Why WAS my background black?
Jim Paradis' Menagerie
Jim & Tamara's World of Animals
Jim and Tamara first met as a result of their common interest in animals
(Actually, a mutual friend told Jim "You've gotta come meet the crazy
lady with the hamsters and all the baby rabbits!"), and they've had a
of some sort ever since. At the moment, the count stands at nine
peahen, and two
There are also a number of animals who have departed
from our household, some by happier circumstances than others.
For more pictures of the animals, click on over to my
Athena was the first cat to grace our household. She's a beautiful
blue-point Siamese. She's rather crosseyed, and when she's about to
pounce on something she'll bob her head back and forth first to try and
get a bit of depth perception. She also has a thing for ladders...
which can be interesting because we're currently renovating our
100-year-old house. We'll prop the ladder up in the room we're working
on, and sooner or later we'll turn around and there she is, perched on
top, happy to have a nice view of the world!
First, some background: We got Athena from Tam's mother's family.
Her second husband's
daughter had cats around and just
let them breed and breed... we got Athena out of one of the litters.
Well, after she had her third baby, the cats started getting
jealous, and so she said she was going to take them to the pound. Well
that, of course, was our cue to rescue the whole family! We took all
four cats that she had, gave away two, and kept the other two.
Chalkie is a blue-point Siamese who's basically a bigger, chunkier
Athena. The two of them make GREAT bookends! 8-).
Chalkie likes to be held like a baby being burped --
up on my shoulder. The left shoulder, preferably.
And like a child, he can be demanding at the most
inopportune times (like, I'm cooking dinner and he'll pad by the stove
and look up at me with an expression that says, "Daaadddy, PLEEEEZE hold
Cleo is a beautiful slate-grey half-Siamese. She's Chalkie's daughter,
and she and Chalkie are Athena's parents (yes, it's incestuous... but that
wasn't our doing).
Cleo has an AMAZING craving for coffee. When I
make coffee in the morning, she practically claws her way up onto the
counter to get a snoof... she'll even eat beans and grounds! And if I'm
not careful, she'll stick her snoot into my mug and try to get a few
licks in that way too...
Ebony came to us one day in the arms
of two little girls. They showed up at the door saying, "You wanna
kitty?!" Seems they'd found this stray that mommie wouldn't let them
keep, so they were trying to give it away. It was all black, and at
first I didn't want it 'cause I thought we had enough kitties already.
Then I made the mistake of holding her (Pet stores know this, by the
way: if they can get you to hold an animal, they KNOW you're a goner!)
I said, "well.... let me ask my wife". I brought the whole troupe to
her, and she didn't want the cat until SHE held her! She's a beautiful
soft little black cat... She's also a little devil
of a trouble-cat, always getting into things. She's really small
and fast -- she
weighs just six pounds soaking wet, and usually she's nothing more than
a black streak skizzing across the floor.
As we were driving home one night, we rounded the corner
onto our street and Tam looks out the window and says, "Is that a
kitten over there?" "Over there" was just diagonally across the
street from our house, so we go over and check it out. Sure
enough, at the base of a tall stone wall, was a black-and-white
longhaired kitten! Tam goes "Here, kitty!" and picks her up. She
then looks at me and says, "You realize I just touched it!". So she
hands kitten to me to complete the ritual, and we take her in.
She was obviously a house-kitten and not a feral cat, since she
knew right from the start what a litterbox was and what a food
bowl looked like, and she knew how to play with humans (right down
to retracting the claws when batting at our legs 8-) ).
We put up some notices and made some inquiries just in case this
was somebody's kitty that they missed... but no response. One fellow
I talked to said that the house that we found kitten in front of
had a momma who just hatched out SEVEN kittens, and this one looks
like enough of a cross between the alleged momma and poppa that this
might have been where she came from. After another week of no
response, we officially adopted her by giving her a name. We call
her "Lunette", because her eyebrow whiskers curl down over her eyes
in such a way that it looks like she's wearing glasses ("Lunette" is
the French word for eyeglasses...).
