Fostering new relationships

When I was a teen, my family and I lived in the neighborhood behind Gaiser Park.

Home was in close proximity to schools, and once I received my first 10-speed bike as a Christmas gift from my grandparents, I enjoyed the freedom of getting to ride that bike to school and then during the summer months riding it downtown to take advantage of all of the amazing shops that were there.

Hook’s Drug Store for weird color hairspray, Virginia’s Music Store for the latest 45s, The Wishing Well for cute knickknack things, The Bee Hive for all sorts of random home goods (which I would look at and think “How boring”) and the hermit crabs that were displayed in the window at Baldwin’s Drug Store were some of my usual stops.

The one store, though, I looked most forward to visiting was G.C. Murphy’s. The creak of the floor as you walked through the double doors and the smell of freshly popped popcorn hit my senses as I looked for the crystalized sugar candy that was contained in plastic fruit shapes.

What made this store especially great was that it carried a whole assortment of critters in a side partition of the store. Gerbils, parakeets, mice, hamsters, goldfish, they had all of the shelf pets and I wanted to take them all home.

I was granted permission to bring my first pet home on one of these excursions, a small goldfish I appropriately named Goldie. Goldie sufficed my need for a pet to care for for about a week, and then the flood gates opened. I cringe now to think of me securely strapping a small cardboard critter carrier to the basket on the front of my bike that aptly said “I’m going home” on it and taking the creature home.

If memory serves me correctly, at least two hamsters traveled in this manner before I finally got my driver’s license and then could bring the cage and critter home together.

At the height of my shelf pet collecting, I had four hamsters, a parakeet, way too many types of fish in two separate 10-gallon tanks, a guinea pig, two rats and a couple of toads I had caught from outside. It was absolutely a menagerie, and my folks were none too thrilled about it, especially my dad, who was noticing the house smelled less like a family of four lived there and more like a livestock farm.

One evening, my dad came home from work particularly stressed and out of frustration told me I needed to downsize the critter collection I had. I of course protested, but he said, “When you get a place of your own, you can have as many animals as you want; however, while you live here, there has to be a limit.”

I must have taken that phrase to heart.

Over the years, I’ve taken care of countless fish, rabbits, dogs, cats, mice, hermit crabs, more toads, turtles and most recently, chickens, ducks and bees.

Thankfully, I’ve learned to limit myself with critter care, and I’m much more realistic about how many creatures I can comfortably care for permanently at one time. That being said, I’ve recently discovered a new way to have more pets without the long-term commitment that comes with owning a dog or cat: Fostering.

There have been two foster doggies that have shared time with me recently. Both have gone on to wonderful new homes after spending some time on the farm taking in the sights and sounds of a calm environment.

While there, they’ve learned to move on from past traumas so they will settle without much ado in their new forever homes. Little Fiona, a senior Chihuahua, received the name Lacey and is now living the life of luxury with two very sweet, kind individuals, and Tater, a Chihuahua/corgi mix, received the name Ginger and is now living with a kind older lady in the Land of Horses in Kentucky.

I have no doubt both pups are the absolute love of their new owners’ lives, and I’m grateful to be a part of that.

To succeed at farming, one needs to build as many relationships as possible to survive, and through fostering, I’ve been able to do just that. Plus, to quote my father again, I get to have as many animals as I want. Just maybe within reason this time.

Until next time…

Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Read her blog at whattheclucker.blogspot.com. Send comments to [email protected]