A few days ago, I shared the stories of how Shine, Nova, Rocky, and Addie became a part of our little family in How to Build a Zoo, Part 1. For a normal person, four animals would be plenty; for Cole and I, that’s only half of them! Yes, having eight pets can be completely insane at times, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Read on to find out how Lynk, Kairi, Kalani, and Eli joined the Dillons (to be)!
To this day, Lynk remains our most challenging creature. We found Lynk from inside our apartment right around the same time that we got Addie. It was ridiculously cold for Alabama, and we were sitting in the living room at about 11:00 at night when we heard yowling from outside. At first, I thought it was a cat fight, but it kept going on… and on… and on. When it would stop, it would start up again a few minutes later, and I realized it didn’t really sound angry as much as it sounded lost.
We went outside to see if we could find where the noise was coming from. We almost gave up a few times, because he would stop yowling and we couldn’t figure out where he was in the dark. Eventually, though, I saw a small lump under some bushes on the other side of the pool (about 40 yards or so from our apartment building) and I went to investigate. Lynk let me pick him up without an issue, though he wasn’t super excited about the other animals in the house. I took him into our bathroom and shut him in there until we could figure out what to do with him.
When I first picked him up, his stomach was so distended that I actually thought that he might be a pregnant female! It turns out, he was just starving and full of intestinal worms. We treated him for that and left him in the bathroom for a few days as we searched for an owner. He wasn’t microchipped, and we never did find anyone to claim him. We named him Lynk as a mixture between the main character in one of our favorite video game series (Link, from The Legend of Zelda) and a lynx (since he has these little tufts at the end of his ears like a lynx). He’s a sweet boy, but we’ve battled several urinary tract issues with him. He’s on a special urinary tract diet, and every now and then he doesn’t quite make it to the litter box to use the bathroom. But we love him all the same!
My mom started fostering kittens at some point in 2016, and I would jokingly show pictures to Cole. “Babe, aren’t they so cute, don’t you just want one?” We had no intentions of getting another cat – or anything else, for that matter. As far as we were concerned, five pets were quite enough! “We have more animals than we need,” Cole always said in response to my jokes.
So imagine my surprise when he called me one day after work. “Hey babe,” he started, sounding a little sheepish. “I, uh… I did a thing.” I asked him what he did. “Well, see, this guy at work found a three-week-old kitten in his backyard, and he can’t keep it, and he was asking around, and I… might have said we’d take it.” Well, you can imagine that I gave him such a hard time! He’d spent weeks saying we didn’t need another animal, only to be the person to bring one home!
Now, don’t worry – Kairi (named after a character in our absolute all-time favorite video game franchise, Kingdom Hearts) was actually about five weeks old at the time. That’s still a little younger than I’d prefer to have a kitten be without its momma, but we didn’t have much choice! Apparently, she was found under a wood pile all by herself, so Cole’s coworker and his family took her in. Because she was so small, and our dogs were so much bigger than her, we got a small play pen to keep her in so that she could be in the room with us but wouldn’t get inadvertently hurt by the dogs. I spent probably 80% of my time in the pen with her, so she developed a really strong bond with me. Kairi is the sweetest and cuddliest cat that we have, and she usually tries to find a way to sleep on my lap at least once a day!
Our only horse (for now!), Kalani is a “grade” paint horse, which means that she isn’t registered with any of the equine breed associations. In other words, she’s the equine equivalent of a mutt, although her previous owner insisted that if she could find the proper papers, Kalani would be able to be registered with the American Paint Horse Association (APHA). I never did get those papers, so unregistered she’ll stay. That’s okay, though – she’s gorgeous all the same, and boy, does she know it!
Kalani is what we call a sabino, a type of overo pattern of coat color that is described by the American Paint Horse Association as follows:
“Sabino horses usually have four white feet and white legs. The white usually extends up the legs in ragged patches, and then extends onto the horse’s body from the belly. The head is usually fairly white and the eyes are commonly blue.”
Kalani’s color is particularly rare because she is a special type of sabino that is commonly referred to as a “medicine hat” paint. She has blue eyes, which people always say match mine – I actually didn’t do that on purpose, but it is kind of funny! As an aside, if horse colors and genetics are something that interest you, I highly recommend checking out this APHA article on paint horse coat color genetics.
