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

Hot Date. Dream Vacation. Perfect House. What Happened?!

We’ve all experienced it. A situation or upcoming event we have imagined would be particular a way, only to have it turn out drastically different than we planned. Our dreamy anticipation vaporizes once reality dawns.

Blind dates are a perfect example. Men – you discovered her through an online dating site. Her picture was unavailable, but this only added to her mystique. Her line of work is listed as ‘entertainment’. You’re not quite sure what that is, but you suspect it involves dancing. Her age? Experienced. Well! As you approach the park where you agreed to meet, you can’t stop your mind from envisioning someone who looks like this:

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Well, hello there!

But your expectations are quickly dashed when you see your date. That line of entertainment she works in? Not dancing, but playing the synthesizer at the local senior center. She’s experienced all right! Experienced at whipping out the tissues she keeps stashed in her sweater sleeves in case she has a sneezing fit.

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“Maybe my dentures fell in this bag. I hope I find them before my date arrives!”

Ladies – you have experienced the same. Your friend swears she has the perfect guy for you. She promises he’s not fat, but “stocky.” He’s a doctor and such a “sweetie.” Why is he still single? He was married to his career, but now he’s ready to settle down and start a family. When you meet this gent, you find he resembles Quasimodo. He confesses your friend did stretch the truth – he’s not really a doctor, but he does work in a hospital. In the cafeteria, to be precise. He proceeds to spend the rest of the evening telling you – in minute detail – his responsibilities in the bustling hospital kitchen. You realize one thing your friend was right about: he really is married to his job.

Let’s move on to vacations. How often do we imagine our vacation will be tranquil, secluded and relaxing?

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Paradise Found

But when we arrive, we learn the beach is a popular destination for cruise ships and it’s filled with screaming children, hollering parents and loud music?

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Paradise Lost

Children. You daydream for months about the upcoming birth of your baby: her little fingers gripping yours, holding her while you glide back and forth in the rocking chair. Perhaps you contemplate learning how to knit baby booties after she is born.

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What you thought you’d get

Yet, when your bundle of screaming joy arrives, you find you’re pacing the floors deep into the night, trying to calm Baby Evil. The only thing you can imagine doing with knitting needles is jamming them into your ears to block out the crying.

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What you got.

House hunting. Your Realtor tells you she has the perfect home in your price range. You follow the winding path to the house, your stomach fluttering. You have already envisioned what color you’ll paint your bedroom. Your neighbor’s house only fuels your excitement:

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This neighborhood is starting to look good!

Yet, the house you can afford – the house your Realtor is excited to show you – looks like this:

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Oh, that’s right. I forgot about our budget.

Lastly, your kids have finally convinced you to get a dog. They vow to walk and pick up after it. One even promises to vacuum for you. You relent, but you tell them it must be calm and small. Your children spend hours online, searching local animal rescue sites. Your husband contacts breeders. You fill out yards of paper work. At one point you’re not certain if you’re adopting a dog or a child, the process  is so rigorous. The night before you pick up Fido, your thoughts drift to the little dog that has managed to wiggle its way into your heart already. You haven’t seen him yet – your kids and husband who have met him tell you he’s brown and lovable. You picture him spending his last night in the shelter:

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Sweet, docile family dog you expect to see

The next afternoon, you hear the family car pull into the driveway. You open the front door, only to see a large beast running towards you. Drool is flying from his mouth and his eyes look crazed. “Yeah, about the ‘being small and calm’ part” your husband says right before Cujo leaps up on you with muddy paws.

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The actual family dog

Bill Watterson, the author/creator, of Calvin and Hobbes, said it best, “I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.”

Photo Credits: 

Attractive Date: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/andre-batista/3548312095/”>André-Batista</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Disappointment Date: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/gingiber/3672189301/”>gingiber</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt; 

Paradise Found Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jsmoral/3278536843/”>jsmoral</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Paradise Lost Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/otimo/182432305/”>Man with no name</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Sleeping Baby Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/diathesis/2383571187/”>diathesis</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Money Pit Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/reallyboring/6307845575/”>reallyboring</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Sweet Dog: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/williammarlow/5976796676/”>WilliamMarlow</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Crazy Dog: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/thekellyscope/4627967858/”>thekellyscope</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

New Awareness Months

Awareness months are all the rage. For every month of the year, it seems like one organization or another wants us of to be mindful of a certain illness, social problem, or hobby. Take the month of September, for example. The ninth month of the year is host to prostate, thyroid, and ovarian cancer awareness. August is motorsports, cataract and psoriasis (patches of red, flaky skin) awareness month. October is breast cancer, cholesterol, disability employment, vegetarian and influenza awareness month. Meanwhile November makes us aware of lung cancer, long term care, veganism and Alzheimer’s disease. (Click HERE and HERE for proof.)

There are even months dedicated for animal awareness, with September being National Chicken Month, and March Adopt-A-Rescued-Guinea Pig month. Because February is Pet Dental Health month, we will remember to check our cat and dog’s chompers. (Don’t believe me? CLICK HERE.)

While I understand the calendar is getting full of our need to be aware of so many diseases (and animals), I can’t help but feel that some issues have been neglected. Take Delusions of Grandeur for example. This is the belief that you are more wonderful and powerful than you really are. Meaning, you think you’re great, but others do not. Perhaps if there was a delusions of grandeur month, people would understand why that guy in the office is so obnoxious and self-centered.

April should help make us aware of Asymmetriphobia. This is the pervasive fear of lopsided, uneven things. People who suffer from assymmetriphobia will never be caught wearing mismatched socks. They may also spend a painstakingly long time hanging a picture frame to make sure it’s just right. Asymmetriphobia month would help us be a tad more patient with the family member who spends nine hours decorating a Christmas tree because the ornaments have to be evenly distributed. It might just help one of us to pause a moment and think, “Now wait a second. Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep knowing the dishes in my cabinets aren’t evenly stacked!”

Napkin On The Lap month would be huge. Placing your napkin on your lap while eating is not only proper, it saves people from having to see whatever schmutz you just wiped off your face. Putting napkins on laps during meals seems to be a lost etiquette. Let’s make people aware it exists and bring it back, shall we?

Having lived in a neighborhood with dog owners, I know first hand the intense frustration of finding dog doo on my lawn when I don’t even own a dog. Hence, a Pick-Up After Your Dog awareness month is an absolute must. Pet stores could seize this moment by offering discounts on pooper scoopers and waste bags. Additionally, very creative bumper stickers could be designed to inform others this important month exists. (Perhaps, instead of awareness ribbons, there would be awareness dog … well, you know.)

Lastly, the month of February could be Shopping Cart In The Middle Of The Aisle awareness month. What better to pair with Valentines Day than to be mindful of leaving your grocery cart smack dab in the middle of the aisle so it blocks everyone? For twenty-eight days (except for leap year, where it would be a blissful twenty-nine days) we wouldn’t have to say,

“Excuse me? Um … excuse me? But I can’t get by. Would you mind moving your cart over just a bit?”

to the shopper who is ruminating over the prices of competing pasta brands.  (I’ll be honest here – I am one of those really annoying shoppers who gets easily distracted and drifts down the aisle, leaving my cart in everyone’s way.)

Since there is Stress Awareness Month (April), National Asparagus Month (May) and Get To Know an Independent Realtor Month (February), I think Shopping Cart In The Middle Of The Aisle, Delusions of Grandeur, Asymmetriphobia, Pick Up After Your Dog and Napkin On The Lap awareness months could very well be a success.

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.

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.