In search of ponies: Readers share pet stories

Sharna Johnson

It’s been three months since my column started, and it got me thinking.

At first I saw the column as another of those cursed assignments that only a boss can think up, and quite frankly, I was terrified to write in the first person and open myself up to readers.

However I have to confess; it has become a labor of love.

I think my favorite part has been the new level of interaction with readers who, I hate to say, we usually only hear from when they are upset.

At least once a day, someone stops me to say they are enjoying the Saturday morning read, they learned something new, they laughed or they’ve had a similar experience.

In fact, as nervous as I was about telling people I unknowingly went through a job interview with dog pee on my pants, it turns out there are those of you who have experienced far worse.

Granted, I doubt many of you have people hike their legs and giggle when you walk in a room, (something that has thankfully faded with time).

One man told me a story of how, wakened by whining in the middle of the night, he sleepily dropped his miniature dachshund puppy into the pocket of his bathrobe and started for the yard.

After the pup failed to do the deed, he chalked it up to a false alarm and trudged back to bed.

Later, he slid his hands into his pockets, only to discover the gushy reason why the little fellow had just stood and looked up at him from the grass.

Another reader told me about a day trip with his boss. After about 20 minutes in the car, the boss turned and looked at him and simply said, “Um, I think your cat may have peed on your clothes.”

He said he spent the awkward remainder of the trip repeatedly chanting silently in his head, “I will remember to fold my laundry and put it away.”

And a recent column I wrote about snakes being eaten by their food brought people out of the woodwork.

One e-mail was from a professor who keeps venomous snakes and discovered feeder mice like to play with the rattles when the rattlesnakes get agitated.

Another girl e-mailed to say she was devastated and perplexed when her beloved ball python died from injuries caused by a rat. She had assumed he was sick or something else was wrong with him because he didn’t fight back, but hearing that it was actually a common occurrence helped her understand and come to terms with what happened.

I have shrugged at my kids when the waitress asked me how Calamity Jane (my riding mower) is doing while she walked us to a table, and laughed until my sides hurt when I got a frustrated, all-caps text at 10 p.m. from the girl laying out the Saturday paper.

“SHARNA!!!! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WRITE A HEADLINE FOR BUNNY CHUNKS?????”

And as I write this, I realize I owe an apology because I never responded to an e-mail from a lady explaining the difference between frogs and toads after I used the two interchangeably in a column about a frog invasion at my house (Oops, I mean toad … I promise I’m trying).

Yes, I have even enjoyed the criticism because overall, it’s been constructive and well-thought-out, and someone took the time to give me feedback.

Overwhelmingly this has been some of the most fun I have had with an assignment. OK, maybe a close second to playing with the monkeys and tiger at the zoo and flying in a helicopter, but it is definitely rewarding.

No doubt about it, this has shown me that pets and critters mean the world to a lot of people.

And I have to say after five years with the paper, it’s nice to finally meet you readers.