hugging trees, they are hugging plastic as well. Per “Use Plastic Bags, Save Trees,” plastic bags take up less landfill space than paper bags because plastic bags weigh less. (Never mind that paper bags are biodegradable and plastic … isn’t.) To quote this fascinating advocacy group: “Our mission is to let people know how good plastic is for the environment.” Clearly in its beginning stages, “Use Plastic Bags, Save Trees” was established as recently as August 2014. Should you want to help support the cause of furthering the use of plastic and not trees, click HERE.

4. The Flat Earth Society

Ferdinand Magellan schmellan! Who says the earth is round? Not the Flat Earth Society, that’s for sure! After a rocky history that included several presidents and one big house fire, the Flat Earth Society was resurrected in 2004. In October, 2009, the society opened its big flat doors to new members. (Should you want to join, but you MUST think the earth is flat.) Their mission? “To promote and initiate discussion of flat earth theory and to encourage free thinking and debate.” If you have always had an inkling that the Earth is not shaped like a globe but instead, a pancake, and want to advocate for this belief, click HERE.

5. Save Pink Bathrooms

About to swing a sledgehammer to that nightmare of a grungy pink bathroom in your 1960s-era ranch with plans of replacing the stained, cracked tile with something modern? Well, don’t let Pam of Save The Pink Bathroom know! According to this group, fifty year old pink tile is something to be savored. Whether it is considered a part of the home’s history (to quote their website: “Pink bathrooms are a wonderful part of our home design heritage”) or now en vogue, this group encourages you to put that sledgehammer away. Supporters of pink bathrooms can sign a pledge to preserve these bathrooms, and can also purchase a “I Saved a Pink Bathroom” t-shirt that announces their bathroom altruism by clicking on THIS LINK.

Perhaps in a year or two … or twenty, Americans for Common Cents, Save the Pigeons, Use Plastic – Not Trees, The Flat Earth Society and Save Pink Bathrooms will be large scale endeavors that are as prominent as the American Heart Association. Stranger things have happened.

 

**”I learned if from watching you, Dad!” photograph is property of Google Images.*

Charlotte

Charlotte was dark with large eyes and long legs. When she walked, she held her head up high. She was also fiercely jealous – becoming enraged whenever anyone came into close proximity to my father. When my parents went for walks and held hands, Charlotte would barge between them, causing their fingers to separate. She would proceed to press her body against my father’s leg, pushing him away from my mother.

Charlotte was a Nubian goat, the kind with long floppy ears. She was actually very pretty … for a goat. Her coat was made up of blacks, browns and whites. When my father brought Charlotte home to our little farm, my brother named her Charlotte after his favorite book Charlotte’s Web.  

But our Charlotte was nothing like the kind, demure spider E.B. White created. She was aggressive with a rather sadistic streak. Whenever my father would let Charlotte out of her pen, she would scan the lawn for me, lower her head and charge. More than once I had been obliviously playing, minding my own eight year old business, only to be whacked by Charlotte ramming her head into my body. (Thank goodness she was de-horned.) Another time she sniffed my hair before proceeding to grab a mouthful and pull it out by the roots. I was scared to death of her.

When not occupying herself with terrorizing me, Charlotte enjoyed showing off for my brother. It was as if she sensed testosterone was near and was suddenly overwhelmed with circus-like energy. Charlotte would run up the side of the barn and do a backwards flip, which resulted in much clapping and yelling from my brother. This would encourage her to do more tricks.

As much as Charlotte adored my father, her sentiment was not reciprocated. Her purpose was for breeding and not as a pet. This meant she was loaded into our Jeep and we drove her to a farm where she could have a “date” with a male goat. This did not go over well. Even though Charlotte was technically in heat, (meaning, she was fertile and should have been in the romantic mood) she did not approve of the male goats that were presented to her.

The male goats did their male goat thing: peeing on themselves. Snorting. Charging. These wooing tactics usually work like a charm for other female goats, but not our Charlotte. Her standards were higher. She wasn’t interested in any of the huffing, strutting, urinating bucks. For an hour we watched Charlotte dodge one frustrated male goat after another. Even I – who truly had no affection for Charlotte – felt bad for her.

