1986-1992: A series of Parakeets. To be honest, I can’t remember if the green one was Charlie and the Blue one was Pepper or the other way around. Or how many green and blue ones there actually were. But I do remember the last one we had dropped dead during a jump scare on an episode of the X-Files. We buried him in a shoebox by the shed in the back. They added a delightful background noise to my childhood. And a few of them even said a word here or there.
1992-1997: Dad got really into fresh-water fish. I named them all after the Friends characters at one point, but no one cared about the fish names but me. Sometimes when I’d go on errands with my grandma, I’d come home with a new cast member. My favorite tank fish was, and always will be, the Sucker Fish, Plecostomus. Not many things are simultaneously adorable and horrifying to me. I used to gently lay my finger at the water’s surface and ‘pet’ the fish as the swam up hoping my finger was food. Sometimes I thought maybe they loved me.
1997-2008: I got really sick in sixth grade and still, to this day, don’t know what it was. I couldn’t keep anything down. I went through several tests without any conclusive results. My grandparents had recently lost their dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix named Tanya. My grandpa became convinced I was sick because I missed the dog. So, he said he’d buy me a new one. And, to literally everyone’s surprise, I actually got better. Maybe it was the timing. It’s hard to believe a magic like that is real. But the facts are true. And we ended up with a Shetland Sheepdog my dad ceremoniously named Koko the day after we’d met him and really decided we’d go back to get him while we swam in our pool as the sun set. Koko was in many moments my best friend. He was silly and smart. He liked to untie shoes, collapse foldable pop-up tents and tunnels, nibble on human hair, and interrupt every possible moment in the most disruptive way if he noticed it wasn’t about him – which earned him a nickname from my cousin Daniel of Cameo. He slept upside down in front of the door so he’d always know if you left. He sneezed with excitement nearly every Christmas morning. He was beautiful. He was afraid of water but loved boat rides. He lost all ability to function on tile surfaces. After my dad died, he’d sometimes lay his chin on the recliner Dad used to sit in and stare up at the headrest. I was there when he left this earth. I still miss him to this day.
2008-2010: These were the years I first truly interacted with cats. I’d always been apprehensive about cats. But our local shelter was having a deal (because we’ve got a major feral cat problem in Omaha) so my roommates and I went to look at the cats. I said I’d only agree to a cat if it was one of those white squish-faced kitties. And the last cage we looked in, there he was. Humphrey the White Himalayan. He was a little prissy psycho goober who slept curled around my head sometimes and hid in the ripped mesh underneath our ancient couch. Then there was Princess Marzipan (formally named Stimpy), the skin and bones tabby that was approximately 247 years old when my roommate inherited her from his Great Aunt. Humphrey tried to show her how to be a cat, but she’d long forgotten. She looked perpetually pissed off, unless we occasionally gently pulled her face skin backwards and sang ‘Memory’. She, amazingly, let us do this. And then, Eugene. The troubled Scruffbaby who’d seen more than any of us in his lifetime. Sometimes he’d stare off into the distance, recalling a troubling moment in his history. And you’d just sit next to him and tell him it was okay. He’d mostly bounce back. But he was always partially somewhere else. These cats were angels. They put up with a buncha babies pretending at adulthood. They were treasures on earth.
2010-Present: The genuine banes of my existence slash pair of living creatures that depended on me to survive which sometimes helped me make it through some very rough days. See, once I’d parted way with my roomates mentioned above (only in the sense that we stopped living together – they will remain the best friends I’ve ever had on this earth all my life). After some here and there, and a month long tour as an actor in A Christmas Carol, I eventually moved in with a boyfriend for the first time. I came home from work one day to see a litter box in the corner and brand new food and water dishes near the kitchen. No boyfriend. No cats. No return phone calls. But, as I made my friend a birthday cake, in walked the winner of impulsive major life-changing purchases, Non-Responsive Boyfriend Guy, holding a cardboard house. This house contained Jazz and Jack. The cats we’d met when we impulsively stopped in at a PetSmart to see if there were any dogs to pet. There were only cats – and only two cats that were a pair. “What the hell is this?” I asked, as I hand whipped frosting, recognizing the Berman that had hissed, swiped, and backed into the corner when I placed my hand on his cage. “He’s never done that before,” said the woman sitting in the adoption room. He reminded me of why I used to be afraid of cats. He was squished in next to the jumbled up potato tabby with a broken voice box. I didn’t have the gumption to say no, so we renamed them Donald and Betty. I don’t know if it was the name change, or the trauma of being given up by their previous owner. I don’t know if I was wearing a perfume he didn’t like or he interpreted something I did as aggressive. But I do know Donald decided he hated me that day and has never questioned that decision. Sure, sometimes I’ll get the opportunity to pet him and he’ll be purring and I’ll think maybe he loves me. But, Donald doesn’t love me. Donald tolerates me. Donald has come to an understanding that he will be forced to live the rest of his life with me. Betty is waddle-bellied nub kitty who loves two hard in very painful and invasive ways. She’s sweet but also insane. Long story short, I broke up with Non-Responsive Boyfriend Guy. But somehow ended up with the cats. I couldn’t get rid of them. And they couldn’t get rid of me. We went through a lot of change and turmoil and growth and pain and homes until we finally landed here. They now basically hold up in my basement, Donald occasionally swiping at my ankles for literally no reason other than he’s a bastard. And don’t come at me with your cat whispering. This cat’s a buttface. When he was at the vet once, we went to visit him, and there was a sign hanging on his cage that said “Careful! Don’t touch without mitts.” Mitts. As in oven mitts. He’s only nice when I try to warn someone he’s a dick and this is just so he can prove me wrong because his loathing for me knows no bounds. But he is the most beautiful cat I’ve ever seen. Betty is kinda flopping her way towards her retirement days. Just sort of, aggressively purring at everything. Sleeping. Forgetting to clean herself sometimes. I’m always sort of ready to say goodbye to Betty. But in all actuality, I think they’ll both live forever.
