A lot of people say they love animals, but then, when they come across one that has a scar, is a little bit skinny, or is coughing up blood, they just turn their heads. Well, I love animals of all shapes, sizes, and disabilities. That's why I devote all of my free time to finding and caring for diseased and deformed animals. I just can't get enough of those smelly, limping critters!
I'd never be so cruel as to turn away a stray dog, just because his care requires that I siphon fluid from his lungs with a plastic tube every four hours. If you only like animals that sport silky fur or have tongues, then you can't say you truly love animals. I love all of the earth's creatures—those with and without tapeworms.
Just take one look into my Siberian husky Clancy's pus-encrusted eyes. How could you not love him to pieces? He's so special to me, as are the five or ten cats dragging themselves around my house any given week. I give every animal a name, no matter how close he or she is to death.
Add one more to the list of little buddies in cages stacked on, or hanging from, every available surface in my home. Muffin, a guinea pig with a tumor three times the size of her head, may need a little more care than a so-called "normal" guinea pig, but I'm more than happy to put in the extra effort. Every mange-covered, rasping animal is a gift from God. Sure, sometimes the smell can be overwhelming, and sometimes the animal hair clumped on my couch, clogging my kitchen drain, and clinging to my clothes can be a bit unpleasant. But once you've bottle-fed an abandoned, three-legged ferret, like I do every morning with little Tripod, there's no turning back: You're a true animal lover.
Every animal deserves tender loving care, even if he or she is well beyond hope of ever living independently. I have an iguana with chronic pneumonia, and a 17-foot boa constrictor with a skin disease so advanced it turns the vet's stomach. Then there's Señor Oink, the epileptic pot-bellied pig I found in the giveaway section of the classifieds. I love little Oinky, no matter how many times he's accidentally bitten me or destroyed one of my lamps during an episode. I can't believe someone actually wanted to get rid of him!
Not all of the animals I own are pets that were left to die in a sack on the side of the road. I've rescued my share of wild animals, too—everything from birds with broken wings to Smokey, a raccoon that swallowed a tin-can lid.
Just last year, I rescued a deer. My then-boyfriend Larry and I spotted the little guy lying on the side of the highway, covered in blood and barely breathing. Of course, I insisted that we heave him over into the back of Larry's pick-up and take him home. There, I wrapped him in a blanket and kept him on my front porch, where I hand-fed him corn that I chewed up myself. I even outfitted him with toddler-sized diapers, which stayed in place because his back legs were paralyzed.
I feel good knowing that, even though I couldn't save the deer, I kept him alive for almost a week. Larry thought we should put him out of his misery by running over his head with the pick-up. So much for that relationship! I dumped Larry, as soon as we unloaded the deer's carcass back at the same spot by the road where we first found him.
People might wonder where I get all the time and energy to take care of such an interesting menagerie. I won't lie and say it's easy. I need a giant calendar to keep track of who gets special-diet food and whose festering wounds need irrigating. But just when I think I've had enough of mopping secretions off of my floor eight times a day, someone like Toby—my little beagle with mild dysautonomia and a severe allergy to grass—does something adorable. I can't stay mad at these enfeebled and contorted little guys. It's not their fault that they have so many problems.
If you really care about animals, you're going to love a Siamese cat like Phantom, who lost half his face in an exhaust fan, twice as much as you love a cat that has his whole face. Really, what these animals need most of all—even more than lots of very expensive medication—is affection. Sure, I have a lot more broken furniture than most people, because of my pets' seizures and emotional outbursts. But does that mean I stop loving the little guys? These animals just need hugs, patience, and plenty of time to romp around outside. Except Patches, who can't be exposed to direct sunlight.