In one last ditch effort, my father tried having a male goat visit Charlotte’s pen. Like a horrible blind date who just won’t leave, Charlotte had an obnoxious suitor in her pen for two days. This was also a disaster. Finally, the rejected buck was sent back to his farm and my father decided Charlotte needed to find another home as well. If she wasn’t breedable – he had no use for her.

Finding a home for a female goat who wasn’t interested in male goats, and could be aggressive, was difficult. But after several weeks, Charlotte was loaded back in the Jeep and we drove her to her new residence. I sat in the back seat, terrified she would rip more hair out of my head. The ride seemed endless. At last, we pulled into the driveway of Charlotte’s new home: a farm that used animal’s blood for medical research. Every day, someone would take a vial of Charlotte’s blood and use it to develop medicines.

I watched as one of the lab personnel attempted to drag Charlotte away from my father. She resisted – her long ears standing parallel to her head. Suddenly, she looked up at the man who was pulling her and all at once she relaxed. Without giving us another glance, Charlotte walked alongside the man, her head held high. She had replaced my father … or she was eyeing this new guy’s hair and planning her next scalping.

 

 

 

What Dogs Think About Humans

“I’m a bit concerned,” she said.

The dogs sat on the couch. Talking dogs. Seriously. I had been asked to interview four talking dogs on a rather delicate subject matter. They wanted their voice (non-barking) heard, and they thought my blog would be the best venue. (Who knew canines read The Underground Writer? Who knew, for that matter, dogs could read?!)

“About what?” I ask.

Daisy is a mixed-breed. A cross between a Boxer and Pittbull. She shakes her head – her dog tags clicking together.

“My humans. My ownersThey’re … getting … strange.”

“Not mine!” the Golden Retriever interjects, “my humans are the best.”

“Well, of course you would think so. You think everyone is the best. All Goldens do.”

The Golden Retriever is suddenly distracted, his snout raised in the air, sniffing.

“Do you smell bacon?” he asks.

Daisy raises a furry eyebrow at me and leans forward, her front paws sliding on the slipcover.

“As I was saying … my humans adopted me from the animal shelter, which was great! I love them, really, I do. But now … but now they’re acting like they’ve saved the world! All over their minivan are bumper stickers that read ‘Rescue Dog Mom’ and ‘I Rescued My Fur Baby’ and ‘Don’t Breed – Adopt.’ As though taking me into their home has made them better people.”

Daisy glances at Trixie – a Yorkie who has started gnawing on an old running shoe.

“Then there are my humans,” Ace – a Siberian Husky – says. “Bought me from a breeder. Paid a fortune, I might add. Now it’s like I’m their kid. I have to go in their car all of the time. They call it ‘car rides.’  They’re always taking my picture with them. ‘Smile Ace!’ they say, ‘smile for the selfie!’ Apparently I even have my own Facebook page – whatever THAT means.”

“I love going for car rides!” says the Golden Retriever, “My humans have a bumper sticker that says their dog is smarter than your honor student … what does that mean?”

“So what exactly is the problem?” I ask, “Daisy, you would rather have been left in the animal shelter? And Ace? You have a problem with being so loved?”

The dogs (except for the Golden Retriever, that is now licking his genitals) all shake their heads.

“I told them not to hire The Underground Writer for this!” Daisy hisses.

“You’re right,” Ace whispers, “she is a little slow.”

“The problem,” Trixie says, after she has swallowed a tattered shoelace she managed to dislodge from the running shoe, “is how the humans view us. My great grandpa Oscar used to tell me about sleeping outside on the back porch, or eating table scraps. Now I sleep on some fancy thing called a ‘dog settee’, and my human buys me organic dog food.”

“Speaking of food,” Ace interrupts, “have you seen what they feed us? What happened to meat? I like to eat out of the garbage can whenever I get the chance.  And if it’s really smelly, I like to roll in it. Now, my humans feed me froufrou stuff they think will taste good.”

As if to prove his point, Ace nods towards the packages lined up on the table next to the couch.

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“Pumpkin and Berry flavor? Gluten free? I just want a bone with some ham still on it!” Ace starts to drool, his saliva forming little pools on the slipcover that is now coated with dog hair.

“What’s with the vanilla sandwich cremes? I’m a dog for crying out loud! And apple cinnamon flavor biscuits?” Daisy asks, “why can’t they make stinky fish flavored biscuits? Or steak flavored?”

