Do you really want a hippopotamus for Christmas?

You know that song, “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas. Only a hippopotamus will do!”? I love that song! I don’t know why, but I do. My college roommate even got me a plastic hippopotamus Christmas ornament one year that still goes up annually.

However, when it comes to actually getting a hippopotamus for Christmas, the sensible thing is to pass. I don’t have the time, energy, money, space or experience to care for a hippopotamus, no matter how much I might want one. Yes, baby hippos are adorable (it’s the wrinkles). But you know what? Baby hippos turn into big hippos, and then even bigger hippos. And I don’t have any idea how to look at a baby hippo and tell how big it’s going to be; therefore there’s no way to properly prepare for the amount of space it will need. (Will it fit in the backyard swimming pool or not? How can I tell?)

The same applies to puppies. Puppies (and kittens and whatever other living things) for Christmas.

We’ve all seen the videos of the squealing children as the puppy tumbles out of a barely-wrapped box, red ribbon around its neck, and smothers its new people in slobbery puppy kisses. It’s adorable.

But it’s death till you part, my friends. Or it should be.

Any living thing – whether we’re talking puppies for Christmas or ducklings for Easter – is a commitment for the life of that animal. It’s not a “let’s play with it until the kids get tired and send it back” sort of thing. It’s not a “if it gets too big we’ll just get rid of it” or “if it’s too expensive we’ll just let it go” situation. It’s a “I have brought you into my life and I promise to care for you, whatever you may need, until you are no longer with us” scenario.

You wouldn’t adopt a child and give them the sense that they belong to your family and will be safe and cared for, and then send them back to the adoption agency when they don’t sleep through the night. What sort of news scandals would that cause?! I know not every one considers their pets to be their “babies,” like I do, and that’s fine, but that doesn’t mean you can just get rid of them whenever they may become an inconvenience.

Not all pets are truly members of the family, like mine are, but there is a difference between somebody’s pet and just another animal.

I have nothing against outside pets. I wish my dogs were outside pets, and as soon as we get a fence put up they will make the transition full-time. However, if you don’t want to touch the dog except with the barest minimum head-pat; if you don’t want the dog to touch you in any way; if you don’t want there to be any sign in your home, in your car or on your clothes that you own a dog at all; if you don’t have time or knowledge to properly train the dog; if you don’t ever want to hear the dog; if you don’t see a need to socialize the dog with other animals or people — in short, if you just want the dog to sit quietly in the yard and look pretty so you can tell people you own a dog, then you don’t want a dog, you want a lawn ornament.

Buy a lawn ornament. Spare the dog the loneliness of a life with you. (And that applies all year long, not just for Christmas.)

Also, don’t get puppies as presents unless your children are old enough to care for the dog or you are prepared (inevitably) to care for the dog yourself. And you are prepared to love that dog (or kitten or hippopotamus) and provide it with proper food, shelter, medical care and, yes, companionship. Because sticking the dog in the yard and having no interaction except to put down a bowl of food once a day while the dog sits where it can’t touch you is not companionship.

If someone put their child in their room and had no interaction with him except to put some food under the door a few times a day, we’d call that neglect. Don’t put your pets through that.

Buy stuffed animals for Christmas. Buy real animals for life.

Happy Friday,

The Missus


Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

We had two and a half more snow days from work last week, and in all the quiet time at home I’ve become strangely obsessed with animal cams.

Through the wonders of modern technology, I can use the web browser on my device to access a webcam attached to a branch hundreds of miles away to watch the apes at the San Diego zoo swing in their trees. They also have panda, elephant, koala and polar bear cameras there too (scroll down). You can watch the giant panda at the National Zoo eat his bamboo, sponsored by Ford Motor Company. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, has a webcam above their sea otter enclosure, and yesterday the Mister and I happened to check on them during their zookeeper presentation, so we got to see them being fed and doing tricks for the live zoo audience. I’m sure there are hundreds more, but these are the ones I have bookmarked for the time being, and I feel the need to check on them periodically to see what they are doing with all of their free time.

The camera I am most fascinated by, however, is not at a zoo or aquarium and the animals don’t do tricks for buckets of shrimp.

This camera is attached to a tree in Hanover, Pennsylvania, (wherever that might be) and watches the nest of a pair of beautiful bald eagles. The female is just sitting there now, warming her eggs, which are expected to hatch (according to the website) on or about March 21. You can bet I’ll be watching when I can.

Last night I was trying to think of a reason why I like watching this mother eagle so much, and I realized that it’s a calming sense of focus. This female eagle hasn’t left her nest in weeks – maybe months. She was covered to her neck in snow during the last storm, and still remained at her post. She’s simply sitting, protecting her eggs, with the instinctive knowledge that this is the task of highest importance, and that all other things can wait until this one thing is accomplished.

She isn’t worrying about the state of her nest. She isn’t worrying about what’s for dinner or what anybody else thinks of her personal decisions or appearance. She trusts that her mate will return with enough food to keep her alive; that her babies will develop and hatch as they should, when they are ready; and that the necessities in her life will be cared for. She doesn’t care about the wind or the cold or the cars passing on the road in the distance or the time passing as she waits. She only waits.

