Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Menageries and Miracles

Some time back, in a previous post (Sharing the Journey) I made the comment that my son was the only one who had lost a pet in the fire. My family has pointed out that the comment I made was not entirely true. So let me back up and try again.

The night of the fire we actually had several pets in the house. A whole menagerie. A zoo of sorts. There were two dogs- Jai, the Great Pyrenees, and Jenny, the Yellow Lab. Both dogs were kenneled upstairs when the fire broke out, completely trapped and helpless. The fire began in the kitchen and remained contained primarily in the kitchen and family room, but the heat and smoke consumed the whole house and by the time the husband  arrived home to discover the fire, smoke had filled the house to within a foot of the floor.

Jai's kennel
You can see the soot on the walls from the smoke over the dog kennel in this photo. Look close. That is the melted paneling dripping down from the sloped attic ceiling over the kennel. I cannot imagine how the dogs survived the heat and smoke. Jenny, the Yellow Lab was rescued first. The firefighters carried her out, kennel and all. Jai stayed several minutes more. Weighing in at 125 pounds, he didn't get rescued in his kennel. His kennel wouldn't even fit through the hallway. The firefighters tried to get him to walk out but he either would not or could not. Two of them finally carried him out. 

Jai and Jenny both needed emergency veterinary care that night. Jenny had bronchitis and needed a few weeks of antibiotics. Jai had severe pneumonia and was seriously dehydrated. The vet thought we might lose him. He needed more than a month of antibiotic treatment. Both dogs eventually needed antibiotics for tummy infections from the toxic stuff they inhaled. I think it is a miracle the dogs survived.

Jai looked like a dirty mop when he came out of the house all covered in soot and wet. It took a few baths and a small miracle at the groomer's to get him white again. I would love to share a photo of Jenny, but she has no ability to attach her butt to the ground long enough for a photo. 

Once the dogs were rescued, the firefighters returned to rescue this little guy. His name is Joy. Yes, you read that right. HIS name is JOY. Don't ask me. I didn't do it. 

The husband says that the moment when the firefighter handed the rabbit to my oldest daughter was like one of those magazine cover photos where you see a firefighter rescuing someone. He says he will always remember that moment. The firefighter handed her the rabbit and she cuddled it under her chin. Amazingly, this little guy was located right next to the dogs but appeared as if he'd never been in a fire at all. No soot, and no respiratory distress. 

The firefighters then returned for Merlin, the Bearded Dragon, but poor Merlin did not make it out alive. May he rest in reptile peace. Nobody dared ask the sweet firefighters to retrieve the rest of the menagerie. Sadly, they were left for dead. 

That is until the kids had a conniption fit. "MOM! Did you check on the FISH?! The FROGS?! What about your hermit crab?!" For reals? "Guys, I'm sorry, they are dead. There is NO way they survived that heat." "CHECK MOM! CHECK!" 

I checked. I did. Honest. I traipsed through the black, wet, stinky mess that was our home shining a flashlight into the aquariums. There was no movement in the frog habitat. The glass was smoky. The water was murky. Dead. I looked in the aquarium inhabited by one stubborn old goldfish. I kid you not, the fish was sideways. He was floating sideways. I figured he would be dead within the hour. I told the kids the critters were dead. 

Eight days later. Count 'em folks...1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8 days later, the fire restoration crew TOLD my kids that the goldfish was smiling at them from the tank. Dang their evil souls. Wouldn't you know it? They were all alive. After a fire. And eight days with no food. For the love of all things sacred!

We took them back to the hotel . I went to Wally World and bought the cheapest, smallest (we were in a HOTEL!) habitats I could find. We were struggling to buy clothing and necessities and there I was buying fish bowls. I thought too small. Who knew the goldfish had grown to fill out his 10-gallon tank? He couldn't really turn around in his bowl. He just floated there, staring out at us. The frogs got a 1-gallon tank and the crab got a 1-gallon tank and everybody got bamboo in hopes of cleaning out their little smoke-filled gills. 

And then, a week later, we moved the whole remaining menagerie to the rental house. For reals. We moved fish bowls full of water. In the car. And wouldn't you know- no sooner than we settled in THEY DIED?! The nerve!

Well, the fish and one frog died. We still have this lonely little guy:

And this little guy:

P'Nuttle the Hermit Crab
He started out with a plastic box and a Solo cup, but since he has survived four months and successfully molted without keeling over, he got an upgrade. 

Alas, we just were not feeling complete here at the zoo. One of our children was missing her guinea pig, Chip who died a few years back. It was not helping that our oldest had found a renewed love for her fire-surviving rabbit and paraded it around gleefully in front of said lonely sibling. And so, because I was obviously still insane from the fire, I decided maybe they all needed a new pet. Guinea pigs, after all, like to live in groups. 

Two weeks before Christmas we visited the pet store just to see how much a guinea pig setup would cost. Wouldn't you know, they just happened to have four male pigs all living in the same habitat that had not even been introduced to the public yet. And they were on SALE! Heaven knows the husband can not resist a bargain and next thing ya know we are at the checkout with four guinea pigs. TWO WEEKS before Christmas. I think the pet store and the husband were in cahoots.  

So, naturally, the pigs hid out in my walk-in closet. Might as well. It's not like I own clothing to put in there now. We told my mother that if the kids called to say they could hear noises coming from the locked closet she was to tell them we thought we had squirrels in the attic. I snuck (that's a word, right?)  peppers up to the pigs every night and held them every day while the kids were at school. I don't know what the hell we were thinking. 

On Christmas Eve we played  out a sort of treasure hunt for a small gift. We did this every night in December leading up to Christmas. Usually the gift was small- candy, or a few dollars to go shopping with. Christmas Eve, the hunt led to guinea pigs. Thank goodness. Because by the 24th, my closet looked like a barnyard, hay everywhere. 

So now we have two dogs, one rabbit, one hermit crab, one frog, four guinea pigs, and the boy has purchased four Bahaman Anoles with the gift card he got on Christmas Eve. He doesn't like cuddly things. He likes reptilian things. Things that bite. And eat live food. Ick. 

Rough Stuff and her pig, Fluffers

The moral of this story? Life is a zoo. At least my life is like a zoo. 

And I wouldn't change any of it. 

Except I wouldn't have a fire. 

And I wouldn't own reptiles. 

Oh, and I'd be skinny.  




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