2016-Present: Jefe the Leopard Gecko is the most chill animal I’ve ever met except that one time he lost his shit when we were cleaning his cage and literally screamed like a banshee. Yes, I said screamed.Yes, that is the accurate word for what he did. That tiny reptile screamed so loudly I jumped. He’s got a very, very strict idea of living and it is not to be tampered with. He’s not great at getting his shed skin off his face. But he’s mostly good at being a leopard gecko. He’s addicted to crickets. His best friend is a small Patrick Star meant for a fish tank. He lives in my son’s room. He will outlive the cats.
2019-Present: Oh, Angus. Brother Angus Scrumbleton, III. Angus the black lab. Angus the doofus. Angus the anxiety-filled barking machine who doesn’t understand people, patience, commands of any kind, or remorse like a normal dog. Angus who’s only language is food and who’s love is too much for this world. Angus the Leaning Tower of Doggo. Angus the dog who will annoy you so much you stand up and then steals your seat on the couch. Angus who snuggles me every night before bedtime. If I’d known I’d be pregnant five months after getting an actual puppy, logically, I say I wouldn’t have gotten him. But now I love him deeply. So I could never say that. He’s a lot. He’s not well-trained. His mom died of Parvo before he was fully weaned and sometimes I think he misses her. He farts CONSTANTLY. Like loud and pungent. But he makes my kids happy. And he loves me. And he’s a good boy. Sometimes. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Angus is also the King of attempting to murder me while cooking. The first time he almost succeeded, I was making these Turkey Spinach Puffs up off the top of my head, desperate to not let the ground turkey I accidentally purchased go to waste and he was being a butthole about the puff pastry – unable to decide is it was an alien here to capture his family, or a pound of butter he’d like to eat. We got tangled up like some sort of b-side scene in a disney movie, and I fell with a large, sharp, knife in my hand. I told him he’d almost murdered me and he jumped up on the counter to try and reach the puff pastry.
It’s a miracle these made it to the table. And now they have more than once.
Turkey Spinach Puffs
- Olive oil
- Unsalted butter
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 10 ox frozen spinach, cooked and drained
- 1 large egg
- 1 package puff pastry, thawed
- 1 clove garlic
- Salt & Pepper
- Schploop of White Wine
- Handful shredded cheddar (preferably white, but yellow works too)
- Baking sheet
- Large skillet
- Stirrin’ spoon
- Various measuring cups & spoons
- Rolling pin
- Preheat your oven to 375 F/190 C/ Gas Mark 5
- Heat a glug of olive oil and a thin pad of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When it gets bubbly toss in your onion and cook about five minutes until just starting to get some color. Toss in your garlic and mix until garlic is fragrant – about a minutes or so.
- Push your onions and garlic mixture to one side of the pan. Put your ground turkey on the clean side of the pan and cook until almost all browned. Mix with the onions and add salt, pepper, and sage.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine and then remove from heat.
- Stir in the egg and cheese. Set mixture aside.
- On a floured work surface, unfold your puff pastry sheet and lightly roll to even out and make square a little bigger. Cut the square in half. Pile a healthy amount of the meat mixture on one side of one rectangle. Fold the other side over, wet the inside edges and press together lightly. Seal with a fork around all edges and cut a little vent in the top. You should end up with a square kinda meat pie. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to create four individual puffs.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until puff pastry is golden.
- Let cool at least five minutes before serving.