A cat, a dog, and chickens

On cats and dogs. And chickens. And a horse. And a mule.

Halloween night 1976. One of my old­er broth­ers returned from a youth group par­ty with a pack­age under his arm which he qui­et­ly placed in my mom’s lap. It was a pup­py — a lit­tle black pup­py. A friend’s dog had a lit­ter and this was the last one. 

I woke up the next morn­ing, it being two days after my birth­day, and was over­joyed at my new present. Of course, it was my dog — whose else would it be that close to my birth­day? We had oth­er dogs and a cou­ple of cats in the past, but I was too young to remem­ber them. My mom devel­oped cat aller­gies, and the elder broth­ers were too busy to help with the dogs. 

Our Halloween dog, Spooky, lived with us for 13 years – the only pet my folks kept around. That’s what got me start­ed on aller­gy shots and anti­his­t­a­mines. I was will­ing to live with those things if I could have Spooky in the house.

This morn­ing I woke up with a cat sleep­ing against my leg, a dog on the oth­er side of the bed, and a sec­ond cat meow­ing in my face from atop my bed­side table. This is now typical. 

In our lit­tle house, we have five cats and two dogs. In the back­yard coop, we have two hens. On a local farm, we have a horse and a mule. I mar­ried into all this. It’s crazy, pre­pos­ter­ous, loud, and hilarious. 

When the dogs go out in the back­yard, lit­tle Elsa always has to be the first one at the door. She will lit­er­al­ly shove her sis­ter Stella out of the way to get that spot. The door opens and the dogs prac­ti­cal­ly tram­ple one of the cats who’s wait­ing to come in. Then anoth­er cat wants out. And anoth­er. And anoth­er. And anoth­er. Phoebe, Bella, Junebug, and Camille. The only cat who doesn’t go out­side, as much as he thinks he wants to, is Flynn.

The chick­ens are a new thing. We ordered 3 hen chicks this past January, and they arrived at the start of March. We get a call from the post office that we have a box that’s cheep­ing — we need to pick them up before six. Our big prob­lem: this was the day that our house got flood­ed into the sec­ond floor, and our coop was on its way to the Mississippi, and our yard was a lake. 

We are grate­ful for friends who took the chicks in and raised them for six weeks while we lived in our church gym­na­si­um for the next four months. Once we bought a house in town — on high ground, with a big back­yard — the chick­ens could final­ly come home to us. Except only two of them were hens, and an extra roost­er had been packed in the box. 

Luckily, we re-homed the boys, and the love­ly ladies, Belinda and Brandi, have been gift­ing us with eggs these past num­ber of months. I don’t have much inter­ac­tion with Eddie the horse and Buck the mule out­side of occa­sion­al­ly accom­pa­ny­ing my wife to the farm to feed them and to say hey to the oth­er equines. And ducks. And chick­ens. And sheep.

The sheer beau­ty of all these crit­ters, along with their unique per­son­al­i­ties and antics, keeps us enter­tained every sin­gle day. Elsa the dog is a cat whis­per­er. They all love her, espe­cial­ly Phoebe who will cud­dle next to her on the couch. Oh, yeah, we don’t sit on the couch. Apparently, the couch — along with sev­en oth­er beds, sofas, and chairs — are all critter-occupied. 

Stella loves peo­ple, but not oth­er ani­mals all too much. Bella the cat will only drink from the bath­room sink. Flynn, the gin­ger cat, has thumbs on his front paws. Plus, I haven’t even men­tioned the young cat who hangs out on our front porch and back deck and loves to snug­gle on our laps. Hunter (we call him Stinker) makes his way to a few dif­fer­ent hous­es. The folks next door leave him food in the morn­ings, as well as a porch bed. Every now and then, when he tries to get in our house, I have to look twice to make sure he’s not one of ours. But, we con­sid­er him just that.

I still get aller­gy shots and take Zyrtec every day. It’s a love­ly price to pay to live with such an amaz­ing menagerie.

  • Jim Trimble

    Jim Trimble is a priest serv­ing Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Winchester. He grew up in Louisville, grad­u­at­ed from Murray State University, and worked in a vari­ety of roles at pub­lic radio sta­tions for 12 years. After sem­i­nary and ordi­na­tion, he served church­es in Kentucky and South Carolina. Married to Nancy Gift, a Berea College pro­fes­sor, he has a son and two step-daugh­ters, along with a num­ber of dogs, cats, and chick­ens near College Park.