Ralphie, our “pet” raccoon

There’s a raccoon living in a tree by our creek… just yards from our garage, and thus yards from the pet door, and therefore conveniently near a plentiful stash of Cat Chow. He’s been around for a few years now so we named him Ralphie, after the kid in A Christmas Story.

Late one night, I opened the garage door and literally called, “Here kitty, kitty,” before realizing this is not our cat Claire! Our pets are scared of Ralphie and stay far away from him. When I took this picture, our cat Dizzy was hiding up on a shelf. Ralphie tip toes past the cats but he runs from Freddie.

Freddie can always tell when Ralphie has come by because of the scent. I can always tell because I see something like this…

Funny enough, Ralphie prefers Cat Chow over Kibbles n’ Bits every time!!!

Raccoons can carry rabies, but as long as he is mellow and chilling peacefully in his little nest, he is welcome to drop by for a snack every once in a while.

My cat Lima

Remember that silly song from childhood that goes, 

My dog Lima loves to roam. 

One day he came wandering home 

full of fleas and very un-clean.

Where in the heck has Lima been?

  

I’m renaming Claire… our cat “Lima” loves to roam. My friend Libby lives two streets over and texted me this photo this morning. Apparently, Claire visits them regularly! She hops over the privacy fence and looks at them through the window! Isn’t that crazy? I wonder if she smells the scent of our kids since Leah and Michael walk over there regularly. (Michael plays with Libby’s son and Leah plays with the little boy across the street.) 

It seems like Claire is always here – usually inside and quick to come to the door if I call for her outside. #apparentlynot 

Very interesting.

The Psychology of Learning – or – Why Freddie is so bad

My bachelors degree was in Psychology – one of those degrees you can’t use without going on to get a graduate degree and a professional certification. Who knew?!? I just wanted to know why people are so… odd!?! (Ha!) I’ve joked that although I have never been paid to use my degree professionally, I have used it every day. I know you know what I mean! A few classes stand out in my mind and one of them is The Psychology of Learning. My little lab rat, Wilbur, helped me learn how responsive he (and we all) are to intermittent reinforcement – meaning we’re all most likely to act a certain way when it sometimes get us what we want. Ah, the sweet pursuit of reward…

Sometimes Freddie gets what he wants.

We really have tried to teach Freddie to keep is feet on the ground, but he has a bad habit of jumping on people if he thinks they maybe might want to love on him!!!!!

Julia and Sherri looooooove Freddie!! Here they are baby-talking to him, “Ooooh Freddie! Freddie! Freddie!”

Paw-Paw and Michael

I think my dad is really enjoying living up here. It’s a big transition to leave Auburn after 40 years, but the grandkids keep him busy and that helps! Dad comes over every morning around 6:55 to help me get the kids ready for school.

Here’s Paw-Paw helping a sleepy boy finish his homework before breakfast…

If you have been around Michael in recent months, then you know he has been rather fixated on tortoises. He’s spent countless hours researching tortoises and can go into enormous details about various species of tortoises. We have all become unwitting ‘experts’ in the distinctions among Galapagos, African spurred tortoise (also known as the Sulcata), Hermann’s, Russian, red-footed, Sonoran Desert and gopher tortoises and, of course, the spur-thighed or Greek tortoise. I thought Michael was familiar with every tortoise until I read through a more comprehensive list on Wikipedia and I now know we may be hearing about tortoise research for years to come! Who knew there were so many?!?

In the mean time, Michael has convinced his Paw-Paw to get a pet tortoise! (Sucka!!!) They are leaning toward a Russian tortoise, although the Greek and red-footed tortoises would also make a fine pet. Just ask Michael. They plan to get this tortoise on May 20th since that’s the mid-point between Nana and Paw-Paw’s birthdays and it would be their present from Michael… which Paw-Paw is paying for. Lucky Nana!!!

Michael and I go to the pet store every few days to buy crickets for his lizard, Emmitt. Last night, the manager let Michael hold their baby Russian tortoise.

I had to admit, he is really cute.

RIP Max

Man down… Well, anole down. We lost our cool anole, Max, today. Michael was pretty heartbroken but not altogether shocked since Max had been ill for several days and stopped eating. He really was a great little lizard. We also lost Jumper the frog who escaped and was apparently found by the kitties. It’s been a tough couple weeks! Michael was more attached to Max though so he buried him in the back yard under a brick labeled “Max” in Sharpie.

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Welcome Max and Jumper!

After an exhaustive search for the ideal critters to join our family,  I am pleased to introduce you to Michael’s newest pets: Max and Jumper. We keep inadvertently naming our pets after my dad’s best friend. Yes, Paw-Paw actually has a friend named Dizzy Jumper. (Kidding!)

