Keepin' It Real Since 1977

Mostly true stories from then & now

The Lewis Family Animal Hospital (Now Hiring) November 10, 2011

Filed under: My Awesome Childhood — Melissa Lewis @ 7:04 pm
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When I was 10, Dad gathered us around the dining room table, placed a large cardboard box in the center of it, and announced that he had some good news. He had found a stray kitten on his way home from work. I have never been a cat person, but my sister, who loved them, reached for the box.

“Now hold on,” Dad said, pulling the box toward him. “I found this kitten staggering around in a puddle. We are not going to keep it, but it’s going to stay with us until I can take it to the vet tomorrow.”

Now we were all intrigued. We quietly watched as Dad opened the box, reached in with both hands, gently lifted the kitten out and placed it on the table. Our excited faces were transformed into horrified grimaces. We silently surveyed the kitten as it struggled to take a few steps. The first thing I noticed was how matted its fur was. Tufts were missing, revealing open sores that were beginning to ooze and scab over. One ear was mangled, as if it had been bitten off by another animal. One eye was completely matted shut and the other one darted around trying to make sense of the four of us staring at it.

At this point, Mom entered the room, and leaned over me to see what we were looking at and shrieked, “Vincent! Why is that thing on my dining room table? It’s disgusting!  Kids, don’t touch it.”

As we continued to watch the kitten fumble around on the table, I noticed that it kept walking into the cardboard box.

“I’m pretty sure it’s blind,” Dad said as he nudged it to walk in the other direction.

“Here kitty kitty,” my sister called to it. “Come here kitty.”

The kitten continued to fumble aimlessly in circles.

“And I’m pretty sure it’s deaf,” Dad added.

“Alright kids. That’s enough.” Mom intervened for our safety. “Vincent. I don’t know why you brought that disgusting thing home.”

I have to admit, I was pretty horrified. It was the most pathetic looking animal I had ever seen and I didn’t even want to think about what kinds of infections or parasites it had. Dad placed the kitten back in the box, and I was relieved to not have to look at it anymore.

Mom was convinced the kitten was flea infested and insisted that my dad put it in the garage. Nobody objected.

That night, while I was waiting for sleep to come, I thought about that poor blind, deaf, ratty looking kitten staggering around in a cardboard box in the dark. Surely it must be hungry, if not, at the very least, lonely and scared. The only solace I found that night was in knowing that a cardboard box in a warm garage was better than a puddle out in the cold.

The next morning, my parents left for work and we got ready for school. We kids were uneasy about leaving the kitten alone in the dark garage all day. A few minutes before we set out to walk to school, we decided that the least we could do was give the kitten something to eat. I went to the cupboard, pulled out a large cereal bowl, and filled it with milk. The four of us put the bowl of milk in the corner of the box, wished the kitten a good day, and left for school. All day long, I was comforted by the idea of the kitten in its cozy box with a stomach full of fresh milk.

The walk home that afternoon took less time than usual because we ran most of the way. “I want to say goodbye before Dad takes it to the vet,” my sister had said. We were all eager to check up on the kitten one last time.

When we got home, we unlocked the door, dropped our book bags in the middle of the hallway and made our way to the garage. My sister ran to the cardboard box and peered inside. Instantly the excitement drained from her face. Her eyes filled with tears as she looked at me. Without saying a word, she walked right past me back into the house.

My brothers looked next. They too instantly became silent. Suddenly I found myself filled with dread. I didn’t want to look. I already knew. The kitten didn’t make it. It had been sick and weak. The vet was probably going to have to put it down anyway. At least it died knowing that it was cared for right? I slowly stepped up to the box and looked inside.

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. The poor deaf, blind, vermin filled kitten had somehow managed to slip and fall into the giant cereal bowl filled with milk and drowned. Guilt punched me in the chest like a fist. I had spent the whole day, consoled by the fact that we were saving this kitten. We had rescued it from the scary outside world, given it a warm box to keep it safe, and were going to get it the help it needed. Instead, we killed it.

Needless to say, it was a long time before Dad brought home any more strays.

