There are households that (can you believe it?) have no pets at all by choice. Some families have a dog or cat that they dote on. Others prefer large or exotic animals like horses, reptiles or pot-bellied pigs.
Then there is Clare-Anne.
The 41-year-old Dade City resident grew up in a family that had lots of animals and she knew in her heart that she always wanted the same. During the day, Clare-Anne works as a Biomedical researcher, where she enjoys educating herself and others about matters in biology, aging science, conservation and compassion. She is having the time of her life caring for her multifarious brood. Let’s learn more about Clare-Anne and her family: dogs Rogue and Foxie; cats Charles, Gambit and Dorian; and snake Luna.
Q: What made you want to be a pet mom?
A: I have been around animals my entire life and in many cases they were all the family I had. So, having a house full of laughter and animals is natural to me.
Q: How did you and your pets meet? When did you know that they were the right pets for you?
A: I met Charles at the Florida County Pet Services. He was in a corner cage and so tiny. He had a giant feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) information page on his cage. I knew he was the one when he looked at me. I met Rogue on a farm where the owners had an accidental litter. She was tiny and sweet and I knew she fit here when she made close friends with Charles. Now they’re inseparable.
Q: How did you decide on names that reflected their personality?
A: Charles Xavier is named after my favorite and long-lived X-Man. Charles has FIV, so I hope his name can help him overcome the challenges his body will face. Rogue fits because she is so sweet and good, but she worries about Charles and watches over him. Gambit is 15-years-old and he got his name (again X-Men) because he’s manipulative, intelligent and possibly evil. Luna, the snake, got her name because she’s as beautiful as the moon. Dorian Gray is beautiful, manipulative and uses his gorgeous face to get his way. Foxie, the 12-year-old dog, came to us with that name from Hernando County Animal Services.
Q: What are some of your favorite activities to do together?
A: Playing fetch: Rogue would have a nervous breakdown without her Frisbee. Hiking: Charles and Rogue love hiking together.
Gambit is my soul. For 15 years that cat has been by my side when I am home. He sleeps next to me, steals my chair when I work from home and lays on the sink when I get ready for work. It’s sort of like having a stalker for 15 years, but a cute stalker that isn’t large enough to kill anyone.
Q: What is the funniest, weirdest or most surprising thing your pet has ever done?
A: The day Charles snuggled up to Rogue. There’s something about seeing a large German shepherd and a small cat cuddle that makes your heart full. Charles was terrified of Rogue at first, so their friendship was a wonderful surprise. The most surprising thing Gambit has ever done is learn to open cabinets. He has thumbs and attitude, so now we have locks on the cabinets.
Q: What challenges have you faced as a pet mom?
A: It’s a madhouse some days. Waking up at 4 a.m. to clean is a chore that many people would hate. Then there’s taking the dogs for their 5 a.m. walk. I also have to make certain Charles never gets hurt. His FIV is under control, but one mistake and he could get very sick. I wonder when a 9-month-old German shepherd will start to lose some of this energy and then wondering why my 12-year-old dog is so lazy.
Q: What should people know about having a pet before bringing one home?
A: It’s a 15- to 25-year contract. Some days you will want to give up and some days you seriously just want some alone time. Dogs can’t read your mind. Cats can read your mind, but they don’t care what you’re thinking; cats do what they want.
Q: What’s your favorite part about coming home to your pet?
A: No words. I never feel obligated to explain why I am smiling, or why I am sad, or why I’m tired. I simply come home to a house of happiness that wants to see me and wants to play and relax afterwards. I owe them no explanation for why I was gone and they don’t expect it. They just want to spend time with me. Humans require words, animals require action.
Q: What advice do you have to offer new pet parents?
A: Invest in dog training! It's 100 percent worth it. If you can’t afford professional training, YouTube has some amazing courses. The basics - sit, stay, down, come, no and yes - are a lifesaver. Be patient, it never ends. You will never have a perfect pet. Nothing will go as you plan, but in the end you’ll have memories of love. You won’t get a second chance at this, so make sure your pets are loved.
Q: Any last words to share?
A: Animals may not experience this world like humans do, but we all have one thing in common: we don’t want to be hurt. That’s a basic necessity with food and love, to be safe in your own space.
FIV cats can live happily with other cats if introduced properly and monitored. Cats and dogs can easily be best friends if they’re raised together and/or if they are introduced properly. Snakes don’t snuggle, but they do love fresh air and to ride on your shoulder when you’re outside.