Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Very Own Animal Planet

A good friend of mine (Jennifer Fabulous) recently remarked that with some of the stories I've related about my experiences with critters, I could start my own show in the spirit of Animal Planet.  When I look back through my life I realize this may not be such a stretch.  So here are some of my more memorable moments, in no particular order. 

Ladies and gentlemen I present to you:

My Very Own Animal Planet (or, When Good Animals Go Bad)

-as a boy I used to capture snakes with my brother.  One day we took some garter snakes (above) home in a pail, and put them in the basement with a weighted lid on top.  He and I took a trip to a science museum for the day, only to find out from my mother upon our return that they had escaped. (One of them had poked its head out of a sock when she was doing laundry).  She was furious; how I survived to my next birthday I'll never know.

-when I was about twelve I was chased by a flock of very angry white geese on someone's farm.  Scared the shit out of me.

-around this time also in Nova Scotia, I remarked to my mom with wild enthusiasm how great it was to see two cows playing on my uncle's farm, one up on the other's back. "They're not playing", she said smiling.
(I was hoping to find a pic to place here of two cows doing the nasty, but no luck.  I guess there's no great demand for graphic cow sex on the internet, so you get a photo of a cow ho instead).  If you don't like it use your imagination, just leave me out of it.

-also when I was twelve (I had a lot of crap happen to me when I was twelve) a St. Bernard decided to sit on me when I was in Ireland.  Ever had a St. Bernard sit on you?  Try having your mom park her old Buick on your chest.  Same thing, just not as furry.  At least Buicks don't drool.

Horses.  I should hate them by now.  But I don't.

-as a young boy I visited Sunnybrook Stables, where the police kept their mounted unit. Shortly after feeding one of them some hay I learned a valuable lesson: always know where your thumb is. Oww! The force of a horse's teeth chomping down on your finger is like getting it caught in a slamming car door.

-here I am back at twelve again, so you know I'm screwed in this story too. Galloping through a field in the Irish countryside with my dad. Picture-perfect setting, surrounded by fresh green meadows. Patty O'Connor holding his shillelagh while Danny Boy echoes through the ethereal mist that blankets the lush, rolling hills. Actually I made most of that up, I don't remember shit about what the place looked like. But it was in Ireland. 


There I was, riding my trusty steed when I was tossed and fell off the side, only to be dragged through the field with one foot in the stirrup. Luckily there were no cow-patty speed bumps to make life more interesting.

-when I was in my early twenties I went riding at a local stable with friends. The horse I was on had no interest in doing much of anything. So we just sauntered along for a painful eternity until he sighted the stable, which happened to be at the bottom of a large hill with a 70 degree incline. Sure, now we decide we want to gallop!  In Trigger's enthusiasm I was almost bucked over the front, sure to meet some grisly fate in a tragic equestrian trampling accident. Despite these experiences I love horses and would ride again tomorrow.

-when I was twenty-two my friend and I were backpacking through Switzerland when we were met by a vicious Daschund.  Apparently we had ventured onto a farmer's property and he was protecting it.

Stop looking at the pictures.
He was vicious.  The demented weiner dog chased us through the Swiss countryside.  We feared for our lives.

I said stop looking at the pictures damn it!!
Don't let the cuteness fool you.  That's what weiner dogs do, they lead you to believe they're cute. "Oh, look at the cute weiner dog," you'll probably say, most likely in a high-pitched voice because you're so enamoured.  Maybe your girlfriend will say it too, falling for his deadly canine charms.  He'll look up at you with his little weiner dog eyes and lull you into his perilous trance.  Then he'll move in and make hamburger of your ankles before you know what happened. 
Weiner dogs are the most vicious land-animals alive.  More vicious than tigers, bears or even sharks. 
Okay, so a shark isn't a land-animal.  But you get my point.

Aww, isn't he cute?  This is a picture of Bambi in his natural habitat right?  Tell that to the deer that made its way into my warehouse office space and had me scrambling over my desk.  True story.

-when I was in my teens I kept African frogs in an aquarium in my room.  Why frogs, and why African frogs in particular I have no idea.  Maybe it was because they couldn't escape anywhere.  I mean, it's not like an African frog can board a plane and fly home to Zimbabwe.

They weren't really great pets.  They're not very warm to cuddle up with, and frogs suck at fetch.  They're also a lot of maintenance. I wasn't sure what to do when it came time to get rid of them, I should have checked with pet stores but instead I released them into a local swamp.  The genetic effects are probably still being felt today, and in a few years we'll be faced with mutant Afro-Canadian frogs.  And it'll all be my fault.

I think that same year also marked the beginning of mild memory loss for my mom, as she had obviously forgotten about the snakes.  Maybe I should have had them at the same time, it would have made disposing of the frogs much easier.

For those of you not in the know, this is your typical North American robin.  They're about as common as flies and twice as tenacious.  What the hell that means I have no idea, but stay with me.  This is about to get ugly.

Several summers ago one of these little darlings decided she wanted to do this to the security light on our garage...

I wasn't about to let that happen.  She put some straw there.  I took it down.  She put more when I wasn't looking.  I took it down.  She put it back... you get the idea.  So Mr. Genius here comes up with a brilliant plan.  The Plan of the Century.
"I know," says I. "I'll put a beach towel there during the day, then take it down each night before the light comes on.  Jesus I'm brilliant.  Why...I believe I just might be the Most Brilliant Man on Earth." 
So, nearly straining a muscle from patting myself on the back, I place the blue beach towel where she was trying to nest. 
"Eat that, bitch!" I proclaim and happily go on my way, knowing with this thinking I could quite easily solve most of the world's problems.  This solution worked remarkably well. 