Ralphie also came to us by way of Tam's mother. Ralphie was
a gray tabby fat-cat that Mom had taken in, and when Mom got sick
she wanted to cut down on her animal population. Since I always
loved to give Ralphie a hug when I visited, we were glad to take him.
He's a big fat scardey-cat, and it's fun watching him try to run
away from something while he's on a hardwood floor. He can't get
enough friction to move his big fat bod very fast, so he slips and
skids as he tries to come up to speed.
- Puck & Voodoo
We got Puck and Voodoo for the express purpose of breeding with
Ebony. There's a story to be told here, which I'll get to someday...
The Little Creatures
This is our collective term for all of the various mammals that we keep
in cages. Currently we have a chinchilla, a gerbil, and a
Chinchilla - Primrose
We had three chinchillas: Primrose, Haydn, and Bayberry.
Primrose and another unnamed chinch were gifts from Tam's best friend
in Anchorage (the tale of their arrival is a
story unto itself!). Haydn was a gift from another friend (we love
chinches, but we're not about to pay $80-100 for one at a pet store!).
Bayberry is their son. Unfortunately, we lost Bayberry and Haydn in
the past year, so Primrose is the only one that's left.
Chinchillas are interesting creatures. Like cats, they can defy the laws of
physics. Their native habitat is in the Peruvian mountains, and they're
rock-hoppers. They get around by bounding from place to place, and more
than once I've seen them do a complete 180 in mid-air and apparently
reverse direction without pushing off against anything. Apparently
Isaac Newton never vacationed in Peru.
Rabbit - Wilfred
Shortly after Shaku died and our lives got back to some
semblance of normal, we were at our favorite pet store buying the usual
six cases of cat foot. It was getting close to Easter time, so of course
they had their rabbits out front. In the bottom cage was a big, beautiful
black rabbit. We reached our fingers in and petted it... it had the most
amazing soft, short coat we'd ever felt on a rabbit. He was
sweet and personable too. He carefully sniffed us, started licking my
finger, but didn't bite or anything. As we were loading up the car, Tam
turns to me and says, "I want that rabbit!" I was a little less urgent,
but I did kind of want a lapine companion in the house too, so we
got the rabbit.
We didn't know it at the time, but Wilfred turned out to be a special
breed known as a Rex (no killer rabbit jokes, please!). He's quite
personable and loves to hop around his room, but he's a little
standoffish about being petted and cuddled and whatnot. Sort of like a
cat. Needless to say, he fits into our household just fine!
Peafowl is the generic term for these members of the pheasant
family. Most folks know about the male peacock. Lesser known
is the female peahen, because she's not much to look at compared
to her flashier mate.
We got one of each, peacock and peahen, as chicks
in the summer of 1994. By summer of 1995 they'd outgrown the
cage we kept them in in our basement, so we erected a pen for them on
our land in Phillipston. Since 1995 was a bad year for us and we got
very little done in Phillipston that year. Specifically, we weren't able
to build a winter shelter for the birdies, so we brought them back
to Worcester and cobbled up a pen for them in our garage. We'll bring them
back to Phillipston for the summer soon.
Have you ever heard the noise that peafowl make? I'll digitize it and
put it up one of these days, but in the meantime suffice it to say that it's
a cross between a honk and a wail. And it's LOUD! The only reason I'm not
worried about the neighbors' complaining about our keeping peafowl in the
City of Worcester is that their kids are loud enough to drown out the
We've got two tanks of fish. More stories and pictures to come.
Sometimes, unfortunately, an animal companion must depart our household.
Most often this happens when the animal dies in our care, and this is
never an easy thing to take. There is always the nagging feeling that
we could have done more to extend our friend's life or make their passing
more comfortable. Then again, there is sometimes the agony of knowing
there is nothing one can do, and one must simply accept the course
of nature as it comes.
- Haydn and Bayberry
We lost two of our chinchillas in recent months: Haydn and
Bayberry. Neither had an easy death, unfortunately.
was the first to die; we noticed one day that he seemd to have
tangled up his fur on the wire hanger from which we suspended
their salt block. Upon closer examination, we discovered to
our horror that it was not just his fur but his flesh that had
gotten tangled up in the wire. When we de-tangled him, we
discovered that he had torn his belly open. Surprisingly,
there was little blood and no apparent organ damage, and we
might have been able to get him into surgery.
