Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I live in Michigan, which is the mitten-shaped state in the US surrounded on three sides by water I seldom get to play in. I spend my days working for the state of Michigan managing a water quality grants program, and my evenings and weekends tending to two puppies, a middle aged cat, four hamsters, a rescue mouse, and two mynah birds. In my spare time, I write, market my book, work out, and go fishing with my lure-obsessed husband.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Something Furry Underfoot is my humorous, touching memoir about raising a whole bunch of different pets. In the beginning, my husband was responsible for bringing the pets home, starting with frogs and iguanas, then hedgehogs, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, mice and dogs. But I admit to bringing in the stray kitten (with lice and fleas), rescuing five rabbits (with fleas, ticks and a botfly) and bringing home a domestic duckling (which was rather messy). You can see a video of Bumpkin, the Domestic Duckling on my web site, http://www.amylpeterson.com/videos.
To your other question, my book got started when I set out to document each of the dozens of pets before I forgot their names and what they liked and didn’t, but when I realized how different and special each one was, I decided to share my story with others. To make my book extra useful, I included 50 tips, some of which are about pets, others of which are about pet owners. For example, Tip #21: Some men take the neutering of their dog personally, is a tip that precedes a humorous scene where my husband and I take Dusty, the Angel Pup to get neutered. Another tip, Tip #29: Rodents will chew whatever is handy to gnaw on, precedes a scene where two semi-intelligent adults try to capture a gerbil that escaped from her cage by chewing through it. I think my book is an important book for moms and dads to read before they bring a pet home.
What inspired you to write about what you discovered?
Most people get a pet at one time or another and it breaks my heart to hear people talk about how their rabbit wasn’t quite what they were hoping it would be, so they dropped it off at a shelter. Or, telling of a dog they got six years ago that no longer gets walks because the family lost interest in the poor dog. In my book, I tell with a lot of humor how we dealt with less-than-perfect pets. For example, we had a ferret that loved to bite people, and we learned how to deal with her by wearing heavy sweatshirts and gloves. One of the rescue rabbits had a botfly we had to remove, which Mark enjoyed and I about hurled about, and which made for a hilarious scene in my book. We also had a guinea pig that lived to be 12 years (while the average guinea pig only lives 5-8 years), which means, I took care of the guinea pig while the child for whom the pig was purchased went off to college. So, one point in my book is that taking home a pet is a commitment no matter. And at the end of my book I suggest that all animals have stories and I think our role as pet owners is to make those stories as good as possible.
What do you like to read?
I really enjoyed the historical Civil War books by Michael and Jeffrey Shaara. Had that series been around when I was in high school, I might have done better in my history class.
What would your advice to be for others seeking what you achieved?
Something I wish I had done long ago: write the words “NO DOUBT” on your laptop or whatever you write on. Because the energy you waste wondering if you’ll finish, if what you’re writing is good, or if it’ll sell millions, all takes away from getting the job done.
Anything else you’d like to share?
If you like pets, check out my video What All Animals Deserve at http://www.amylpeterson.com/videos. It has cute video clips and photos and is set to music. And hopefully, it’ll make you smile…or want to buy a copy of my book!
Excerpt: This scene occurs after the purchase of a female African pygmy hedgehog named Sonic. Hedgehogs have limited eyesight which is explained in a prior section of the book. Aby is my sister.
Tip #7: Most pets like to have pals to hang out with. Be careful what kind of pals you get.
On Sonic’s second night in our home, Mark and I were sitting down for a fine dinner of cereal and milk, talking about how nice Sonic was, reflecting on the night we’d bought her, how she wasn’t very interactive when she was out running into things, and how she was now alone.
“You know,” I said before I could stop myself, “she had a buddy at the pet shop.”
Mark had been studying the details of something Captain Crunch was offering on the cereal box, so I went on, “At the pet shop the other night, all the animals were curled up and sleeping with a partner.”
“Mmmhmm,” he said, looking up. “What are you saying, my sweetie pie?”
“That maybe Sonic was taken away from her sister, and that, well, maybe she’d like some company.”
In retrospect, it was one of the dumbest statements I’d ever made. Before I could even finish my cereal, Mark was on the phone tracking down a breeder in St. Louis, because “we don’t want a male from the same litter as Mamma Hedgehog if we’re going to breed them.”