Until the night I forgot to remove it.

Flash ahead to 7:00am.  Sandy and I are in the garage (it's actually an open carport for those of you who know what that is).  I happen to look up and see a towel there, but it's not ours.  "Hmm," I say. "That's peculiar. I wonder who replaced our blue towel with a black one."  I grab it to take it down and it disintegrates, gradually and rather gracefully fluttering in a bazillion pieces to the driveway.

Apparently the light shorted and incinerated the towel.  I just about had a coronary with the realization that had the towel been made of cotton instead of polyester I quite likely would have burned the house down.  The same house I'm sitting in now as I type this.

At the time this was Sandy's parents home, which would have made it even worse.  Not wanting to be late for work or worse, get busted by her mom, I frantically swept up the ashes (yes ashes) and disposed of them.  I removed the light from the wall (the power cord was melted) and scrubbed the blackened wall.  I later explained to her mom that we had to toss the light out because it got 'slightly singed' from a short.  No big deal.  I hated to lie, but I valued my life more.

Robin 1
 Me    0

In my entire life I've met only four dogs that didn't like me.  One was rabid (I'm talking full-on, white foaming at the mouth, chew-your-face-off psycho Cujo dog from Hell).  One was protecting his owner (aforementioned Swiss weiner-dog) and one was just plain stupid. Then there's Pluto.

Pluto didn't like men.  Any men.  My wife Sandy and I would regularly see neighbours of ours taking him for a walk past our house, and very soon he warmed up to Sandy.  Me?  He'd just bark his fool head off and back away.  Not able to understand how a dog couldn't like me (insert overinflated ego here), I decided to change that.  It had become my mission.

Repeated visits were met with repeated barking and little success at making a friend.  So I decided to change my approach.  Pluto loves women.  So kneeling down to make myself less imposing, I pulled my shirt out to mimick a set of rather well-endowed breasts and spoke in my highest falsetto voice, "Hi Pluto, come here buddy."

Damn if he didn't come over to me.  A quick scent of my hand and we became fast friends.  Now anytime his owners take him for a walk he literally runs up the driveway to see Sandy and I, licks my face and lets me rub his stomach.

Mission accomplished.


  1. Oh! Thank you for the good laugh this morning!! A Daschund?! Really?! They are ferocious but softies . . . Chihuahuas, however are something to fear. My German Shepherd even knows not to mess with our Chihuahua

  2. I was NOT expecting to laugh this much this week, Barry!!

    I absolutely LOVE this post. It totally made my week. You have the best stories and such a hilarious, honest way of telling them that just cracks me up. Okay, now I am convinced that there definitely has to be a reality show about you on Animal Planet. Seriously. If cameras follow you around all day, obviously something is bound to happen! Another Bambi attack, perhaps? Hehehe!

    Oh dear, I think you gave me enough material to be able to tease you for years now. ;) Sandy must have a blast!

    Thanks for being you. :) xoxoxo!

  3. Oh, and when I saw the pic of your little killer doggie, my heart melted and I said "awww" over and over again.

    Sorry!! I'm sure he was, um, very evil. Haha!

  4. You totally had me cracking up laughing at my desk here at work. (yes, shhhh, I'm sneaking out to read your blog!!!!)) :D I so needed this today. I am enjoying getting to know you a bit more each day.

    Hope you have a good's Thursday! OMG! (Smacks her forehead) Where am I these days?!?!? hahahahaha

    PS Feeling OK today. Much better physically than I was starting the week off. Let's cross our fingers that I am well the next few days. I could use more good days than bad!

  5. Hahaha... I love this post. I'm an animal lover but I have this worst fear of snakes. And good work on Pluto.

    PS... the ode is published. But I removed the stanza with the porch since the pics I used today are not taken in my porch. Hahaha!

  6. Ari, maybe your Chihuahua has a Napolean complex. ;)

    Jen, see what happens when you put these thoughts in my head? Haha! Glad you enjoyed it.

    Sophia, I'm glad I could make you laugh. There's more where that came from!

    Leah, I read your post. Thanks so much, I love the way you mixed the pictures in.

  7. Barry...I'm so distracted by that puppy!! I want to cuddle that thing forever. Seriously, I had this whole comment in my head...but the PUPPY! Killer. haha

  8. Snaaaaaaaaaaaaakes? eeeeeeeeeeeeeeek...

    Great post! Although I could've lived without the creepy critters. You know... Lawrence would say you're an interesting combo of "blood" and "mind"... you know... mental and earthy. It's a good thing. Most people are one or the other. Aaaawww Prof. Marcus would be so proud of this comment!

  9. This post was awesome! I looove animals :)

  10. Jennifer comes up with some of the best ideas - I'm so glad you took the advice of this one! I felt as if I were reading something from Herriot as I perused these stories! Amazing job, Barry - you have had quite an adventurous life!! :)

  11. Oh my gosh, that story about the towel and the light fixture is so crazy! That's scary! Good story though :)

  12. Dude, you should stay away from animals. Seriously you should meet my dog Budster, he's really dumb but he's lovable.