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carnage in the hamster cage August 15, 2011

Filed under: My Awesome Childhood — Melissa Lewis @ 4:06 am
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Like many middle class, midwestern families, we had our fair share of pets when I was growing up. Some were common household pets; cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits… while others were a little less common; crawfish, chicks, shetland ponies (yep- when I was a kid, my parents bought me a pony… sort of) Most of our pets were wanted, while others, I simply tolerated.

Take our hamsters for instance. Hamsters? Seriously? Not only do their tiny little grippy toes creep me out, but when they’re not biting you, they’re pooping in your hand. I was never a huge fan of hamsters, but when my family was given two as gifts from a family friend, I did my best to enjoy them. We were told they were both males so we named them Sledge & Hammer after the title character of our favorite TV show. (They aired 3 episodes of Sledge Hammer before they pulled it off the air.  It was awesome a piece of shit.)

Shortly after Sledge & Hammer were added to our family, things took a turn for the worse. I headed down the stairs one Saturday morning to peek in on the little fellas. One hamster, it didn’t really matter that we had named them because they looked exactly alike, had been banished to the corner of the cage. The other one was chewing on some sort of hamster toy. Wait, what? Hamsters don’t have chew toys do they?  I peered closer into the cage and noticed that the hamster toy had little tiny hamster like grippy toes. Oh, and it had a head, and eyes, and OH GOOD GOD! It was a baby hamster. There was a baby hamster in the cage and Sledge, or Hammer, was eating it. I let out a scream and soon we were all huddled around the hamster cage taking in the scene. That’s when I noticed that the baby was not alone. There was literally a pile of baby hamsters in the cage.

My brother Jeremy: “Mom, what is he doing?  Why is he eating that baby?”

Mom: “Why are there babies in this cage?”

My brother Michael: “There’s like 30 of them in there. We have like 30 hamsters.”  

Mom: “He said they were both males. Why are there babies in this cage?”

My sister Chelan: “This is so gross. Those babies look disgusting and that one that’s being eaten is making a horrible noise. I’m going to be sick.”

Mom: “How could this possibly have happened? Why are there babies in this cage?”

The chaos was too much. The four of us kids were hysterical due to the carnage happening right before our eyes. Mom whisked the cage out of the room and out of earshot and somehow managed to calm us down.  She explained that one of the hamsters must have been a girl, and that sometimes the moms eat the runts… To be honest, I’m not really sure what she said. I was too busy trying to decided if I should cry or barf.

Then dad came home.

Mom:  “Vincent.  Look in that hamster cage.”

Dad:  “Why are there babies in this cage?”

Here are the bits and pieces of the aftermath that I do remember:

Dad decided we needed to put the male hamster  (Hammer- it was easier to tell them apart when one of them wasn’t constantly trying to eat its own babies) in a separate cage to prevent him from snacking on his kids as well. Sledge, stayed in the cage with the non-runty babies who were allowed to live.

Now at this point, I must tell you that my parents had refused to buy the fancy plastic hamster cages with the cool attachable tube tunnel thingamajigs that we had wanted. Instead we used the old wire cage that had once housed our rabbit. The wire cage was fine for Sledge & Hammer, if you don’t count all the hamster sex, because they were big. For baby hamsters, however… those poor suckers were falling out of that cage left and right. We didn’t notice at first, but then mom sucked up a couple with the vacuum cleaner. We had to keep the cage inside of a plastic tub, after that, in order to catch the ones who tried to jump ship. (In retrospect, I can’t blame those poor baby hamsters. If I had to chose between risking being sucked up by a vacuum cleaner or having my legs chewed off by my own mother while I slept, I would have tried to jump as well.) The worst were the ones who had fallen out of the cage and landed on the radiator. They didn’t stand a chance.

When all was said and done, as soon as the baby hamsters (the one’s who managed to survive the Great Carnage of 1987) were old enough, they, along with their mother, were all given away to other family friends. (You’re welcome.) Hammer stayed with us and lived a long happy life.

That is until, SOMEBODY, left him out of the cage and our dog ate him. Well, not so much ate him, as played aggressively with him until the point of his death. We buried Hammer in the backyard in a cardboard Crystal Light canister. Twice. The dog dug him up the first time because we didn’t bury him deep enough.

I really miss that dog.