It’s hard to say exactly when Kalani became mine, since I worked with her before purchasing her. Her name used to be Lila, but I didn’t particularly care for that (it came from a phrase “lila wiya waste,” which is allegedly a Cherokee phrase meaning “beautiful woman” – even though it isn’t pronounced the same as English, I didn’t like “waste” being in my horse’s name!), so after digging around on the internet, I decided to rename her. I wanted to stick with Native American roots, since medicine hat paints were held in high esteem by Native Americans. Kalani is a Hawaiian name that means “heaven, sky, royal, majesty” and given the color of her eyes, it seemed fitting! I have other reasons for choosing this name, but I feel like Kalani’s section is getting pretty long, so maybe I’ll talk about it more another time.
In any case, working with Kalani during school was hard, but now she is a permanent resident of our neighbor’s pasture, so she’s right outside our front door! It’s amazing to have her nearby, since she was always at least a 30-minute drive away before. Since she had some time off before I moved her here, I’m currently working on getting her back in shape, and then I’m going to train her for competitive trail riding. I may chronicle her journey, so if that’s something that you’re interested in hearing about, let us know!
Cole and I were lucky enough to get to go to the Iron Bowl in 2016. We’d decided to take two cars since he had to go to work at Chick-fil-a right after, so he wasn’t with me in the car. I’d gotten a little ways ahead of him (far enough ahead that he couldn’t see my car) when I saw a dog heading toward the road from the woods. Luckily, everyone slowed down and avoided hitting it. It looked just like Addie – so much so that my heart jumped for a minute, even though I knew she was safely at home. I almost kept driving, but when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw that the dog had gotten stuck in a tiny median with cars whizzing by on either side, I knew I had to do something. I pulled off on a side road and turned around, parked my car on the side of the road, and took off running.
I’m actually not kidding – cars were slamming on brakes to avoid this dog, and I was terrified it was going to get scared and run into one. Picture this: I’m all dolled up in my gameday gear and these cute boots with heels, running up and checking to see if the coast is clear to get into the middle of the road. This guy had stopped his truck to try and shoo the dog out of the way, and the dog acted scared of him – which did succeed in getting it out of the road. It ran up a little hill through some mud and just sat, looking scared and confused. Two other ladies had stopped but weren’t trying to get to the dog, so I got a little closer and a little closer, trying to make sure the dog wouldn’t run away.
He let me get close enough to touch him, but he was clearly terrified: he had his head turned away from me, kind of watching me out of the corner of his eye like he wasn’t sure what I’d do. He let me pat him on top of the head, and then I inched a little closer and manager to pick him up. He was basically dead weight – he went limp as soon as I got my arms around him, again like he was scared of what I was going to do. He never offered to bite or anything, and I got him into my car with no problem. He sat in my lap the whole way to the vet clinic I used to work at, not moving a muscle. Luckily, I was able to check him for a microchip (he didn’t have one) and leave him at the clinic until after the game.
When I brought him home, I immediately gave him a bath. The water that ran off of him was completely brown, and I washed away dozens of fleas. He wasn’t horrendously skinny, but everything about his body language said, “Please don’t hurt me.” I suspected that he’d been getting food from someone, but that he didn’t have a true owner. Still, I double-checked for a microchip, posted on lost pet Facebook groups, and passed around some flyers. It’s been a few weeks now and I haven’t gotten a single query about him.
In two weeks, this dog went from terrified of people to ecstatic when he sees Cole and I. At first, he would freeze when we touched him and go limp when we tried to move him. He wouldn’t walk with a leash at all, just froze completely at the weight of it. When we first put a collar on him, he tried to eat the tags. Now he climbs in our lap, is the first one in bed to make sure he gets to cuddle in between us, and plays tug-of-war like a pro. I love all of my babies, but he has a special place in my heart as the first animal that I personally rescued. He wasn’t an adoption, he was an animal that I literally picked up off the side of the road. There’s just something different about that.
Oh, and in case you Alabama football fans are wondering – we named him Eli after Eli Gold, since we were on the way to the Iron Bowl when we found him.
So now you know how we came to own a zoo! Do you have pets? We’d love to hear about them! Let us know in the comments how you got your furbabies!