“Ohhhh! I LOVE stinky fish!” the Golden Retriever sighs.

“It’s like … humans are trying to make us human,” Trixie says.

“Human are trying to make dogs … human?” I repeat.

“Yes!” Trixie, Ace and Daisy say in unison.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Trixie continues, “I do love my humans, especially the kids. But sometimes I think the adults forget that I’m a dog.”

“Just look at the picture my human bought.” Daisy turns and looks at the picture hanging on the wall behind her.

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“I think that’s great,” the Golden Retriever says. He is scratching his left ear with his hind paw. “I can’t wait to teach my humans how to fetch, and sniff stranger’s crotches, and beg for apple cinnamon flavored biscuits.”

Daisy, Ace and Trixie exchange looks.

“Exactly.”

 

Photo Credits:

Froufrou Dog Treats – Underground Writer venturing into the crowded pet food aisle of local store.

“Everything I Learned In Life…” picture: Google Images/Etsy.com

A TV Evangelist and A Woodchuck

Everything was yellow: the exterior vinyl siding, the front door, the walls in every room, the furniture and even the shag rug on the living room floor. For a moment I suspected a humongous bottle of French’s Yellow Mustard had exploded, drenching the 1950s Cape with its contents. But no – it was simply the house of my most recent Hospice patient.

Her name was Connie and she was in her seventies. I knew her terminal disease was a slow going one, unlike some of the illnesses that stole the lives of our patients before we even had an opportunity to form a relationship with them. I also knew I could not – under any circumstance – visit Connie between the hours of eight and ten in the morning, and two and four in the afternoon. Those four hours were strictly off limits to any Hospice workers.

“What’s going on between eight and ten, and two and four?” I asked Connie’s Hospice nurse before my first visit.

She laughed and shook her head, “That’s when Steve is on.”

“Steve?”

“Steve Brock.”

“Who’s he?”

“Some TV evangelist.”

“No way! Really?”

“Really. She’s like, crazy about him. Everything stops when he comes on. Once she made me go home and I wasn’t even finished with my evaluation.”

As I followed Connie’s voice through the house, I found her sitting in a recliner chair that was positioned in front of a huge television. Her hair was a mess of white curls and she was wearing make-up. For a Hospice patient, she looked pretty spry. Her eyes narrowed when I entered the room.

“Which one are you?” she barked.

I sighed. Typically, social workers were the duds of the Hospice team. Unlike the nurses who brought comforting medicines, the volunteers who provided respite for the caregivers, or the aides who cleaned and cooked, the social workers were the “talkers” and, generally, our services were deemed unimportant and intrusive to most patients.

“I’m the social work intern.”

Now it was my turn to narrow my eyes. I had noticed the excessive number of picture frames scattered around the room, and they all seemed to contain pictures of the same man. Connie followed my gaze.

“Go ahead,” she said, her voice instantly warming.

I reached and took one of the frames, and then another. They were all Polaroid photographs, and it appeared the pictures were of … Connie’s television screen. Or a man on Connie’s television screen. I blinked. She had taken a Polaroid picture of a man on her TV screen and framed it. And not just one, but dozens.

“That’s Steve,” Connie explained.

“Steve Brock.”

“Yes! You know of him?” Connie sat up straighter in her chair.

“Yes, actually.”

I put the picture frames back in their place and pulled a chair next to Connie. Her eyes were closed, reminding me of a teenage girl swooning over the music of a rock band.

“Tell me about Steve.” I prompted.

Connie’s eyes fluttered open. “He’s so strong and handsome! And you should hear his voice. When he sings I get chills. That’s why I send him money every time he asks … and he writes back!”

Before I could respond, Connie reached into a basket that was half hidden under a folded blanket next to her recliner. She handed me a pile of papers.

“Read them,” she urged.

Carefully, I unfolded the first letter. It was a standard “thank-you-for-your-contribution” letter with Steve Brock’s signature stamped at the bottom. When I raised my eyes to Connie’s she was looking at me expectantly. To her, these were personal communications. She thought this TV evangelist had thanked her personally – many times – for her money.

“These are … lovely,” I stammered.