Something about that is so reassuring, as I work to finish all my assignments on time. She is propped up on my iPad by the desktop monitor, where I can check on her from time to time, and she is still waiting. Somehow that reminds me that I can slow down and do each task one at a time – I don’t have to be a whirlwind of anxiety at every moment – and everything will get done, even if it’s not all done in the next ten minutes.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34; NIV)

Happy Monday.

Bug Catching 101

We’ve all had those moments in our lives when your gut tells you to run and grab a camera, but you don’t, so instead you end up kicking yourself for days over the priceless photo or video footage lost.

Well, when the egrets started chasing the lawn mower, I knew it was going to be one of those moments.

snowy white egret

This is an egret. (Picture courtesy of Google)

egret standing on a car

This is an egret standing on top of a student’s car on campus.
(Picture courtesy of me)

Egrets are funny-looking birds that hunt through the grass on their dinosaur feet looking for bugs. And what is a lawn mower really but a bug-spewing machine?

You have to admit, it is pretty smart for a bird to learn the order in which the campus lawns are mowed and then congregate on those lawns early in the afternoon to wait for the mowers to appear. You see, they know that those noisy contraptions will not only shoot bugs into the air, but also clear away the excess grass, effectively uncovering any tasty morsels still hiding on the ground.

The Mister and I stood outside for about half an hour watching the process. The mowers cut a strip of grass, taking no caution not to run over the watchful birds, and the egrets scurry around the mower catching bugs and trying not to be run over. They know how close the mower can get before they need to run away (which is surprisingly close, seeing as how the Mister and I were very sure a few were going to lose their lives).

What’s REALLY funny, though, is how the birds never expect the mower to go backwards. They know how close they can stand in the front and to the sides and will eagerly run in behind to snatch up bugs once the machine has passed, but when the mower goes in reverse it throws the whole flock into disorder and you can see panic in the ranks. It’s hilarious.

There are also times when the egrets get caught up in a particularly plentiful patch of freshly-mown grass and forget to follow the mower to the other end of the yard. When this happens, one or more of the birds will look up and realize the bug machine has left them behind and will take to the air, flying at full speed toward the unfortunate maintenance man on the mower. Some overshoot their target and have to turn around. Several nearly landed on the man’s head. He caught us laughing at his predicament and just shook his head, clearly understanding that he was part of the entertainment.

So island lesson for last week: Egrets love yard mowing day, but yard mowers do not love egrets. We’re pretty sure he was even trying to run some of them over. But alas, they might not be the smartest birds in the world, but they do know how to scurry frantically away from an approaching lawn mower.

So live to chase another mowing man, egrets. And when you do, I hope to actually have camera in hand to document your antics for the off-island world to see.

How to make your veterinarian love you

This is a post from a blog I read regularly called “Veterinarianess.” The writer is a student preparing to graduate, and this particular post is very funny, and very true. I can see the Mister saying any and all of these things to me and/or his clients one day. The video is especially funny, and 99.9% clean language. 🙂 Enjoy.

Would the REAL Cows Please Stand Up?

As a young child, I, like most other kindergarten-aged children, learned about farm animals. I learned that cows are white and black spotted. I learned that boy cows have horns and girl cows do not. I learned that boy cows get eaten while girl cows live to have baby cows. I also learned, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that cows say, “moo!”

These are cows.

What we've learned as "real cows" are actually Holstein cows.

See? Cows.

But one shocking thing I have learned as part of my marriage is that everything I learned about cows is WRONG!


First of all, according to the Mister, I’m not supposed to call them “boy cows” and “girl cows.” I’m supposed to call them bulls (males who can make babies), steers (males who cannot make babies), heifers (females who have never had babies) and cows (females who have had babies). The term “baby cows” still seems to be ok, but I’m going to ignore all that for the time being and just address the more major issues at hand.


Falsehood number one: Cows are black and white spotted.

The picture above is not a cow. Or at least, it’s not a “normal,” common cow – in our area at least. That is a picture of a Holstein, a type of dairy cattle that is actually not seen very much anymore. (It’s also the Chick-Fil-A cow, which drives the Mister nuts because they are not meat cattle and therefore shouldn’t be concerned about whether or not people “eat mor chikin.”) What IS a “normal” cow? Stay tuned. I’ll get to that in a minute.


Falsehood number two: Boy cows have horns and girl cows do not.

Both male and female cows can have horns. That depends on breed, not gender. Oh, and girl cows don’t always give milk either.


Falsehood number three: Boy cows get eaten while girl cows live to have more baby cows.

Dairy cattle are dairy cattle (like the Chik-Fil-A cows), regardless of gender. We rarely eat them at all – even the boys. When it comes to meat cattle, we eat everything. No cow is safe. (Except maybe those that throw off enough rodeo riders. But those would be bulls anyway, not cows, so the statement stands.)


And, finally and most traumatically,

Falsehood number four: Cows say, “moo!”

