Critter Objet d’Art

I bought three good-sized pumpkins before Halloween. While considering how I would carve them, I put one on the front steps and two in my garden out front. Before I could even consider my Halloween decorating scheme, however, two squirrels had beat me to it.

Watching from my front window, these squirrels dug a clubhouse inside the gourd on the front steps. The dynamic duo ate their way through a little round section, the orange disappearing to white. Then the critters ate their way through that section of white pumpkin meat, revealing the cavity. Taking turns, they disappeared into their clubhouse, thoroughly cleaning out the center portion.

I hate that part of the job. I always enter the pumpkin from the top, the way my father showed me when I was a kid, after cutting off the stem. But before I can carve a little face, or, as I prefer now, drill dozens of holes in a circular pattern into the gourd, I have to reach inside and remove the yucky wet stringy pumpkin guts and seeds.

But my angst was their feast. One squirrel would sit on our garden rock, dining on a tasty morsel, while the second was hard at work, climbing the steps and diving headfirst into the pumpkin, the squirrel’s torso disappearing, and only a section of its fluffy tail visible. The fluffy tail was moving back and forth; enterprising squirrel must have been cleaning out the guts. After a while, this squirrel would back out of the pumpkin with a fresh chunk of pumpkin meat and head for the rock. That same rock had been vacated a minute before. I stood still at my window. I did not have to wait long; well-fed-and-rested-squirrel returned to work.

After several days, it was time for the landlady to discard the first pumpkin. It was past ripe, starting to collapse on itself and no longer an intriguing and fun look for the front door. As I lifted the rotting work of art to carry to the garbage bin, I felt my sleeve get wet. Hmmm. It had not rained and I had not watered.

All my neighbors probably heard me cry out: “OH, NO!!!!!”

I ran to the bin and tossed the decaying gourd into it. It was no longer an objet d’art. Then I ran into the house, yelling all the way. “I’m covered in squirrel pee!” I could hear my husband laughing as I hit the showers.

This past Monday, I tossed overly ripened and hollowed-out pumpkin number two into the bin. Before doing so, I considered; “Heck, it’s a pandemic. I have gloves!”

It is nearly time to remove pumpkin number three; the critters are not coming around all that much now. Their work is nearly done.

But I have more gloves; I am searching for more pumpkins.

Kathy Galgano

November 18, 2020

A Special Birthday – A Children’s Story

(I dedicate this story to my Great Niece, T, who shares a special birthday.)

Once upon a time, on a chilly November 2nd, a baby was born. This was a beautiful baby! Word spread quickly throughout the town as this was a special day.

From a telephone booth at the hospital, the daddy excitedly called the grandparents at home. The grandparents called the family members, and the family members called the friends. Soon everyone knew that the baby had been born on November 2nd.

Good news travels fast!

The proud and happy parents named their beautiful chubby baby Carl Vincent, II, after his Daddy. His blue eyes were just like his Mommy’s eyes, and he had brown hair just like his Daddy’s hair. He was a happy baby who liked to laugh, and he loved his family.

Carl Vincent, II grew up loving music. When he was a boy, he studied guitar. First, he played an acoustic guitar, and later he bought himself a beautiful electric guitar. It was very fancy and very fine. He played slow songs and fast songs and serious songs and silly songs and old songs and new songs. He made great music.

When a singer named Elvis Presley became famous, Carl Vincent, II played and sang just like him. He even danced like Elvis. When cousins came over to visit, Carl Vincent, II played his guitar and everybody sang. Every time Carl Vincent, II pulled out his guitar, there was a little family party with lots of music and singing and laughter!

One day, Carl Vincent, II met a wonderful woman named Janis. Janis also liked to sing and play the guitar. The couple was very happy together and were married in the presence of their loving family and friends. After the beautiful ceremony, the younger family members decided to go for a swim in the family pool because it was quite warm outside. Now most people do not go swimming at weddings, but Carl Vincent, II saw the children in the pool, picked up his guitar, walked very close to the edge of the pool and began to serenade the children. Everyone loved this! He even played Rock ‘n’ Roll.

So Carl Vincent, II and Janis loved their family, and their friends, and music, and laughter. And they loved something else — Animals. Mikey, a gorgeous green macaw with colorful, long tail feathers, lived in the dining room in his large birdhouse. He enjoyed watching people when they entered the house and everyone said hello to Mikey. Was Mikey a clever and funny bird? Yes!

