Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chick Lit Cheerleader: "To All the Pets I've Loved Before"

 Introduction by 
Melissa Amster

If you haven't heard by now, I absolutely adore Jen Tucker. I even invited her to be part of International Chick Lit Month last year. She's so down-to-earth, funny, kind, and even spiritual without shoving her beliefs in your face. She knows how to have a good time and it shows. Which is why I've asked her to do a monthly column for CLC. If you haven't read her books yet (and what are you waiting for?!?), this is a sampling of what you can expect from her. If you know her and love her as much as I do, you'll be all too eager to hear what she has to say each month. Being the animal lover she is, I knew that our pets and animals theme would allow her to conjure up some great reading material!

Since she loves chick lit so much and since her memoirs fall into this  genre, we've dubbed her "The Chick Lit Cheerleader!"

This midwestern born and bred writer is the extremely funny and sincere voice behind The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of Salt. In September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. (My older son loved it and sent her a note asking when her next e-book will be published.) Aside from being a "married single mother" of three children (some who are now teens) and two dogs, she's been blogging monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana and no plans to move away, and who can blame her when she has such wonderful parents and friends nearby?!? (However, I'm still campaigning for at least an extended visit to my neck of the woods.)

If you like what you've read here, go visit her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. You'll be welcomed with open arms!

Thank you so much, Melissa, and everyone who is a part of Chick Lit Central for welcoming me into the family. It’s my honor to spend time here with you. The warm atmosphere at CLC is a tribute to you, and the community of readers, authors, and bloggers who love a good chat about chick lit. I send you all virtual milkshakes, and gluten free cupcakes, with much love.

 To All the Pets I’ve Loved Before

Upon reaching the tender age of six-years-young, my parents decided that it was time for me to learn about being responsible for a pet. After much discussion, and my mother laying down the law to my father that we were not getting a dog, they settled on a fish as the ideal “starter pet” for their only child. Perks of fish ownership being that it wouldn’t pee on my mom’s carpet, or create an open-toed look for our shoes by gnawing on them, nor would a fish require going for walks in suburban Chicago winters.

I chose a ruby red fish that day, and although disappointed that my parents thwarted my idea of buying a 50 gallon tank for the little rascal, I was excited to take my new pet home. Fred (Isn’t that a great fish name?) quickly settled into his new life, swimming his days away in a glass bowl that sat atop my dresser. Fred had other fish to fry, and didn’t remain with me for very long. You see, Fred was a Betta Fish; also known as “Siamese fighting fish.” Fred constantly saw his reflection—I mean—intruders in the surrounding glass. Fred died from repeated blunt force trauma due to continually ramming his roly, poly fish head into the bowl. He died while saving me from imaginary invaders, or at least that’s what my parents told me, while we flushed him to fishy heaven.

After the proper mourning time had lapsed (let’s call it a week), my parents took me back to the pet store. I had received all A’s on my kindergarten report card, and as a reward, my choice was to cuddle with the squirmy puppies. “We’re not buying, Jenny. We’re just petting the puppies, okay?” my mom reinforced during our drive down Ogden Avenue. I have a feeling those words were to wane my father’s giddiness and puppy love more than my own.
Jen (with 80s hairdo) and Jin Jin 

Wide-eyed, I slowly strolled past the cages filled with little yelping pups. There were so many little fuzz balls to choose from. In no time, I zeroed in on a white, fluffy ball and told my mom that was the one I wanted to play with. Once out of her cage, the petite white puppy zoomed towards me. I sat on the ground, in hysterics, as its little tongue manically licked my cheeks. The harder I laughed, the faster the kisses came. As my giggles filled the air, my mom’s heart melted just a tad. When it was her turn to hold the puppy, my once rigid mother fell fast and hard for this little lovey-girl, and told my dad to pay for the Lhasa Apso before she changed her mind.

Jin Jin, whose moniker stemmed from my obsession with the TV show, I Dream of Jeannie, loved my mother, loved my father, and tolerated me. When she was still small, my best friend, Nancy, and I wanted to give Jin Jin a stylish wardrobe before it was trendy; however she wasn’t fond of us dressing her in old baby clothes. I longed for her to sleep next to me, yet she made herself comfortable wedged between my parents every night. She is also the dog my dad caught gazing to her left, then right, before snatching a piece of pizza off the dining table. When I began dating, my father was thrilled that she tried to bite every single young man who entered our home. Jin Jin definitely knew how to make an impression; one of Cujo-esque proportions. She was a fighter, not a lover.

