Tonawanda News

April 28, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: I'm just saying ...

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Our critter companions have infiltrated many aspects of our lives. They have their own stores, their own medical complexes and even their own day cares and summer camps. They have also entered our daily colloquialisms — we can’t stop talking about our pets.

It started in elementary school for me. Our fifth-grade teacher, who was all bark and no bite, opened a large can of worms when she asked, “Which came first the chicken or the egg?” Going around the circle my classmates responded, egg, chicken, egg, egg, chicken. I responded with a statement, rather than an answer, “I want a pet chicken.” All my peers thought I was the cat’s pajamas.

I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag; obviously it was the egg first. My statement surely didn’t make me the teacher’s pet, but I moved on up to the next grade level. Sixth grade was middle school and with it bringing a different building. I was no longer a big fish in a small pond. At home I adopted three domestic ducklings. I was busy as a beaver caring for them and they stayed healthy as a horse. Much like a leopard can’t change their spots, I become known as “duck boy” in school. 

I cared for ducks, chickens and pigeons at my home from middle school all the way up to college. I loved them so much I become a vegetarian and started eating like a bird. High school moved at a snail’s pace and then it was time to fly the coop.

Although birds of a feather flock together, my classmates were all headed in different directions. I applied to go to college in Florida and while waiting for my acceptance letter I also applied to a local Buffalo university. I was accepted and was reminded that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Grabbing the bulls by its horns, I attended University at Buffalo and treated the world as my oyster. At college my appetite grew and I ate like a pig and could even eat a horse (a vegetarian one that is.)

To throw a monkey wrench into the works, I told my parents that I wanted to study abroad. I allowed my home population of pet ducks to dwindle. With butterflies in my stomach I stepped on that big silver bird and studied abroad in Australia and Costa Rica and graduated with a bachelor of science in animal behavior.

After college, little birds told me of job opportunities and I worked at a zoo and an aquarium. I had bigger fish to fry and wanted to try my hand at teaching. I put on a dog and pony show and become an adult education instructor on pet training, bird behavior and pet enrichment. From there I started writing for the Great Niagara Newspapers, where I kept talking about critter companions.

For the past year, whether you were the early bird, who read this article first, or the night owl who slept in, this article was here every Sunday for you to get your weekly dose of pets.

You might have been in the dog house while you read these articles or dog tired and not remembered a thing. Although it is a pet peeve of mine, to read something and forget, I understand if we all do not have a memory like an elephant. If you remember only one thing, remember this: Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I hope you have a whale of a time reading and learning from Critter Companions.

As the dog days of summer approach us, try to think about how we have incorporated our beloved companion critters into the language of our lives.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to, or search for "Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan" on Facebook.