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The joy of rodents

From the first stray cat I brought home to the summers I spent with the Metro Toronto Zoo Crew, I’ve always been an animal lover.

One of my first memories of childhood is my dad teaching me how to approach and pat a dog properly: talk to it, approach slowly and carefully, offer your hand up for a sniff, and then wait for the dog to make the next move. If the next move is a lick or a bow, you’re in.

I still have a pretty solid technique, and am on good terms with the dogs that wander Function Junction and Creekside.

Liking animals has gotten me into trouble a few times.

Once while on a visit to a farm, I was chased down by a jealous billy goat who thought I was getting a little too close to the missus. I had to dive over a wood fence to escape, tearing up my knees and elbows in the process.

Another time I was playing with a black capuchian monkey in a pet store, when he suddenly grabbed my finger and bit into it – I still have two tiny scars on my pinky where his teeth went in. Not a big deal really, but after watching the movie Outbreak, I wondered how close I came to contracting Canada’s first case of the Ebola virus.

Once while tree planting, I thought I saw a female moose in my land and had my first wild run-in with a grizzly bear while trying to get a closer look. It didn’t do anything, but I had stupidly let it know I was nearby and spent the rest of the day looking over my shoulder and jumping every time I heard a sound.

I felt so confident walking by a male elk under a streetlight in Banff one night that I inadvertently walked into a group of four sleeping males. I almost tripped over one of them when a porch light with a motion detector turned on, and startled the little herd to its feet. I found myself surrounded by a forest of antlers and more than two tons of wild animal.

I’ve been barked and growled at over the years. I’ve been bitten, scratched, pecked, pushed, kicked, spat on and sprayed with some horrible things, but these run-ins haven’t diminished my love of animals in the slightest.

One of these days I’m getting a dog. As soon as I can afford a car, in fact, because ultimately I’ll want to bring him or her with me to work because I keep odd hours and don’t want to leave my dog alone in the house all day. I’d also like to be a little more settled – dogs, regardless what some owners might think, are a big responsibility.

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