Since marrying Mike in 1993, we’ve always lived with golden retrievers. The breed we compromised on is a 180° different canine experience than the one I grew up with. Their unconditional love has no limits. Our first dog, Theo, cried at 4:30PM, Monday through Friday, while looking out the dining room window, knowing my neighbor, Angie, would be home from work at any moment. He’d bark until I opened the front door, so he could run across the street and give her some love. He’d visit with her for just a minute or two, then trot back home. Jack and Henry, the fur babies we live with now, wag their tails when my daughter, Gracie, ties baby bonnets around their necks. They become giddy when a complete stranger enters the house, yet they bark at leaves that tumble by the windows on a fall day. They are not committed to sleeping in one location like Jin Jin was. Now, don’t misunderstand me. Jack and Henry are only allowed to sleep on the floor. No permission has ever been granted to sleep on our beds, yet that seems to slip their minds from time-to-time.

Gracie with the fur babies
Just as humans are not all patterned from the same cloth, how boring would life be if our pets through the years were clones? Reflecting on the pets I’ve loved in my life, from salamanders to gerbils, I’ve learned a little something from each one. My golden retrievers, Theo (God rest his soul), Jack and Henry, have all taught me don’t worry; be happy. My salamanders, Frank and GiGi, showed me that living life under a rock can at times be a sanctuary from the busyness of life. It hit home with Jin Jin that sometimes you can love someone deeply as I loved her, and it’s painful when that affection is not returned. Watching my gerbils, Mac and Zerubbable, spin as fast as their little legs could propel them on their wheel, gave me the insight that I don’t want to spend my life going in circles; doing the same things over and over when adventure, and experience, is around each corner. I’m curious to know what you’ve learned from the animals that have been a part of your life. The good, the bad, and ugly; what did they teach you? They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks; those fuddy duddies. Yet my pets have taught this old bird, a thing or two about love, compassion, and why peeing on the floor is something I should avoid putting on my bucket list.


Nicky Wells said...

Fred is an excellent name for a fish. Poor mite! Fabulous column and I look forward to reading it every month. What will you come up with next? You *know* how much I adore your writing so this is great news. Huge congratulations, Jen, on gaining this column. You rock! XX

Unknown said...

Hello my lovely Miss Jen. I think it is FANTASTICAL that you now have yet another home to show off all your crazy sparkly-ness!!!

Just wanted to let you know I have a few ideas up my sleeves for your sekret super awesome project. But that's news that shouldn't outshine your lovely face on this here blog.

Tracie Banister said...

I am a big dog lover (have 3 of my own), so I adored this post. So sweet to see photos of you with your various pets, Jen. I have 2 special needs dogs and they have taught me a lot about being stoic and striving to be happy even when life deals you a rough hand. They inspire me every day!

Looking forward to your monthly posts here at CLC, Jen!

Anonymous said...

Am super excited that you'll be a regular contributor to CLC! I can't think of a better gal to take on this big responsibility .... You're always an inspiration to the rest of us! Cheers, sweetie!!!! :)

Love ya! Lauren

Rachael Johns said...

So excited to read Jen Jen's monthly column. And of course she's an animal lover, such an all round lovely person has to be. Cracked up at your fish story. I'm glad you got your puppy!

Unknown said...

*Jen blushes* Thank you so much for the love and warm welcome, Nicky, Tracie, JJ, LC, and Rach! You help make CLC possible by giving readers the gift of your books. Jello Pudding Pops for all! XOXO

Unknown said...

OMG - That picture of you from the 80's is priceless :)

Amy said...

Jen Jen! I didn't know David Bowie was a dog lover! Congrats on your new gig. It will be fun following your insightful words.

I am such a dog freak, is my puppy porn.

Dee DeTarsio said...

Jin Jin from I Dream of Jeannie—brilliant!! Congratulations on being part of CLC!

Tracey Livesay said...

A great post. I can't even think of flushing fish without thinking of Rudy Huxtable's fish funeral!! I can't wait to read all of your posts.

And I loved the 80s hair! ;-)