In which we have a soundtrack for our story. Click play if you want the sound track (no video, only music, and I am totally dating myself) and read on:
Love is not blind.
I love being around animals, even those that tend to carry the Bubonic Plauge. When I was younger, I would have happily lived in a barn, a zoo, or my former home, which was both things, squared.
Shaun and I didn’t meet for almost a year after we were put in touch through friends. I was writing a grant and didn’t know what I was doing, she was a professional grant writer. The business part went great (the woman can write a grant.) Gradually, we guardedly shared more personal things: our respective moments of awwwww about our dogs, what we liked about where we lived, etc.
She was thinking about getting her doctorate at UC Berkeley. That’s near Jane. Shaun lived on the east coast, UC Berkeley is on the west coast. I felt fine about meeting: friends I trusted knew her in real life. I’d pick her up at the airport, take her on a campus tour, and she could stay at my house, avoiding the cost of a hotel.
I come from a family of cops, so naturally I called up her office number, and spoke to her assistant and left a meaningless message. She called back later, we talked on the phone. Check. She works where she says she works. She does what she says she does. Jane, private eye.
I assumed she was an animal lover because she had cats and a dog. Correction: I assumed she was an animal lover just like me. (“Just like me” is usually a bad assumption.)
From our phone conversation, Shaun thought I had loud roommates. I had mentioned the dog, the cat, and the house rabbit. I forgot to mention the parrots. Or the mouse relocation program (catch in the city and release in the woods), or that I volunteered for the House Rabbit Society: taking in rescued rabbits, litter box training them, socializing them, and then adopting them out to good homes. Unconsciously, I might have been a tad aware this was at the top of the animal-keeping ladder when you live in a city.
She walked into my house for the first time.
It was clean and odor free. It’s just, uh, that my dog was jumping on her, my cat was winding between her legs, my rabbit hopped over to the baby gate to investigate the new comer, and all the parrots started talking to her at once: knock knock…who’s there…HI….how ARE you…brrrring brrrring…hello?…(singing) happy birthday to you…happy birthday to youuuu…would you like to go out?….here kitty kitty kitty…give me that!… No, GIVE me that… HAHAHAHAHAHAHA…drop it! drop it right NOW…good dog…who’s a good doggie?….and step and down and step and down keep it up….
I think it was a teensy bit overwhelming.
Shaun’s eye travels to the Wall of Rabbits (they had to stay caged until successfully litter box trained and socialized), and the huge Angora rabbit behind the baby gate (Chloe) standing on her hind legs to get a good sniff. (The baby gate was to keep her from hurting the dog.)
Horse photos adorned every wall.
She told me later that she immediately decided to tell me she already had a hotel room, and uh, could we go OUT to dinner? Her treat? And she had to change her return ticket to the next day, sorry.
Open floor plan. The rabbits were sort of in the kitchen.
To Shaun, I was a crazy animal hoarder. And she didn’t know about the mouse relocation program, or Norman, the king snake that roamed the backyard, Celeste the turtle, or the dove cote. Yet. There may have been a possum I couldn’t quite shake, but I won’t swear to it.
The cat lost interest, the dog calmed down, and I got the 3 parrots to shut up by giving them their bowls of vegetables. Chloe, however, was miffed at not instantly meeting Shaun, and was in my office, rolling the metal trash can on the hardwood floor, banging it into things, making as much noise as she could. Rabbits. They love noise. Who knew?
This was horribly problematic. You see, at the airport, we had one of those unexpected, unbelievable moments. She got off the plane, we looked at each other: it was love at first sight. Of course we didn’t talk about it. Love at first sight? C’mon. That doesn’t really happen. Right? We were terribly formal and polite with each other.
It was: Parrots to The Left of Me, Rabbits to The Right, Here I Am, Stuck in the Middle With You. (And your dog, cat, mice, snake, turtle, doves, and problematic possum.)
I hardly considered a dog, a cat, a rabbit, 3 parrots, and Wall O Rabbits animal hoarding. I felt I was showing restraint. No goat, no burro, no guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, chinchillas or hedgehogs. Wall O Rabbits was going bye-bye all the time. It just happened to keep filling up again.
I have to admit, faced with it suddenly, by someone who considers owning both a dog and a cat a house full of animals, it must have horrified Shaun. Especially when one has just fallen in love. Clearly with absolutely the wrong person. Luckily there was nothing big like horses or cows or…is that a photo of a horse on the wall? Is she in the photo? Wait, is that the same horse over there, it’s not white in both pictures!?
As we wound our way to each other, we struck a workable balance. It took years to admit we fell in love, so the time line was very gradual. While I discovered love is by no means blind, I also discovered it’s goofy, funny, and endearingly patient. (Love you too, Shaun.)
I hope to share some other critter stories, and wanted to provide some background. Stay tuned for stories about Chloe and the birds, especially the African Grey parrot, who could imitate anyone’s voice, and any sound perfectly, wrecking much havoc in Jane’s life, since she worked from home.