If there is a Goddess of animals, it’s my mom. She has such a reputation for helping animals in despair, that people are constantly bringing her homeless cats, injured birds, rejected baby raccoons–all sorts of needy animals. She takes them into her country house and nurses them back to health. One morning when Mom went to get the mail, she found a dog tied to the mailbox with a note that said, “Please take care of me.” Of course she took him in. Mom treats all animals like this.
In the winter, when the field mice get tired of the cold, they move inside. Naturally, the mice choose a warm, provisionally abundant place to live in, such as the kitchen. They find the cabinets most pleasant. As all country house dwellers know, you must curb the mice problem before it gets out of hand. The kitchen mice spread the word to all their friends and soon enough you’ve got the whole forest living in your kitchen cabinets. But, Mom has prohibited the use of traditional spring-loaded mousetraps. Instead, she uses live traps, baited with Brie cheese. She apologizes profusely to each one as she catches them. When the mouse is finished dining, Mom takes the cage and puts it into the Cadillac and the mouse gets his luxury, chauffeured trip five miles down the road to a farmer’s field. Once Mom sets the mouse free, she drives back home to catch the next one.
My mom would rather escort a spider out the front door than step on it. I’ve even heard her thank them for visiting as she tosses them out of the house back into nature. “You never know which one is going to be Charlotte,” she says. (She does have a point). She tries to keep the domestic spider population down by strategically placing hedge apples around the house, usually under the sofa and behind plants. She says spiders don’t like the smell of hedge apples so they stay away. When Mom picks them in the spring from the neighbor’s hedge apple tree down the street, they are as big as softballs. By the end of the summer they have rotted and shriveled up to the size of golf balls. Nonetheless, Mom leaves the hedge apples in place all winter long and in the spring, she throws out the old black rotted ones, now covered with spider webs, and replaces them with fresh green ones.
Insects fascinate my mom. She has a big magnifying glass she uses specifically for checking out ant colonies. “Oh look!” she’ll say, “Look at what these ants are carrying into their house today. Isn’t it amazing how they can lift something hundreds of times bigger than themselves.” At first I think she’s just being Mom and I’m inclined to agree without looking. But then I decide to go ahead and look at these tiny creatures that God has put on this earth. “Yeah you’re right Mom, they really are fantastic creatures. Mom? MOM!! That’s your diamond ring they’re carrying away!”
This unique relationship with nature runs in my Mom’s family. A few years ago, her sister acquired a parrot named Pepe. Pepe, who was previously owned by a Mexican couple, didn’t understand English. No matter what my aunt said to Pepe, he just looked despondently at the floor of his cage. This kind of behavior worried my aunt, who had not been prepared to take on a psychologically disturbed bird. But all attempts at communication failed.
One day, as my aunt sat in front of the cage, Pepe started weeping. He wept with all the emotion of a human! Soon, he was pouring out his heart to my aunt-In Spanish! He went through a scenario of two different voices arguing in Spanish. My aunt made a tape recording of it and played it to herself over and over, trying to understand. That’s when she realized what Pepe’s problem was-he was lonely-lonely for his own language. My aunt has since learned how to say, “Polly want a cracker,” in Spanish and other short, basic bird conversations. Now, she and Pepe are getting along fabulously.
At least I think so. I haven’t heard back from her since she got a phone call from some woman who said, “Will you please take ‘Sophie,’ my pet pig? I have to get rid of her by tomorrow or the police will start fining me $1,000 a day for keeping a pig in a residential neighborhood.”
Of course, my aunt took “Sophie” into her home. My aunt treats all animals this way.
Besides, she was beginning to suspect that her own pet pig, “Rosie,” needed some company.