Somehow I ended up with roommates from each of the five main classes of vertebrates. The best thing animal cohabitants is that unlike spouses and children, you can openly complain about them, and rank them in order of their current annoyingness without fear of emotionally scarring them for life or being kicked out of the house.
For example, here are the current pet power rankings for my household:
11. Muffin the Cat (Class Mammalia)
Whaddaya know, it’s 4:20 a.m. and you’re hungry again. Maybe you should have eaten that sweet little chipmunk you decapitated for kicks yesterday.
10. Doge the Dog (Class Mammalia)
Methane clouds are not a heartworm preventative, buddy. They may hide you from mosquitoes, but everyone else in the room is very much aware of you.
9. Raynbow the Cat (Class Mammalia)
I’ve lost hope you will ever realize I’m not just a piece of furniture that feeds you, but at least you leave me alone most of the time.
8. Red the Chicken (Class Aves)
You have an actual name and I knew it once, but I could never tell you apart from the other red hens, so I forgot it long ago.
7. Starry Night the Chicken (Class Aves)
At least I can remember your name. Thanks for pooping all over the lawn chairs.
6. Puff the Chicken (Class Aves)
My favorite thing about you is that you haven’t died yet. You are my kids’ favorite chicken, and to your credit you’ve never made them cry, unlike your numerous fallen sisters.
5. O.J. IV the Goldfish (Class Pisces)
For the love of Pete, O.J., have some shame. If you’re going to take 12 hours to poop, don’t parade around your tank while doing it. At least you’ve given me a million dollar idea: Fish diapers!
4. Ace and Coco the Axolotls (Class Amphibia)
I do appreciate how quiet you boys are, but give me a break with the external gills, already. We all know those are just for show.
3. Bill the Parakeet (Class Aves)
You can be a little loud sometimes, and I'm not a huge fan of the birdseed on the floor, but you’re actually pretty sweet, and I see a whole different side of my son when he takes care of you.
2. Pascale the Veiled Chameleon (Class Reptilia)
When I realized you prefer not to be seen at all, and were never going to sing and dance like your namesake, Pascale, the chameleon from Tangled, it just made me love you more.
1. Chip the Western Painted Turtle (Class Reptilia).
Chip, you’re my favorite! I wanted this whole thing to be an homage to you, but as usual all those other brats tried to soak up the attention (especially the mammals, whose privileged, top-of-the-food-chain attitude keeps them in basement of the power rankings, and sometimes the real basement).
Chip is the baby of the family and our most recent addition. In fact, she will be celebrating her first Gotcha Day on May 12th (which is probably her birthday, too, because just look how small she was when her human mom found her trying to cross a vast parking lot in an area of West Campus known to be a hangout for herons, hawks, coyotes and other bad actors who love to eat baby turtles when they aren’t vaping and leering at passersby).
Now Chip basks her days away in a 50-gallon aquarium, digesting earthworms and lettuce, swimming over to show her face at family dinners (her aquarium sits a few feet away from our dining room table). Yes, there is turtle pee, but a more angelic creature I have not held since I held my own two tiny humans, and I’m not nearly as anxious about dropping her, since my new baby has a hard, protective shell.
If you don’t have a live turtle to cuddle, a small human will still do, especially if you have children’s books about turtles handy, so in honor of Chip’s Gotcha Day, here are some of the library’s best.
—Dan Coleman is a Collection Development Librarian at Lawrence Public Library.