My freshly minted social work brain knew I was supposed to be doing something social worky. I should ask her about her husband! That’s it! Maybe there was some link between her deceased husband and this intense infatuation with a man on television. Or perhaps her father! What about him? What would make this dying woman latch onto – and give her money away to – some lounge singer sounding, dyed brown haired TV evangelist?

“I have a pet woodchuck,” Connie said, suddenly.

“Excuse me?”

Quickly, I shifted gears from the TV evangelist/dead spouse/father link to a pet woodchuck. I looked around the yellow room, expecting to see the rodent lumber in and sit by my feet.

“I have a pet woodchuck,” Connie repeated, somewhat exasperated, as though she were growing annoyed. “His name is Chucky.”

“I … I’ve never heard of having a woodchuck as a pet,” I stammered.

Connie raised an eyebrow. Clearly, she deemed me a moron.

“He doesn’t live in the house. He lives outside.”

“Oh!”

“Aren’t you going to ask me how I know Chucky is male?” Connie asked.

This visit was not going as planned. I hadn’t even approached the topic of her illness. I could envision my supervisor, shaking her head in disappointment. When would I learn?

“Um … how do you know Chucky is male?”

“I checked and saw Chucky didn’t have nipples.”

Whoa! What have we here? Connie was checking woodchucks for nipples, after giving her money away to a TV evangelist whom she believed was writing her personal thank you notes in return. Either her disease was affecting her brain or she had a history of mental illness – but her medical history didn’t state either. She was simply quirky.

I sat back in my chair and smiled. 

“Tell me about Chucky.”

And she did.

Eventually Connie was discharged from Hospice because her illness stopped progressing. She seemed indifferent to the news she wasn’t going to die within six months, and relieved Hospice would no longer be traipsing through her home several times a week. We left her exactly as we found her: swooning over her TV evangelist, with a pet woodchuck named Chucky.

For all I know, she is still sending Steve Brock her money, cherishing his letters, and checking woodchucks for their gender.

The Fur Ball

I knew we ‘d arrived at our destination based on the bumper stickers in the parking lot:  My Cat is My Best Friend, Who Rescued Who?, Don’t Buy and Don’t Breed – Adopt a Homeless Pet in Need!

My husband, friend, and I were attending a fundraiser for an animal rights organization. We liked animals, cared about their welfare, and (to be honest) the event was being held in a boutiquey hotel we were curious to visit.

As soon as we entered the lobby, I felt simultaneously overdressed and underdressed. There was a woman wearing a glittery evening gown with pendant diamond earnings swinging from her lobes – her hair was swept into a French twist. Next to her stood a woman in a cable knit sweater, jeans, and Birkenstock sandals.

My husband, friend and I moseyed around the ballroom, surveying the items on display for silent auction while munching on organic crackers and cruelty-free cheese. It was clear meat of any form was not going to be consumed at this gathering.

“Hey look!” I said, nudging my friend so that her wine sloshed in her glass, “You should bid on the massage.”

“Um … that isn’t a massage for a person.  It’s a massage for your dog.”

“Oh.”

We sat at our designated table and proceeded to introduce ourselves to the others already seated.

“I’m Dina,” a woman with red hair said, “I’m a cat whisperer. And I’m gluten free.”

“How interesting!” my husband – always the socially gracious one – said.  Dina beamed.

A dinner of vegan lasagna was served.  (After demanding proof that her lasagna was not only vegan but also gluten free – Dina accepted her plate.) Board members from the organization began their presentation. The organization was desperate for money, and there were simply too many abused and homeless animals for them to help.

Whether it was the slideshow of the abused animals or the cardboard-like consistency of the vegan lasagna – I was having difficulty swallowing.  When a disturbing picture of a malnourished Doberman was flashed on the screen, the speaker paused and began to cry. Several people jumped out of their seats and surrounded her.

“Vera has a very special connection to Dobermans,” one man said, leaning into the microphone so that his voice was muffled.

Vera was led off the stage. Another board member took over for Vera (who was weeping in the corner of the room). As more unsettling images were flashed on the screen, a man sitting at the table behind us shot out of his chair.

“And what about the chickens? And cows?” he yelled, “When you-all buy milk? And eggs? Do you ever give thought to how those animals are treated?”

There was the briefest moment of silence before a round of applause erupted. Apparently, public disturbances are accepted in animal rights organization fundraisers.