Max is a Bahaman Anole which is a lizard native to Cuba and the Bahamas. If he was Southern Baptist and had a doctorate in engineering, he would have three things in common with my dad’s friend, Max.

Jumper is a green tree frog, the “official amphibian” of both Louisiana and Georgia.

Michael set up an awesome tropical terrarium for them with places to hide and things to climb on. He picked out three small tropical plants from Lowes. The hiding spot is from PetCo and the stick came from our creek. The water bowl and half-log are leftover from Myrtle-the-hermit-crab.

Max and Jumper both eat crickets so we also have a cage full of tiny crickets in the garage. We even had to buy cricket food, if you can imagine.

On Saturday night, we were watching the Auburn-LSU game with my family and everyone was tense – maybe because so many top 10 teams lost on Saturday. I don’t know. Michael was trying so hard to talk with everyone about his terrarium and they were saying, “Uh huh,” and staring at the TV! It was hardly a gripping game. I finally said, “We’re up 31 to 7, could you people please go look at Michael’s terrarium?!?”  (I missed the gene that makes you lose your mind while watching a football game, so I enjoyed teasing them!!!)

Yes, Michael is wearing a Florida Gators jersey. #liberalparents #notraisedright

Since Michael enjoyed seeing so many videos on the care and keeping of various reptiles and amphibians, he decided to create his own instructional video which you can watch here.

Critter Mania

In August, Michael asked us if he could get a pet for his birthday which is coming up in October. He wants something that can live happily in his 10-gallon tank, so I told him to do some research and let me know what he thinks is best. (Michael loves to research!) Also, I said no snakes.

Well, eighty-bejillion hours of online research later, Michael still isn’t quite sure which little critter he wants, but he can talk to you at length about anoles, tortoises, turtles, skinks, iguanas, chameleons and all kinds of lizards. He knows how large various species of tortoise will be at maturity and can expound for ages on the pros and cons of leopard geckos vs. crested geckos. He is a little critter encyclopedia – and he wants to talk about nothing else. As of today, he has narrowed his search to small desert reptiles that are both docile and diurnal. (How sad is it that my 6 year old taught me the word ‘diurnal’?)

We have been to the pet store about once a week to look at everything they have…

Some of these little jokers are $15 and some are $100. I’ll be steering my little herpetologist towards a cheaper option in case the cats eat it! Yikes! Actually, they are all pretty cute. No one is as excited as Michael – suffice to say – but I can’t wait to bring home our little pet.

Now, which one will it be?!?

Dog Day

According to Facebook, yesterday was apparently National Dog Day. (What on this earth?!?) Anyway, I thought I would share an update on Freddie. For the first several months after we adopted Freddie, I sincerely considered him to be my greatest parenting mistake – perhaps my greatest LIFE mistake. He was positively exhausting to live with. I cannot overstate how miserable he made my life. He chewed up everything – seriously hundreds of dollars of lost shoes and toys and throw pillows and dog beds – plus, he jumped on everyone and ‘bit’ the children like they were his litter-mates and he peed everywhere. It was constant mayhem.

My neighbor Barbara would say, “Just love him,” and I would sigh.

 

Fast forward three and a half years: Freddie still jumps on some people – mostly the ones who pet him as they say sweetly, “No, Freddie. Don’t jump on me.” Love love love. Pet pet pet. It drives me crazy that he jumps on people, but my powers of dog-and-people training have been insufficient to correct it. I now stick him in the office when the doorbell rings. As for the other stuff, he’s so good!!! He stopped biting and chewing on the kids like puppies and instead bites and chews on Claire who seems to love the game! He never, ever pees in the house. Mostly, he naps.

He is a good dog.

Love really does have a transformative power and sometimes (all the time) we all need that. I will never forget what Leah said when we first got him and I asked the children if they thought Freddie would ever settle down and be a good pet: “No, but I want to give him three more chances anyway.” I have seen that love and acceptance change people – and at least one dog.

Not long after we adopted Freddie, my neighbor Barbara got a little crazy puppy of her own who nearly drove her to the brink. He was so naughty! When she called him, he would run the opposite direction and she’d have to chase him. It was hilarious! One day, she pulled up to my house and handed me the puppy. “You can have him,” she said – and drove away. She was just kidding (SORT OF) and I was laughing hysterically when she came back to get him. “Just love him!” I said. Her puppy turned out to be a great little dog. It’s like a magic!

When in doubt? Add more love.

I saw this throw pillow the other day and thought of my friend Molly. 😉