From his birdhouse, Mikey liked to call Carl Vincent, II. “Carl, Carl,” he exclaimed, and Carl Vincent, II and Janis would laugh. Sometimes it sounded like the microwave was beeping, but really it was just Mikey making the b-e-e-p sound. When the telephone rang, Mikey said, “Hello.” “Hello.” And when Janis stroked his beautiful feathers, Janis and Mikey would both sing, “That feels g-o-o-d!” Every time someone approached the big birdhouse, Mikey would bob his head up and down; he loved his family and his friends.

On one chilly November 2nd, Janis gave Carl Vincent, II a special birthday present. It was gray in color, had four legs, was very soft, and meowed and purred. Carl Vincent, II named his new kitty “Mrs. Jingles the Cat,” and she lived in the house, too, except she didn’t sleep in the birdhouse with Mikey.

Mrs. Jingles the Cat loved to jump on the sofa and relax with Carl Vincent, II and Janis. Purring like a little motor, she stretched her legs and rolled on her side when they stroked her soft, smooth, pretty, gray fur.

While Mrs. Jingles the Cat and Mikey may not have been best friends, they did well for a cat and a bird. Both animals liked it when Carl Vincent, II played his guitar. The kitty swished her tail, and the bird bobbed his head up and down. When family and friends visited, the animals enjoyed the little party with lots of music and singing and laughter.

Mikey liked special birthday parties most, because the dining room table was right next to his birdhouse. While he nibbled on his favorite delicious little birdie num num treats, everybody sitting around the table nibbled on delicious lemon meringue pie, Carl Vincent, II’s favorite birthday treat. Afterwards, Carl Vincent, II would play his guitar and Mikey would dance a little dance, bobbing his head up and down while people sang and laughed.

Mrs. Jingles the Cat was happy, too. She swished her tail and stretched her legs and rolled on her side as the children stroked her soft, smooth, pretty, gray fur, even while she was hiding under the bed! Purring like a little motor, the children knew that she was saying, “That feels g-o-o-d!”

The End

This book is also dedicated to the memories of my brother and my sister-in-law, the coolest people ever!

Kathy Galgano

Original Copyright November 1, 2013,  Renewed Copyright November 2, 2014

All Rights Reserved

Kathleen M. Galgano



For all the years I have been visiting Andy’s Pet Shop in the building with the colorfully painted jungle animal murals covering the façade, and now at the large location in downtown San José, I have enjoyed the company and friendship of one Ruby. Always quick to greet me and everyone who walked through the glass doors, this gorgeous scarlet macaw welcomed all with an upbeat, “Hello Ruby!”

Kids loved her. Customers loved her. Visitors loved her. I loved her, and so did my dog Snowy, except perhaps when she bit him through the cage after she had kissed him with a lick. The staff loved her, although they wouldn’t be very happy with her when she went for the proverbial jugular, and immediately followed up the attempt of a bite with a cackle that had to make you smile.

It took months before I won Ruby’s confidence, but eventually I was able to stroke her soft feathers on the side of her head, and Ruby would close her eyes in relaxation and trust. And I would extend my index finger into the cage and Ruby would hold onto it with her talon and even stand on my finger perch. I couldn’t get too complacent, though; inevitably Ruby would make a move for my finger with her beak, and usually I pulled my hand away just in time, and my clever buddy would cackle. How she loved that game.

The first time I held her, she got me but good. I can’t remember if she drew blood, but I learned through conversation with the young and very talented staff that when a macaw bites, instead of tearing your finger away, you push it in, toward the beak. It’s a counter-intuitive movement, but it works. And then Ruby would cackle and I would laugh and she would laugh some more.

“What’s your name?” “What’s your name, Ruby?” I asked her.

“Ruby!” “Hello Ruby!” “Ruby!” “I love you!” “Step up!”

Upon hearing Ruby say “Step up!” a few times, I’d open the door to her cage with the permission of the staff (after insuring the store’s front door was closed and the coast was clear) and insert my arm and hand into the cage. Sometimes Ruby would “step up” on my hand immediately and I’d secure her talons by covering them with my thumb, and withdraw her from the cage. Other times, she would lunge for my finger or hand, testing me, cleverly knowing I showed some fear of her bites. And then she would cackle. This might go on for minutes; Ruby was clearly in charge. Eventually, however, she would perch on my finger and out she’d come. She lunged significantly less when I held her.

