Saturday, 22 October 2011

Exotic Pets and Real People

I sat and pondered over this Ohio story of the week....where the guy committed suicide right after he released all his lions, tigers and bears.

This is the thing....generally, if you came up and had this one fascination with bears....and wanted to keep one or two bears....I'd have no issue with that.  As a neighbor, I'd expect you to respect my safety, the safety of my kids, and my other neighbors.  You'd share my expectations, and ensure a first class cage was set up for your two bears.  You'd ensure they were kept happy and fully fed.  It'd all be within your means of finance, and personal attention.

But the day that you decide that you need six bears, a dozen tigers, ten lions, and five camels....I'd start to question just how capable you really were.  I grew up on a farm, and know that a non-threatening animal requires just about zero attention.  You walk your fence once a month.  You ensure fresh hay in the winter.  But it's all a couple of hours here and there.  Once you start talking about more than ten animals of a threatening nature, and the enormous amount of security involved....things start to become difficult.  Toss in costs, and the vet bills.....and you've got yourself a five-star potential mess.

I hate making life difficult and miserable for folks like this....and I generally hate making regulations....but a lack of common sense makes these folks more of a threat than a friend.  They always love to entertain folks by showing how friendly their one bear is....or how the tiger eats from their hand.  The truth is that these are all animals who are not domesticated.  It would take a number of generations of absolute control before you could label such an animal as "friendly".

So here's my simple regulation.  You want to keep one bear, or lion or tiger?  First, you post a bond of $100k to the local county.  Second, show a insurance policy of $500k for any incident.  Suddenly, the interest in keeping such animals has a price tag attached.  If you want a dozen tigers?  The bond goes up substantially.....$1 million.  At this point....suddenly the only folks who actually end up with exotic animals are actual zoo's (waivered from this requirement or game preserves (authorized by the state legislature)).

In the months to come.....this event in Ohio will be discussed in public and private.  My guess is that a thousand oddball exotic pet owners are going to start to feel heat over their little collection....no matter what state they live.  The truth is.....they kinda deserve the heat because of their passion, and lack of common sense.          

My Barracks Story

Every guy who ever spent time in the military has at least five barracks stories to tell.  I have one.

When I finally got to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, the headquarters sent me to their barracks....the top floor of a building shared by three organizations.  With forty rooms....my organization barely had sixteen people living on the floor, and they shared out the area with ten band-member guys.  So everyone got a private room.  My hopes of moving off-base?  Zero.  I'd been in the Air Force for three years, and it was going to a long while before I moved off-post.

The barracks?  It was built in the early sixties and had never been renovated (this was 1981).  Each room was spacious, with a sink....but the bathroom and shower facility was down the hallway and an open area for all of us guys to share (yeah, no gals).

What I discovered by the end of day one....was in the midst of July....the AC unit barely kept the room at 84 degrees in the daytime, and was lucky to get it down to 80 degrees at midnight.  By December, I discovered that the heat barely kept the room temperature at 68 degrees.  As the First Sargent explained this....the whole central air unit barely functioned and the whole building was to be renovated in three years.   So they wouldn't spend any money to fix anything.

So as each summer came and went....it became this miserable experience to sit through a Louisiana summer.  As I prepared to leave for my new assignment (January 1984)....about five weeks prior to leaving....this massive cold front hit.  The evening temperature fell to minus 22 degrees.  The room temperature by the next morning was around thirty-eight.  I had a sleeping bag that I kept in reserve and ended up digging it out in the middle of the night.

Nothing could be done about the temperature deal, and it was supposed to last five days.  I drove that morning to Wal-Mart and bought a $80 space heater.  Amusingly enough....I came back and it blew my circuit breaker in the room.  I tried every outlet....it didn't matter....it simply wasn't a strong enough circuit to allow a small space heater to operate.  That evening, I drove out the gate to a hotel and paid $35 to stay in a nice toasty room.

Four weeks later, I packed up and left.  Two weeks after that....they ordered everyone out of the building and were to start their long-term renovation plan.

The other part of this story....was the cockroaches.  I discovered that once you turned the light on around midnight.....there on the sink....would be sitting five to eight cockroaches.  They would come to spray about every two months.....and it have lasted four weeks max.

I bought these roach motels and shoved one down.....to find twenty cockroaches in it by the third day.  They never decreased in number.

At some point, I bought some lighter fluid and was roasting the cockroaches in my sink as I woke up in the midst of the night.  I did this for months, until the First Sargent commented to me, and asked if I was storing gasoline in the room during a room inspection.  I denied it and kinda quit the lighter fluid treatment after that.

I would imagine that the whole building held a minimum of 2k cockroaches at any given time.  It was an infestation that simply never went away.

Finally, this was the barracks where we had the "blast".  I came home from work one day (my shift was always 4AM to noon), and took a three-hour nap.  Then I took off for afternoon and evening classes (gone for almost five hours).  When I came back....the whole building was dark, and the doors were all locked.  It made no sense.

I finally came to the rear of the building and climbed up the fire escape and was just about to enter (this was pitch dark), when some voice from the ground asked what the hell I was doing.  I responded with "just getting in".  He explained that a natural gas explosion had occurred within some guys room on the first floor....burning all hair off when he was trying to light a smoke while blow-drying his hair.  They'd shut the whole place down, gave everyone ten minutes to get a bag of clothing, and sent everyone to temporary facilities.  I was the last guy apparently.

I ended up at the billeting office where they admitted they had no more space, and then gave me the key to some VIP suite for generals.  They made a big deal out of this....some junior enlisted guy getting the general's suite.  I went to the place and classified it as a Howard Johnson-style place, which I had seen five or six in my life and this was not big deal.  This lasted four days, before they allowed us back in....but they demanded we air out our rooms for twenty-four hours in the midst of some summer heat-wave.

It was nice to have a single room to myself.....but this was a two-star place at best.