Month: June 2015

Pet Love

NOTE: The following essay was written by my husband, Barry Steiger. When you read it, I know you will agree with me that he is not only an amazing and wonderful man but he also has the patience of a saint! Read and enjoy!

                                    Jean Steiger


Pet Love by Barry Steiger

My wife, Jeannie, has a strong affinity with the animal world. I became aware of this early in our marriage when I was about to squash a spider in our apartment. After she stopped screaming at me, she demonstrated how to catch it between two cups and then release it outside. We were living in a third floor walk-up apartment in a condemned building in Minneapolis so I got plenty of exercise releasing bugs back into the wild.

We had many pets as our children were growing up. Dogs (sometimes two at a time), cats, rabbits, hamsters, a pet rat, a duck, fish, two chickens and probably a few others that Jeannie never told me about. We had a Siamese fighting fish in our aquarium that was wasting away. Jeannie put it in a bowl, wrapped it in a towel and took it to the pet store for advice. They must have thought we didn’t have a toilet. She brought an ailing pet rat to the vet. I’ll bet the vet is still telling his grandchildren about this woman who brought in a rat.

Jeannie was feeding tadpoles in a bowl on our porch and was upset for days when the cleaning lady disposed of them. She did some really hard things like saving two abandoned baby birds that needed feeding every two hours while still managing to feed our three children. She kidnapped a neighbor’s cat and had it spayed because it was having multiple litters in our yard.

We acquired one pet rabbit but Jeannie decided it was lonely and we got another one. They lived together in a hutch surrounded by a badly constructed chicken-wire fence in our back yard. One night we returned home and there were a dozen baby rabbits running around in our yard. This was educational. I didn’t know the female rabbit digs a hole, has the litter and keeps the baby rabbits hidden until they are several weeks old.

Jeannie put an ad in the paper that said “pet rabbits free to a good home”. The phone didn’t stop ringing. We soon learned that baby rabbits are a culinary specialty. One of the callers swore they would all be pets. He took them but I thought he seemed to be salivating as he returned to his truck. Now we just have one cat who brings geckos into our house which Jeannie rescues. She has become an expert with that two glass technique.

She is a good animal diagnostician. Not long after most of the rabbit offspring were given up for adoption. we discovered one rabbit missing and the other badly injured. Coyotes had been spotted in our neighborhood and we suspected they had a rabbit dinner. We put the injured rabbit in a box and hoped it would recover overnight. The next morning the rabbit was unresponsive and rigid. Jeannie said it had tetanus. I said rabbits don’t get tetanus so I took it to the vet for diagnosis and euthanization. I still remember the people in the waiting room with their poodles looking at me walking in holding a box with the legs of a rabbit sticking out of the top. They moved to the other side of the waiting room. The receptionist was barely able to restrain herself and shortly after she went in the back for the vet there was unrestrained laughter and I heard someone say “a rigid rabbit?” It was tetanus and I was pretty embarrassed.

In place of having multiple pets to care for, Jeannie now watches animal videos on the computer, especially cat videos. I am amazed at how many of these videos exist. She calls me often with “you have to see this one”. I politely decline. I frequently hear loud laughter coming from the other room and I know she is watching one of them.

She opened a cat video recently and the computer screen froze with a message to call Microsoft at a given number immediately to fix a virus invasion. We knew this was a scam but I spent an hour running scans. The worst part was I was watching the Tampa Bay-Cleveland game when the message popped up and she said I had to come immediately for an emergency. The game was zero-zero, two out in the ninth inning with the bases loaded.

I have agreed to look at only one animal video a day. She has agreed to use great care in opening unknown websites. Marriage requires compromises. Last night I watched a pig eating ice cream.

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Playing Games


Summer and games go together for me.

When I was a child, my family had a cottage on a small lake in Northern Minnesota. It lacked both electricity and plumbing which was fine with me; I liked the feeling of camping but still having a comfortable bed to sleep in at night. The only drawback was an outhouse that was half a block from the cottage and not a fun trip at night. My mother solved this by creating a “honey pot” that we all used at night and one of us emptied in the morning (although I suspect my mother ended up with the job most often).

In the evening, our light came from kerosene lamps and a large brick fireplace. After my father, mother, brother and I came in from evening fishing (or on a rainy day), we played card games in front of the fireplace; kerosene lamps hanging overhead to light the small table in the middle. We played gin rummy, 500 rummy and schmier, a game that I remember as being a little like bridge. (If anyone knows how to play smear, please contact me because I need a tutorial!) I especially loved gin rummy and won more than my share of games but I usually couldn’t beat my father. Looking back, I’m not certain which was better; the card games or the quiet evenings with family. However, I grew up treasuring both.

