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Marg-Ins - Welcome To Animal Farm
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And so the menagerie grows. Despite my best intentions, we seem to continue to add more pets to the household. Perhaps it is because I have long wanted to be a volunteer at the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center - I love animals - but haven't found the time to fit it in to my schedule.

So we are just bringing the animals home instead.

Certainly, I am not talking about the wounded wild animals that they take in at the care center, rehabilitate and return to the wild whenever possible; these are the ones that my daughter manages to accumulate.

It started with her birds - she got a couple of finches as a birthday gift several years ago; they multiplied and then through a series of mishaps, escapes during outside cage cleanings and illness, we are left with a pair of them. A friend who was moving to a different state gifted her with a cockatiel (which loves me more, she frequently and dejectedly points out) and then she went and rescued a kitten at this past year's Oakdale Chocolate Festival.

Cute, tiny, cuddly and fluffy, 'Butters' was just supposed to stay long enough until we could find her a home.

Seven months later, 'Mr.' Butters (turned out we had to change his name) has been fixed and is still roaming throughout the house, happy to pal around with the one animal in the home that is mine, my cat Yoda.

They both like to jump from the floor to the top of the bird cages on occasion, sending the finches into a frenzy of frightened fluttering. The cockatiel has gotten wise to them, though, and has gotten in a few nips of cat tail with his beak through the cage bars.

Mr. Butters is also quick to jump up on the furniture and poke his head through the blinds on the front window when he hears the car driving up to the house. Older and wiser, Yoda stays put, knowing we are going to come in the house anyway and he will see us then.

The holidays were an adventure unto themselves; we put up our artificial tree and had two cats following our every move as we put the branches into place. Because we were so late getting it put up, we opted to decorate it the same day, despite warnings from co-workers to give the cats a day or two to get used to it before adding the brightly colored ornaments.

After they had sniffed and tried eating a couple of bites of branch, the cats seemed to lose interest in the tree. Yoda settled in to his spot on the arm of the couch directly across from the wall heater and Mr. Butters took his customary spot, stretched out on top of the warm TV.

We put a wide variety of decorations on, the red, green and gold ball ornaments, some tin angels, a wooden gingerbread man, a few others and the cats didn't even pay attention. I thought we might just be okay.

Until the next morning.

They must have done it very quietly, because I don't recall any racket in the middle of the night. But when I entered the living room in the morning, the tree was bare from the ground up until the midway point. Only the lights were still on it. All the colorful balls had been batted off and were rolled under a very heavy piece of furniture. (Where they stayed until we took the tree down and packed everything up.) They only kept one ornament out to roll all around the floor until I took it away.

I suspect it was Mr. Butters' idea - he seems to be the instigator of all things destructive. I even watched as he stood on his hind legs and batted at the tree with his paw, turning it so he could reach an ornament that was on the back side toward the wall, bringing it out to the front.

We just left the ornaments off the bottom part after that and hoped for the best.

And soon after the tree arrived, my pet rescue daughter was all excited because a friend had a turtle she was giving away. Of course mine took it.

I had a turtle as a kid. It was one that would fit in the palm of your hand and had a tiny little tank.

But hers? This is no tiny pet turtle. Heat lamp, air filter, gurgling waterfall, truly a turtle that should be roaming free instead of banging his head on the side of the tank and doing unintentional backflips off his decorative rock.

Not to mention that Mr. Butters has a new favorite spot: curled up against the heat lamp looking down at the turtle through the mesh screen covering the tank.

If that screen ever gives way ... I may be making a trip to the Wildlife Care Center myself, hauling in my own injured brood!

Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.