Cows, as I am constantly being corrected, do not say, “moo.” The Mister insists that in all his time in the cattle pens at work he has never heard a cow say, “moo.” They in fact say something more along the lines of “blugh.” (Did you ever hear about Old McDonald’s cow that had a “blugh blugh” here and a “blugh blugh” there? No. I didn’t think so.)


So what IS a “normal” cow? Well, it turns out there are lots of kinds of cows, and practically none of them look like the “real” cows pictured above. Here are a few I have learned to identify since I got married. (And go argue with the Mister about whether or not these are real cows. I dare you. It doesn’t end well.)


Angus cattle

Angus – all black; make good steaks


Black baldy cattle

Black Baldies – like angus, but with cute white faces


Belted galloway cattle

Belted Galloways – or, as we like to call them here in the Martin area: Oreo Cows


Hereford cattle

Herefords – red with white faces; very sweet


Brahman cattle

Brahman – cows with camel humps, essentially


Long Horn cattle

Long-horns – duh


Confused enough yet? Yeah. That makes a lot of us.

However, I, for one, will still teach my young children that cows say “moo;” regardless of how many times the Mister cringes.

At the Zoo with Dr. Doolittle

I don’t know many people who can call a hippo up from the deep.

But apparently I’m married to Dr. Doolittle so common rules of animal nature don’t apply to him.

He causes the meerkats to check the sky for hawks; he talks to the hippos and they fight each other; and the tigers wake up from naps in the sunshine to pose for pictures.

Is it normal for giraffes to follow a man around their enclosure, even when he is NOT holding any food? Do kookaburras always sing songs with passing visitors? I don’t think so.

Normal is the small child shouting and shaking the fence to get the giraffe’s attention. Normal is the man whistling a tune for tropical birds that just look at him silently. The mister is not normal.

It’s just another sign that he was meant to be a veterinarian. Animals can sense his abilities and kindness even from across zoo enclosures. They flock to him. Which, in some cases, can be mildly terrifying.

This really makes me wonder what life will be like in St. Kitts, where there are free-range boars and monkeys that congregate in public areas.

Am I going to come home from the store one day and find the mister on the couch surrounded by unnamed rainforest animals? Am I going to have to learn to feed the free-range cattle that follow him single file like faithful puppy dogs?

Although, if I really think about it, this sort of talent could turn into a profitable business if we use it right. How many people do you know that could stand at the edge of the rainforest and call out never-before-seen creatures? We could fill a tropical zoo in a day! Imagine what scientists and researchers will pay for his services!

And that’s not even mentioning when he opens his own practice on day. He’ll be the only vet around who can literally speak to his clients. It’ll be a little like the Day of Pentacost, but without the tongues of fire and with a lot more barking.

My Great Barnyard Adventure

I am married to a cowboy.

While this does have its advantages (i.e. white cowboy hat), it also has its downsides (cue barnyard smells).

But this past weekend, when the mister rolled out of bed to go feed the university’s cows far earlier than anyone wants to be up on a Saturday, I was struck by an inexplicable desire to go with him.

For some reason completely foreign to me, this semi-city girl wanted to go see the cows.

Sort of like a small child wanting to meet the Muppets.

So I went. And I hung out the Dodge window and took pictures of the cows thundering past on their way to the feed trough. And I felt like I was on the set of the Lion King when the buffalo stampede. And I loved every minute of it.

I wasn’t allowed to get out of the truck while the boys fed, partly because I was way too interested in taking pictures to pay attention to not being run over, and partly because I probably would have stolen the tiny baby calf named Minnie Pearl.

The mister’s farm buddy, J, kept looking over at me like he thought I was crazy. I wonder why.

I don’t know what it was about watching the boys walk through the sixty-six massive steers waiting at the feed trough like children, or watching the sheep run along the fence in single file waiting for the boys to bring their food, or hearing the goats bellow from their barn stall that made me feel like I was in another world.

Probably because I was.

My world is full of air conditioned offices, comfy computer chairs and gossipy secretaries. In my world I type documents and research product costs. I give presentations to high-ranking administrators and plan promotional campaigns.

I don’t wade through herds of living animals three times my size like they are a flock of chickens. I don’t pat enormous angus bulls on the head and treat them like puppies. Needless to say, I was impressed by the mister’s and J’s lack of nervousness around such giant creatures.

Our worlds are almost as far apart as they could get, but somehow that separation helps the mister and I get along as well as we do. I don’t necessarily understand all the things he deals with every day, but I don’t have to. Just like he doesn’t have to understand what a SWOT analysis is or when to apply the ROSIE method. We just have to know when to nod our heads and make approving gestures at appropriate times.

However, my great barnyard adventure did give me a bit more perspective on what the mister’s life is like on a daily basis.

“Playing” with the cows was fun for an hour, but it’s not something I would want to do every day. Even from the truck. . . in the air conditioning. . . not loading and unloading heavy feed buckets. . .

But then again, he wouldn’t want to stand in front of a conference room of executives and pitch campaign plans either. So I guess that makes us even.

The second picture is of Minnie Pearl, the tiniest of the babies, who reminds me a bit of Bambi for some reason.