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We Bought A Zoo (one animal at a time)

My children, as you know, are very different.

They have very, very different interests.

One loves to read, one has dyslexia. One loves to play any and all sports, one has sensory issues that make it difficult to move his body at all some days. One loves people and all the things about playdates, one prefers his room and solitude.

The one consistent, constant exception?


They both love animals. They both collect and read book after book about animals. They both love the zoo and the aquarium and the pet store and the other pet store and that one adoption center down the road and don’t forget the pet store that we used to go to by our old house.

I am not complaining. In fact, I am grateful there is one thing they can do together and talk about without fail. It warms my heart to see them lying on the bed together, looking at different pictures of frogs and kittens and turtles and hamsters.

It does however, come with a price.

Both literally and figuratively.

As a result of Sourdough’s fixation on the animal kingdom (particularly turtles and other reptiles), and Bacon’s ease with and love for all things smaller than him, we are on our way to a zoo around here.

I never, ever thought I would be this mom – the one that will pick up the snake so we can clean the cage or grab the hissing cockroach so the boy’s friends can take a closer look.

I never thought I’d be doing a lot of things though. This somehow is just a part of that.

Before I continue, let me take you on our zoo tour. (I do not want you to think I am exaggerating to make a point. I’m not. It’s animal insanity around here.)

This is Binky. You’ve seen her before. She does school with us. She completely forgets how to play fetch. She trips me almost every day because she loves to follow me around in the hopes that I will feed her remnants of bacon.

My husband might not want to admit it, but he LOVES her. Seriously people…if she comes and sits next to me instead of him (which is almost never because she LOVES him too), he starts getting worried and immediately snaps to make her come and sit next to him.

Bacon is even more in love. He cuddles with her every morning and is the one to take her on walks. He’s cute with her. It makes me smile.

Sourdough is kind to Binky, but is not a dog person. He has been fascinated and fixated on cats off and on for the past three years. So of course, it was only fair that we add this one…


Little Hazel (or Boo Boo Kitty, depending on which person in our family you are talking to). She has been with us for more than a month now. Sourdough is so sweet and gentle with her and will snuggle her against his face. Without gloves. Or any barrier.

He loves her so he tolerates any sensory issues he might have. It’s so, so good for him (and for me).

It all seems nice and sweet so far, but here is where the wheels start coming off the bus.

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Why yes, that is a Ball Python. He belongs to Bacon, who listened as I read every single book about snakes in the children’s room at the library, saved his money for months and finally, on his 8th birthday, realized his dream of snake ownership and brought home this guy,

His name is Zero (after the character who can’t read in the book Holes…how sweet is that?).

He creeps me out.

He eats mice.

I could die.

But, the boy knew how to read and spell ‘snake’ before the word ‘the’. He can also name the continent and habitat most snakes can be found in around the world.

My loss has clearly been my son’s gain.

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We just got this little one last week. His name is Stampy (those of you with kids who love Minecraft will understand). He belongs to Sourdough who diligently “makes him breakfast” every morning. I do love that he is totally responsible for this pet and honestly knows every single thing about box turtles (well, and any other kind of turtle). It’s nice to see all that knowledge actually put into action.

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This is the best picture I could take of the pacman frog (there was NO WAY I was going to touch him to get a better picture). His name is Macgyver. I have nothing else to say because this is pretty much all he does.

Sourdough dutifully mists him and takes hygrometer readings all day long. He’s living out his dream of being a scientist. And we have a frog. The end.

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Except then there’s these.

The only explanation I have is that they were cheap and I had no fight in me the day the came home from the pet store. These are Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. They horrify me.

Bacon has been catching bugs for years. These ones are like the highlight of a long career for him. I am still horrified.

And every morning, this is what our kitchen looks like as we prepare the food for all these various creatures –


It’s honestly like being at the zoo in the morning. Thank goodness we homeschool and the boys can be the ones managing this. I can barely keep up with feeding the humans in this house.

The good news? Our rule has always been you can’t have a pet until you are an expert. Not only for it’s care, but an expert in it’s history, natural habitat and geography.

The bad news? They are so taking advantage of this policy.

A small sampling of the animal books in this house.
A small sampling of the animal books in this house.

On the bright side, I am pretty sure that if we ever need more income for all the boys’ therapies, I can for sure start up a reptile show for birthday parties and after school functions.

Except I might have to touch that frog.

He’s moist.

He has teeth.

Um, there’s no way.






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  1. My special needs brother has always favored dogs and cats (though he’s not head over heels in love with any my parents have currently – he’s more attatched to the cats, maybe) over bugs or any reptiles. The last year he’s had fish my SIL gave him, the last one of which died recently, and the only emotion was that he was insistent he had to give it the proper “burial” procedure narrated by my SIL.

    Words that didn’t have “pictures” – an image in the mind, like “the,” “an,” or even directions – almost all the prepositions – were the words that were the hardest for him to understand when my mom was teaching him to read. Your son sounds like he’s not developmentally challenged, so take heart – it took over ten years and changing techniques numerous times (the method that finally clicked for him was the “Scaredy Cat” reading system by Joyce Herzog, which also worked well for my other brother, after mom let his dyslexia “rest” until he was a few years older, and began again), but he reads competently well now. I once heard him read the a passage from the KJV after a “normal” teenager struggled to read a passage from the NIV and the difference was staggering.

    I once didn’t want to touch frogs, and a 3-4 grade class changed that for me (I let them catch the beetles, though!). 😉

    1. Hi Bea! The frog has teeth. There is just something about that, plus his skin that freaks me out. 🙂
      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I appreciate the information and the encouragement!

  2. We are in the midst of watching, “We bought a zoo” staring Matt Damon. Your post made me laugh. Animals were so important to my family as they were growing up. Although my husband is the cat person. The dog, Daisy, is mine. We have fish, too.

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