Sometimes I would sit in a chair and hold her close to me. One time Ruby was sitting on my lap and Snowy was stretched out on the floor next to my chair. Without warning, Ruby hopped off my lap, spread her wings and sailed to the floor. The staff kept her wings clipped, but she was able to glide. Ruby landed in the aisle a few feet in front of me, and my dog ran to her side and quietly stood next to her, protecting her. I walked to them both, knelt down, extended my hand on the floor and Ruby stepped up. Snowy never barked, and Ruby didn’t lunge. I was nervous, but the animals handled the adventure expertly.

Other times I would hold Ruby for visiting preschool classes and the store’s owner described the behaviors of macaws to the students. My buddy, swinging upside down on my finger, really knew how to work a crowd. I always sang to Ruby. One time while holding her outside, Ruby joined in and sang “La-La-La-La” in different tones.  A staff member and I would sing little lines of melody, like a cheer you would hear at a ballgame when the organist plays and at the end of each musical line the crowd chants “Hey!,” except Ruby exclaimed “Woo!” What fun.  When she wanted a treat, Ruby would say, “I love you.” The customers always drew near to her when they heard her speak.

People in cars and buses waved to us as they passed by while Ruby was perched on my finger in front of the store. When the light turned red at the corner, people in stopped cars frequently lowered their windows to talk to Ruby, or pointed to her so that their kids would see the colorful macaw. When airplanes flew over the store on approach to the nearby airport, she would exclaim, “Hello Ruby!” I’m certain she considered planes kin. Ruby exercised regularly by flapping her wings while I or others held her throughout the day. “Big Eagle! Big Eagle!” we would all chant, and I walked quickly up and down the aisles with my arm held high over my head, and beautiful Ruby, perched on my finger, my thumb covering her talons, would flap her powerful wings over and over, generating a strong breeze.

We played games together, like “cage tag.” With Ruby perched in her cage, I would touch her beak with my finger and then count to three. At “three,” I ran to the other side of the cage and Ruby quickly made her way across the cage to me, latching on to her toys and the cage bars. I cheered, and then counted to three again, touched her beak and sprang around to where we started. Back and forth we went. Kids in the store played with me, and we always cheered for Ruby each time she met us. When the game was over, Ruby would either stay in place at “three,” or say “Goodbye.” She might say “Goodbye” to people leaving the store, and she always said it every evening when the staff covered her cage with a cloth for the night. She would poke under the sheet and say, “Goodbye!” “Goodbye!”

Ruby passed away last week. She had been ill for some time and under the care of the staff and her veterinarian. She fell from her perch, and possibly broke a toe, and the staff will learn if she suffered a heart attack. The store manager explained that she had performed mouth to beak resuscitation and massaged Ruby’s heart, but sadly, it was not to be. Earlier that afternoon, the manager told me that Ruby had asked to “Step Up,” and thoroughly enjoyed being showered with the mister bottle outside in the warm afternoon sun. Ruby sure loved her baths, and would squeal in delight and shake her colorful feathers in the sunshine. She had also called to the aircraft flying overhead. “Hello Ruby!” “Hello Ruby!”

I learned all this when the store’s manager called me to tell me the sad news. I was overcome with emotion, that Ruby had passed, and that the manager wanted me to know the news firsthand. She didn’t want me to read about Ruby’s passing or find out in conversation. I was so grateful and touched. I drove to the store, and was asked if I would like to see my dear friend. As I sat in the back room, holding my dear Ruby, tears fell onto the blanket which enshrouded her. I had to smile, though; Ruby looked beautiful and peaceful, but she had hated blankets. I sang my usual song, “Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with you…” to her softly, and stroked her soft feathers, and said a final goodbye to her, as she would have said to me.

Kathy Galgano

April 8, 2014

A few words about Andy’s Pet Shop:

Ruby lived a wonderful life as the “house” bird at Andy’s; customers also love visiting another house bird, a beautiful toucan named “Mango.”

Andy’s Pet Shop is unique; it is the world’s first pet shop offering 100% rescued pets. Hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, mice, rats, doves, pigeons, turtles, snakes, lizards and fish are regularly available. You can adopt cats and dogs and parrots, too, and there may be some in the shop, but as these are happier living in foster homes, they are brought in for adoption fairs. Andy’s mission is as follows: Every pet deserves a good life. We make that happen by adopting out homeless pets, selling quality products, and educating human caretakers. We want to be successful with pet adoptions, so that other pet shops will follow our lead and convert to 100% rescued pets. It’s a special place.