At some point, we added Monopoly to the list but I always had a love/hate relationship with that game. If you’re winning, it’s great. Your houses lined the board and the stack of money in front of you grew larger every time someone shook the dice and landed on your property. But if you missed purchasing the best properties, every shake of the dice put you further and further in debt – perhaps a little bit like real life! I couldn’t handle the slide into poverty and was usually very relieved when I lost all my money and was able to quit the game.

Of course, Scrabble was always a favorite but, as the youngest, I was a little handicapped by my vocabulary. At the time, I didn’t know about short words like Qi. Xu, Qua and Za that fit into small spaces and earned a lot of points. Today I play Scrabble every day online with friends and use these words regularly although I have to admit that I still have no idea what they mean.

In college, I was introduced to Bridge. I watched friends playing; listening to their bids and studying their plays. When I met Barry, my husband-to-be, I had only played a few times. After we were engaged, he and I were invited to dinner and a bridge game at one of his married friend’s houses. I was nervous and felt like a kid; these couples were four or five years older than me and actually lived in houses, rather than dormitories. By the end of the evening, I was feeling more confident and felt my bridge playing had been pretty good. As soon as we were in the car, Barry turned to me and said, “Never, never bid a three card suit!” He married me anyway and even taught me how to bid the right way.

For several years, we played party bridge with twelve friends who were, for the most part, at the same level as us. We all rotated around three tables and different partners. However, as always, there was one man in the group who took the game very seriously. Being his partner meant opening yourself to four hands of verbal abuse. I didn’t say anything at the time but this older and wiser version of myself would not have kept her mouth shut!

Once (and only once) I played duplicate bridge. We were living on an army base in Japan at the time and a friend asked me to substitute for her in a once-a-week duplicate bridge game while she stopped to have a baby. By this time, my bridge game had vastly improved and I immediately said yes. But I soon found out that this game had very little in common with party bridge. The room was deadly quiet, interrupted only with the sounds of quiet bidding at each table. The emphasis was on each hand and the score cards were kept meticulously. Also, the hands were carefully replaced for the next player.

After we had finished playing all the hands, everyone gathered to see where he or she had landed on the points list. I was second from last, with only a few more points than a 90 year old woman who had dementia. The game was only two hours but it felt like eight. By the time I got home, I had a terrible headache. When Barry walked in the door, I was lying on the couch, an ice pack on my head and a bottle of aspirin on the table beside me.

When our children came along, we both spent hours playing children’s games such as Candyland, Old Maid, Go Fish and Chutes and Ladders. Although those games disappeared as our children grew up, our game closet is now restocked with all of them, waiting for our granddaughter’s next visit. I’m finding it more fun playing the games this time around than I did when our children were young. I’m quite sure the reason for this is because we can truly enjoy playing with our grandchild without the anxieties that accompanied raising our own children. Grandchildren are simply fun!

With the advent of computers, we can also play a lot of games online. As I mentioned before, I play at least ten games of Scrabble with friends and family but these are slow games with only one move by each player in a day. In addition, I am addicted to the Microsoft Solitaire Collection which includes a daily challenge in five different solitaire games. You collect points which grow daily until (hopefully) you reach the gold bell by the end of the month when the scoring starts over. However, if you miss a few days, you get behind on your games. Catching up can be fun if you don’t mind a marathon day (or two) of computer games. And this is where the addiction begins!

Since we have lived in Florida, we have been introduced to two new games that we play with friends. The first is Rummikub, a board game that is a lot like 500 rummy. Barry and I play with three friends every couple of months and we usually lose. One friend has been playing this game for years with a group in her home town. They play for money, a penny a point and she would like us to do this also. I’d be willing if either Barry or I won once in a while but at the rate we’re going now, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

The other game we play with friends in our neighborhood is Mexican Train, a dominoes game. The strategy is fun but the best part of this game is pushing the button in the middle of the plastic train which emits a loud, “Choo cho, choo cho.” Of course, to be allowed to push the button you have to first win the game and, unfortunately that doesn’t happen to me very often. So occasionally I cheat and push the button for fun.

As you might have guessed by now, I don’t seem to win very often. However, I’ve decided that, for me, winning is not the object of the game. Of course I do prefer winning to losing but since that isn’t in “the cards”, I focus on other things, such as strategy, taking tricks, combining the correct numbers and adding up all the points I’m stuck with that someone else gets! I also tell myself that playing games is supposed to be good for your mind. But the best part of playing games is spending time with good friends, eating delicious food and building lovely memories in this phase of my life.

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