My Own Little Zoo by Jen Forbus

Editor’s Note: This week, Jen Forbus shares her love of animals and introduces us to four-legged members of her family. Anyone that knows me knows that I am an animal nerd. Jen is one of the few people I know whose love of animals rivals my own.

Most people who know me, know I am an animal person. I’m one of those dreaded people who will despise a book if animals are unnecessarily abused or mistreated. When I travel I make sure to visit the closest zoo and if I’m staying with an animal owner, I socialize with the animals as well as the humans.

Growing up we always had pets: dogs and cats. At Easter my parents would get baby ducks (who are extremely messy creatures by the way) and then release them at the nearby duck pond. My dad often had a large tank full of fish, my sister had a fascination with mice at one time and we also had a hermit crab at one time. If you ever decide to keep a hermit crab, don’t keep it’s tank in your bedroom…they’re very active at night.

But my greatest love has always been our dogs and cats. So when I bought my house back in 2001 I knew I would get a dog. My house even had a fence already – one of its selling points for me. I had my heart set on a Labrador, so one evening while I was painting – before I had moved into my house – my dad showed up to say he had found a breeder with one chocolate lab left, did I want to go look at it. I was no dummy. Barring some horrible disease, I knew I’d leave the breeder with the dog that day. And I did. Hershiser, a.k.a. Hershey, rode home in the back of my dad’s car with me and we shared a strawberry milkshake.

From Day One Hershey was a very social, easy-going dog. He was born in April and I took him home with me at the beginning of June, just as the school year was ending. I was teaching at the time so we had the whole summer to bond. Hershey went everywhere with me, riding in the front seat of my Mustang convertible. To this day he won’t ride anywhere but shotgun.

A year and half later I took my mom to the pet store to find a cat. One of hers had recently passed away and she was ready to adopt again, so I was going to pay the adoption fees for her birthday gift. Only she didn’t find one at the store that day; instead I went home with a kitten and our furry nuclear family grew by one. Bailey and Hershey had no problems getting along and I’d often find them cuddled up together. Forrest, my bully of a tabby cat, joined us at Thanksgiving time. He was in urgent need of a family to adopt him. So we welcomed him into our home. Hershey and I did anyway, Bailey wasn’t so sure he liked that idea, but he warmed up to it.

At the end of 2002, it was me and my boys! And it stayed me and my boys until 2006 when Nestle, then just shy of three, needed a new home. Her owners were moving and couldn’t take her along. So, chocolate lab number two moved in. Hershey and Nestle hit it off right away. However, Nestle doesn’t hit it off well with too many dogs. She’s not social the way Hershey is. She adores people, but other dogs, not so much.

And the kittens, Amelia and Isabelle – my calico twins, were my failed attempt at fostering. I was fostering the six-week-old fuzz balls for all of about 30 minutes before they officially joined the Forbus Zoo. I still call them the kittens even though they turned five this summer.

We’ve weathered quite a bit this crew and I. Forrest had an asthma attack when he was only three. We learned Hershey had hepatitis when he was seven. And the one time I tried to board Nestle she ended up with laryngitis from barking the whole time I was gone.

The shedding fur is never under control and there are dog beds and toys in every room of the house. I can never make sudden stops or back up without looking; if I do, I’m guaranteed to step on someone. No one cleans up after themselves, that’s left to me. And if I want to travel, I have to make arrangements for everyone to have caretakers. But I wouldn’t trade any of it because the warmth and happiness they provide is one of the greatest gifts in my world.

Hershey and Nestle you’ll almost always find lying near my work chair or my reading chair, wherever I am. Bailey loves to lie on my legs when I prop them up under my desk. And Isabelle has decided she’s my personal helper. Her favorite spot has become right next to or on top of my mouse pad.

Hershey has a lot of gray in his face these days, and while he’s still quite agile and acts like a puppy, I know he won’t be with me forever – none of them will. So, I count every day as a blessing and stock pile all my precious memories.

Miz Jen Forbus is a queen of all things mystery. She is smart, caring, cool, crazy, wise and wacky. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter, but her true wisdom lies at Jen’s Book Thoughts.