Andy’s is located in downtown San Jose, near the De Anza Hotel, and the entrance to Highway 87. Their address is: 51 Notre Dame Avenue, San Jose, CA 95113. (408-297-0840) Andy’s is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. They have a large parking lot. You can pop by, or go to



I Used To Clean Penguin Poo

I used to clean penguin poo. Willingly. I performed heavy physical labor, moving and hosing and scrubbing large mats and rocks, carrying buckets of fish, swabbing floors, siphoning debris out of the water, and washing Plexiglas. I shoveled and carried buckets of sand and power-washed more mats.

I always looked my very best when working at the aquarium. I knew I was representing the organization and I frequently was in the public’s eye, so I never left the house without lipstick. I wore my special short-sleeved aquarium shirt with “Volunteer” woven on it; I coveted those bleach-stained shirts. These weren’t my only “aquarium wear”; I also wore either my special zippered fleece sweatshirt or my black zippered jacket, both sporting the spiffy aquarium logo. One day each week I arrived early in the morning for my shift wearing my uniform: the “aquarium wear,” dark pants or jeans, closed-toe sturdy shoes, and my smile.

There is something very special about entering the aquarium through the employee gate and walking through the not-yet-open-to-the-public building and exhibits. I cherish these memories. Strolling past tanks and exhibits, I quietly wished fish and birds, “Good Morning.” The rays in the touch pool were ready for breakfast. During the numerous times I have toured this aquarium as a visitor, only once or twice have I ever managed to touch a ray. These critters either stayed away completely from the beckoning hands and their splashing, wriggling fingers, or cleverly swam just near enough to entice the excited crowd, but disappoint those who splashed so eagerly. But first thing in the morning, the rays are sweet and respond when I tickle the water with a few fingers. I don’t have breakfast for them, but I know their meal is coming very soon, so I don’t feel too guilty about asking them to visit for a few moments. As they swim under my outstretched fingers, I can feel their smooth, and a bit spongy, shapes go by. What a way to start a day!

My jobs changed from week to week. When it was my day to clean the penguin enclosure, I would cover my jeans with a pair of overhauls and step into high-calf rain boots. Sometimes the boots would fit pretty well, but other times the medium sizes were taken, so I grabbed the mens’ sized-large boots. No matter. There was work to do. I picked up my scrub brushes and hose, put on my goggles, stepped into a foot bath and entered. One week, a penguin decided to make the entry way his domain, so he pecked at each member of the morning team. How is it that this penguin knew just where the boot line ended? Even with jeans and overalls for protection, being nipped behind the knee sure smarts!

Penguins are beautiful, and they are the bosses in their domain. I could be crouching down, scrubbing rocks, and a penguin just might peck me in the you-know-where. Yes. I’ve been bitten in the backside. Once when I needed to scrub with a larger brush, I made the switch dropping the little brush I no longer wanted by my knee. The next thing I knew, one of these entertaining beauties had stolen it! Our team leader and staff professional quickly retrieved my brush, and I never put a brush or any piece of equipment down again. These birds are fast! And I learned fairly quickly to cover my ears when the penguins started communicating. What the public cannot hear behind the Plexiglas is how loud they are.

Sometimes my family would catch a glimpse of me next to “my penguins” by checking the aquarium’s web-camera. Every week I would come home with a new story. One day there were whales in the Bay. Another time I was asked to help re-band a few birds. Then, I had to conquer my fear of handling some live bait because I sometimes prepared other birds’ meals.

Even picking up squirmy bait with my thick gloves made me happy in that I knew I was there for the birds.  Whether washing the many containers needed to hold food, or just scrubbing, this was a job in a million, and I loved it and always found the humor in it. My dream job remained just that, no matter how sweaty I became, or how much I reeked of fish when I drove home, or how uncomfortable I felt when I tripped over a log while siphoning the pool. As I started to tip over, the cold water poured over the bib of my cumbersome waders designed to keep my dry. And my friends listened to every word I told them, just as long as I had showered and changed first.

So why am I not there? I sure do miss my little critters. Well, I learned during my tenure at the aquarium that it takes more than enthusiasm and a love of animals to work there. It also takes a very strong back to perform the duties well, and so I look forward to finding another job that lets me be near my buddies, but perhaps not tidy up after them.