Unfortunately, we were at the same time dealing with my mother's
terminal illness, which left us with little time or energy to
nurse a gravely-ill chinchilla back to health. This meant that
we had to have him put down. Naturally, we made this discovery
late at night and we couldn't bring him to the vet until morning,
so we put him in an isolation cage overnight so he could have some
peace and quiet. Of course, the vet had no experience putting
down a chinchilla, and had to guess at the correct dosage. We
can only hope that Bayberry's passing was a peaceful one.
As for Haydn,
we are not certain, but we think that he died of some kind
of illness. Even with an exotic-animal vet close by (Tufts
Veterinary School is in the next town), the state of chinchilla
medicine is somewhat primitive. Haydn had been drooling and
not eating well for a while. This indicated a problem with his
teeth. Chinchillas are rodents with continuously-growing
teeth that must be worn down by constant chewing and gnawing.
Tooth problems in a chinch are often symptoms of other problems,
but you won't know until you've fixed the teeth. It cost us
$140 to have his teeth floated, and even afterwards he still
seemed to be in pain and had difficulty eating. He died a few
days later; apparently, the tooth problems were only part of
an overall decline.
Shaku's name comes from a traditional Japanese
unit of measurement, which is slighly less than one foot (English measure).
Since the rabbit was about that size, it was an appropriate name.
Shaku was an animal that we rescued from uncertain fate several
years ago. A friend
of ours found him on the road half-dead; he'd been hit by a car or
somesuch. As a matter of fact, she thought at first it was a Siamese
cat by the markings and coloration. She took him to the vet and had him
fixed up, but she couldn't
keep him. Since we had lots of cage space (we collect leaky fish-tanks
for use as animal cages) we took him in. We were glad to have a
"Siamese bunny" to go with our Siamese cats.
Shaku lived a long and healthy life with us, but eventually his turn
also came. He had been declining in the past year. His eyesight had
been failing, he got more and more stiff-legged, and he took to lying
on his side more and more. Finally, when we were away from home to
attend to my dying mother, the heat in our house failed and the temperature
dropped to freezing. While a younger, stronger bunny might have survived
this, Shaku could not in his weakened state. We found him dead in his
cage when we returned home. He was a delightful little handful of a
rabbit, and we'll miss him.
In good hands
Other times, there is the realization that the animal's temperament is
not suited to our houseold and that he or she would be happier in a
different environment. The decision to give away an animal is only
slightly less difficult than the decision to euthanize, and we spend
much effort trying to find good homes for our creatures.
Timbrel was the daughter of Ebony and
Puck. She was born on the first day of spring (March 21), 1994. She is
an only kitten (this is actually the second time we bred a cat and had
only one kitten).
Timbrel was somewhat of a surprise. We bred a black cat to a black
cat and ended up with a chocolate-point Siamese! This is a throwback
to her grandfather (Puck's father) who was also Siamese. We think that
Ebony also has some Siamese in her, but we don't know her pedigree so
we can't be sure.
Like some other temperamental Siamese we have known, it became clear that
Timbrel's personality was not suited to our household environment.
Between the constant noises and upheavals of the renovation and the
clashing temperaments of the other cats, Timbrel became very difficult
to get along with. A good friend of ours had fallen in love with her
when she was a kitten and had made a standing offer to take her. We took
her up on it, at least partly because we knew that hers would be a much
quieter, laid-back environment for Timbrel. Last we heard, she is adjusting
well to the new household.
More to come...
We have 52 acres in Phillipston, MA that we're eventually going to build
a house on. When we finally move out there, we'll be able to go wild
collecting all kinds of animals that might bother our city neighbors 8-).
Right now we want to get a couple of llamas, maybe some goats and turkeys,
more peafowl (they come in all colors; we want to collect the set!), and
who knows what else! Watch this space for further developments...
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Copyright © 1995 Jim Paradis