“Male? Breed them?” I sat dumbfounded. “Didn’t I say ‘sister’? And I know I hadn’t referred to Sonic as ‘Mamma Hedgehog.’”
Just how my desire to give Sonic a female buddy turned into a breeding opportunity for some stud from St. Louis neither of us can remember clearly. My only recollection is that Mark mentioned the possibility of making a small fortune in the hedgehog business: They were rising in popularity, and at two-hundred dollars each and the ability to reproduce every 32 days, “Well, just imagine,” he said.
Since Aby was planning a visit home for Thanksgiving, a week or so later, she found herself heading our way with her boyfriend, Jay, and Louie, a spiffy male hedgehog.
The day of the big arrival, I received a phone call that began with the crackle of a bad cell phone and the words, “I think he’s dead.”
“I think the hedgehog is dead. He’s not doing anything and hasn’t done anything since we picked him up.”
“In fact, they don’t ever do much of anything,” I started. Sensing her panic, I added, “Look, they’re nocturnal and he’s probably a bit stressed out right now. Are his sides moving up and down or in and out?”
“Just a sec.” A crackle later and, “Yes. But he hasn’t eaten anything or had any water since we left.”
“And that was, what, four hours ago? I think he’ll be okay.”
Four hours later, Aby appeared at the door and, without even a hello, held a box to my face and said, “Here.”
Mark took the box and opened it. Inside, curled up in a ball, was a brown, white-tipped hedgehog a few weeks younger than our salt-and-pepper Sonic. “He’s perfect for the job,” Mark said proudly.
As I took Aby’s coat, she told about having to drive through East St. Louis—a town best known for its drug dealers—to get to the hedgehog breeder’s house. How the breeder wasn’t home, but his multi-pierced girlfriend said to come in though she didn’t know a thing about hedgehogs. How Aby had to walk through this really creepy house, past a monkey and other exotic creatures, until she came to two aquariums with “these spiny, rolled up things.” She then had to choose between three spiny pincushions and had agonized for eight hours afterward as to whether she had chosen the right one.
I assured her she had done very, very well.
After Aby posed with the hedgehog for the first and only picture ever taken of the two of them together, we let Louie run into things in the house before placing him by himself in a 10-gallon aquarium. Inside the aquarium was a tiny shoebox with a hedgehog-sized hole in it and some aspen bedding. It was meant to be a temporary home until we had time to make a new one for him.
At 6:30 the next morning, I went to peek in on Louie. He wasn’t in the large part of the aquarium. I lifted up the tiny shoebox. He wasn’t there, either. I called to Mark and we ran around the house with flashlights, looking under furniture, behind the refrigerator, everywhere we could think of. Because of a fugitive hedgehog, I was late for work for the first time in my life.
That evening, we searched for Louie once again. Realizing that he might be nocturnal, we shut off the lights and began the first of several nights of quality time together sitting in the dark on the floor, waiting for Louie to show up. Mark sat in the living room, I sat in the family room, and we chatted across the rooms about animals, kids, politics, religion, and sex. The latter conversation led us down the road of wondering how spiny hedgehogs mated without hurting one another.
Two more nights went by in the same manner: a husband and wife in separate rooms, sitting on the floor and talking dirty.
On the fourth night, we talked about getting another hedgehog. I was still voting for a female. Mark continued to like the idea of breeding.
And that’s when I heard the pattering of little feet moving quickly across the floor. “That’s him,” I whispered. Straining in the dark to see our boy, I held still until the sound of the tiny feet seemed to be right in front of me. As I reached out blindly, I felt a cold nose on my leg. He’d run right into me. “Got him!”
Mark turned on the light and we checked out our little escapee. His eyes were brightly lit and he didn’t seem any worse for wear from his adventure. We tucked him back into his aquarium with plenty of food and water to go on. And because hedgehog hunting wasn’t part of what I wanted to do with my spare time, we put a small book on top of the aquarium lid.
The next morning, Louie was missing again.
Tip #8: Love always finds a way.
To find out how Louie found his way into Sonic’s cage and how many litters of baby hedgehogs resulted, read Chapter 2 of Something Furry Underfoot, Goin’ Hog Wild.
“A warm and funny book about her experiences coping with and caring for all manner of animals. Not only will you get a lot of laughs but you’ll also pick up some valuable tips about coping with your own critters! – Bob Tarte, author of Enslaved by Ducks, Fowl Weather and Kitty Cornered.