The auction began. The first item, a beautifully framed watercolor painting signed by the artist, received no bids and was eventually tossed to the side.

“Next, you have the opportunity for your cat to be on the cover of our organization’s national brochure.  Do we have any bidders?”

Chaos erupted.

“Three hundred dollars!”

“Four hundred dollars!”

“FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS!”

“ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS!”

There was screaming, shouting and tears. Two people began to argue.  At last, a man won the bid for $2,500. He collapsed into his chair, exhausted but smugly triumphant.

After peace was restored, the auctioneer continued.

“How about a weekend away in the mountains? A delightful little cabin. Starting bid at $25.”

Silence. The auctioneer peered around the room before shrugging and picking up the next item, which resembled a miniature lounge chair.

“We have,” the auctioneer boomed into the microphone, “What appears to be a settee for your beloved pet.”

Around us people sprang out of their chairs, hollering and waving their arms over their heads in a frantic attempt to win.

When at last the auction ended, one of the board of directors took the podium as dessert (sandy tasting vegan cupcakes with vegetable shortening icing) was served.

“And now, the moment we have all been waiting for,” he said, “Our special guest: Tiki, the rehabilitated dog! Tiki lived in a shelter where he was rehabilitated and eventually adopted.”

We turned to see a black, Standard Poodle enter the room. Several people slid off their chairs and crawled toward Tiki, reaching out to touch his curly coat. It reminded me of the scene in the Bible where the Lepers reach out to Jesus Christ for healing. People were whistling, coaxing Tiki to come their way.  Tiki seemed more interested in sniffing the dinner tables, but then gave a disgusted snort of disappointment. Apparently, Tiki didn’t care for vegan food either.

“Give Tiki some room!” the president said, “We don’t want to frighten him!”

As if admonished, the people crept back to their chairs – except for one woman who curled into the fetal position at Tiki’s feet. She held her palm up to Tiki in offering. Tiki gave her a bored glance before moving on to the next table.

“Can we go now?” I whispered.

Before the words were out of my mouth, my husband and friend grabbed their jackets and we rushed out of the room. The cold night air felt refreshing and familiar.

“Ya know,” I said as we climbed into my husband’s car, “I’m still really hungry.”

“How about some steak?” my friend suggested.

And we pulled onto the street in search of some cow.

Freeze Drying Dead Pets

CNN recently did a segment on a company in Missouri that will freeze dry your dead pet. You read that right. For pet owners who can’t find it in themselves to say good-bye to their beloved cat or dog, this business will freeze dry them for a mere $850. The Freeze Dryer (or whatever the person who performs this creepy process is called) does about 120 animals a year. That’s not a whole lot, but it’s more than I’m comfortable with.

As I watched this process unfold (it was like a train wreck: I couldn’t look away), one thought kept going through my mind: people are so strange.

Was that harsh? My apologies, but let’s be honest here. If someone prefers to have Max frozen in an awkward position in their living room instead of buried peacefully in the back yard, I think it’s safe to say they’re a little weird. Okay, a lot weird.

If these weird pet owners can’t let go of their dead pet, I am assuming they can’t let go of what their pet did. Meaning, do these people still act as though their pet were alive? Do they put their freeze dried dog next to them in the car and take it on errands? Do they still insist on taking the dog on walks? There is a woman in my neighborhood who jogs every afternoon with her beautiful black lab. What if she decided to have him freeze dried when he dies? Would she run along, dragging the dog behind her?

And what about visits to the veterinarian? “She’s been really quite!” the owner says as she plops her freeze dried cat on the table, “But her fur balls have really improved.”

Many years from now, I wonder if we will start seeing freeze dried animals being sold at garage sales. Seriously! What if these freeze dried pet owners suddenly realize how creepy it is? Or they are finally able to say good-bye and let go. Then what? Now they are stuck with a frozen dog or cat on their hands. Disposing of it in the garbage just isn’t right – it was their pet after all. So they decide to sell it.

Among the chipped china dishes, bread maker, and picture frames is Bubbles, the freeze dried Poodle. The pet owner hopes the dog looks inconspicuous among the various knickknacks that she has for sale.  Bubble’s owner holds her breath every time someone picks Bubbles up, examines her, and then drops her with a squeal. Bubbles isn’t sold and is then donated to Good Will. Because that is just what the poor need: frozen pets.

