Animals are like potato chips: you can’t just have one.
It always starts with one. Sometimes it’s just a gut feeling. You’re walking through the pet store with your mom, intending to go to lunch after she and your sister are done with their volunteer work for a cat rescue, when you fall in love with a little black-and-white cat who seems a little more skittish than the rest. Sometimes you plan it out. You decide that 22 years is long enough to wait for your first dog. Sometimes it’s an accident. You happen to be driving past the right place at the right time and you pick up a timid, but scared, stray with the intention of searching for an owner.
One turns into two, because obviously your beloved furbaby needs a friend when you’re gone to school or work. Or maybe you keep seeing an adoptable pet passed over for something younger and cuter. Eventually, you end up with way more than you bargained for. At some point, you recognize that this is too many; you don’t have room in the bed anymore, and animal hair seems to cover everything no matter how many times a week you vacuum. And yet, you find yourself with just one more because it doesn’t matter if you need more animals – this animal needs you.
You just can’t say no, and you wouldn’t have it any other way!
I got my first cat in 2012. I had grown up with pets, but this was the first animal that was actually mine. I adopted her from the cat rescue where my mom and sister volunteered. Her name at the time was Min; I didn’t like that. I’d been listening to a lot of country music at the time, and one song I was listening to right after I got her home featured moonshine pretty heavily. I started calling her Shine, and the name stuck.
Shine is by far our most temperamental creature. For the longest time, she liked me and only me. I actually joke around with Cole that Shine is how I knew he was the one for me – the first time he came to my apartment, she came right up to him, plopped down, and started to purr! This was a huge deal, since Shine generally hid from or outright disliked strangers. She is your typical queen; she tolerates others. She doesn’t like them.
She does, however, love attention, and she picks the most awful times to express her need for it. Got a huge final tomorrow? Shine is there to support you by walking all over your computer keyboard in her quest for pets! Trying to write out your to do list for the week? Don’t worry – Shine thinks your pen is the most wonderful thing in the world to rub her face on! At the end of the day, I honestly think she’s helping – or maybe she’s just saying that if it isn’t done yet, it isn’t going to go well, so you may as well give up and love her.
Nova came next in 2014. I was working at a veterinary clinic that treated both large and small animals at the time. We had a barn behind the clinic with plenty of fencing to make sure the horses were safely contained. One morning, my coworkers and I came in to find that someone had tossed a small pet crate with a cat and her two kittens over the fence. We brought them inside, gave them a cage, and for a few months they lived happily at the clinic while we tried to find them homes.
Nova was the only male, and he was the one that we had the most trouble finding a home for. After a while of looking with no luck, I finally decided that he would come home with me. I couldn’t bear to think of him having no one to love him! It took Shine some time to get used to him, but eventually she warmed up and the three of us became a happy little family.
Nova has always had a very relaxed personality. He doesn’t really want to be picked up, but he loves to headbutt your dangling hand and sprawl out on the floor for belly rubs (he’s one of the few cats I know that doesn’t attack your hand when you touch his belly). He’s still young enough to be playful, so he gets along with our youngest cat wonderfully (more on her in How to Build a Zoo, Part 2). He pretty much leaves everyone else alone.
Cole and I had been dating for about four months when we decided to get a puppy. That sounds crazy when you read it back, but we knew even then that we were going to get married one day, so what probably seemed like a terrible idea to our family and friends was never a big deal for us. We didn’t actually intend to get one until after that school semester had ended, but I went ahead and joined some pet-related groups on Facebook, thinking that I would just keep an eye out and see what came up.
Cole had never had a pet before, and I really wanted him to be able to choose our puppy for that reason. One day, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I came across an ad for someone whose purebred Blue Heeler had accidentally been bred by a neighbor’s farm dog. They had no idea what the daddy was, but the puppies were super cute, and I knew that Blue Heelers were really smart dogs. I sent Cole a picture of some of the puppies and asked him if he liked them. Rocky was the only yellow-haired pup in the litter, and almost without thinking about it, Cole immediately picked him.
We picked Rocky up a few days later for a small rehoming fee. Cole named him after his favorite movie franchise – the Rocky films – and we’ve had him ever since! Rocky is everything a dog should be. He’s sweet, loyal, and playful, and his Blue Heeler genes give him an incredible amount of energy. He’s also the most well-trained of our three since it was so much easier to train him in a one-on-one setting. Overall, he was the perfect first dog for Cole (and of course I love him, too)!
Now, I always get a little confused about who came next. We’d had Rocky for about nine or ten months when we got two new animals in quick succession: our second dog, Addie, and our third cat, Lynk. I don’t suppose it really matters. We’ll talk about Addie first, and Lynk’s story will be in How to Build a Zoo, Part 2.
Addie was another Facebook pet, but her situation was vastly different from Rocky’s. Rocky’s former owners had done everything they were supposed to do and had treated him and his siblings well as they searched for owners. Addie was about seven months old when we got her, and she had been purchased for her former owner’s children as a puppy. Apparently, when the kids lost interest in her, she got tossed outdoors with the rest of the family’s many dogs, cats, rabbits, and other various creatures.
She was dirty, flea-infested, and noticeably more timid than Rocky had ever been. She didn’t really know her name (Hattie, at the time) and just generally ignored people. With us, she was standoffish and shy, taking some time to warm up. If you got too close to her face or backed her into a corner, she would make this sound somewhere between a growl and a whine – we think that some of the bigger dogs probably came after her from above, which is why she was nervous about that. She didn’t want to be picked up and was very selective with her cuddles.
We renamed her Adrianne, after the leading lady in the Rocky movies, but we call her Addie unless she gets in trouble. These days, she is such an attention hog! She loves to lay on top of us and bury her nose in the space between our chins and our necks. She shares a food bowl with Rocky (who she absolutely adores) because if you give them two separate bowls, they’ll share and eat out of one, then the other. She loves comfortable things, and her favorite places to lay down are either our bed or the big, comfy recliner in the living room.
But wait… there’s more!
That’s only half of our zoo, so be on the lookout for Lynk, Kairi, Eli, and Kalani in How to Build a Zoo, Part 2!