In addition to finding this freeze drying process disturbing, I also find it puzzling. Why is it okay to freeze dry pets? Why can’t we just say good-bye and bury them like we do to the people we love? Please don’t tell me you think we should start freeze drying dead people. I don’t think I could handle finding someone’s freeze dried grandma at a garage sale.

The Waiting Room Zoo

At a recent doctor’s appointment, I was struck by the similarities between a doctor’s waiting room and a zoo. I’m not using the word “zoo” to describe craziness or disorder.  (“Whoa. It’s a zoo in there!”)  I’m using it literally: as in the zoo you visit with your kids and end up spending way too much money just to watch some strange animals sleep.

When you enter a doctor’s waiting room, the receptionist is sitting behind a glass shield. This is similar to a cage – only more civilized.  You stand at the glass, hoping she notices you (she usually doesn’t).  If you tap on the glass, she simply ignores you as though you are the hundredth person that day who has tapped on her cage.  When at last you are acknowledged, you hand over your co-pay. This is your “admission ticket” into the zoo.

As you survey the waiting room in your attempt to find a chair that is the farthest away from anyone else, you can’t help but notice the chattering monkey.  This is the person who talks non-stop on their cellphone. They are often very loud and seem to have no qualms about the world knowing their personal business.  The chattering monkey certainly doesn’t seem sick, and you wonder why they are even there in the first place.  Once the phone call has ended, the chattering monkey calls someone else or turns to the nearest person and initiates a conversation.

Sloths are another common inhabitant of the physician waiting room. Without fail, this person falls into such a deep sleep you wonder if he has mistaken the waiting room chair for his couch at home.  The sloth awakens every now and then, only to glance around the waiting room with heavy eyelids before nodding back off to sleep.

In the middle of the waiting room is the owl.  This person looks around the room with large, wide eyes.  She will watch as you check in with the receptionist, as you select a magazine, and when you look at your cellphone.  God forbid you cough or sneeze, her eyes grow even bigger.  She also has the unique ability to turn her head almost 360 degrees to look at the people sitting behind her.

At last your name is called!  It is your turn to see the doctor, who is the Siberian white tiger of this zoo-like experience.  The Siberian white tiger is the reason why we are here. Comparable to a Siberian white tiger, the doctor is also endangered: There are so few of them and so many of us.  And just like the Siberian white tiger exhibit at the zoo: we can only see the doctor for a limited time.

When the Siberian white tiger enters the examining room, he seems disinterested and bored.  You are simply one of many who have waited to see him. Your sore throat and nagging cough that you felt was so important?  Not to the Siberian white tiger. There is a true sense of disappointment, and you can’t help but feel a bit gypped.  You paid $25 for this?  That 30 minute wait was for nothing more than a 4 minute viewing of the Siberian white tiger.  As you leave the Siberian white tiger exhibit, you find you feel a little sulky.

You are eager to return home, and as you leave you notice the waiting room has filled with more animals.  You silently thank God your turn is over, not knowing that you’ll be returning in a few days because you are now harboring all of the germs that were festering on the waiting room magazine you pretended to read.  But when you return, you won’t be able to see the Siberian white tiger. Heck, no! That exhibit is sold out.  Instead, you’ll have to settle for the red panda – otherwise known as the nurse practitioner.

Returning Adopted Pets

My nephew recently adopted a guinea pig.  He proudly named her “Buttercup” and told me this is Buttercup’s third home.

Third home?  What on earth has this guinea pig done that warrants it being returned by two different families?  This led me to thinking of other random animals and their reasons for being brought back from whence they came:

Hermit crabs: “They’re simply too noisy.”

A goldfish:  “It has an attitude.”

An Iguana: “It keeps giving me the harry eyeball.  At the same time.  In two different directions.”

A rabbit: “She seemed fine in the pet store but once we brought her home, all hell broke loose.”

Turtles: “It’s just not a good fit for our family.”

A rooster: “It just struts around, all cocky, acting like it owns the place.  And it’s not laying eggs.”

Thankfully, my nephew’s house seems to be Buttercup’s final destination.  Unless, of course, she starts making a freakish screeching noise at night or telling off-colored jokes.