And now, for a blog about animals and death


When I was in junior high, I was asked to pet-sit for some family friends while they went away for the week. It was an animal lover’s dream come true – horses, cows, dogs, cats, and ducks, all to myself – and I got PAID. I showed up once in the morning and once at night to feed the beasts, and would run from pen to pen while my mom waited in the car.

Early one misty Colorado morning, I walked into the coop where the ducks were housed to find every last one of them beheaded.



Their lifeless bodies lay in the sawdust and dirt, blood soaked into the ground around them, their heads nowhere to be found. I screamed a scream that screamed TRAUMA, and then ran to get my mom. It turns out that both skunks and raccoons kill ducks and eat their brains, and this was our best guess as to what happened. Needless to say, that pet-sitting job was a bust.

I once pet-sat for a family in Seattle who had a golden retriever and a rat. At the time, the rat had a large tumor on its chest, and before the family left on vacation, the mother pulled me aside and told me that they would pay me extra if I killed the rat while they were gone, thus sparing their children the anguish. “How?” I asked, and she replied, “Any way you want.”

At first, I thought, “No way” – how sick and wrong is it to put a 20-year old girl up to murdering an animal for cash? But as the week wore on, I thought of the money. And as a result, I found myself imagining sealing the rat in a Ziploc bag, or putting it in a box in the freezer, or employing the ever-handy RAT POISON. I mean, if there’s payment involved… but alas, I chickened out, and wound up letting it live.

There was only one woman in Seattle who I would consistently pet-sit for, and she had a black hell-cat named Tika. Tika was aloof and sleek and sexy and absolutely unperturbed by life. She wore a leopard print collar, and casually batted around orange balls and feathered cat toys. I would call her in at night, and then wait about 20 minutes for her to show up, as if to communicate, “I’m here, but not because you called me – I’m here because I DECIDED to come.” She could be a bit eccentric, which is why she was on Kitty Prozac that I had to mix into her Fancy Feast every morning.

Once, Tika pranced inside with a still-alive sparrow in her mouth. When she let it go, it started flying around, dripping blood and shedding feathers. I SCREAMED, grabbed a broom, and Mark McGwired it, mid-air, straight out the front door. I thought that was the worst thing that could possibly happen. But.

The next time, Tika dragged… dragged… in a pigeon the size of football. She lugged it to the middle of the kitchen floor, and then let it go, revealing its OPEN CHEST, its STILL-BEATING HEART, its arteries pumping blood out all over the tiled floor. Its wings would occasionally ruffle up, and its mouth was opening-shutting, opening-shutting, in final desperate, heroic efforts toward life. The blood was everywhere. It was dying. Tika was watching it die. I was watching it die.

I did not know what to do. I almost vomited, because WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH A BLOODY STILL-ALIVE ALMOST-DEAD NEARLY-ALBATROSS-SIZED BIRD? On the kitchen floor?

I curled up in a ball on the couch, gasping for air, and felt silent tears squeeze out of the corners of my scrunched-shut eyes. Then I called my mom, because what else was I going to do? She told me to think of it as a giant spider that I needed to catch in a jar, and then release outside.

Gee, thanks.

But her words inspired me to find a dust pan and scoop the (STILL-ALIVE, and BLEEDING, and MUTILATED) pigeon into a bucket, and finally deposit it behind a bush outside. Needless to say, I am still suffering the aftermath of this agonizing event.

I have not had the best luck with pet-sitting, as the animals in my care have either wound up killed, almost killed, or killers. And I have no larger moral or point to this report.



  1. Julianne on July 15, 2008 at 8:27 AM

    And what about the time you went to open the Valle’s front door and grabbed hold of a live bat?
    I don’t know what I would have done with a dying, bleeding bird on the kitchen floor–I’m grossed out by birds at the best of times.

  2. Annie Parsons on July 15, 2008 at 8:35 AM

    Oh my goodness, Julianne, YOU ARE SO RIGHT! I need to add this story.

    One dark summer night, I was walking into the house I was pet-sitting at. The porch light was off. They had a screen door with one of those vertical, black plastic, punch-button handles. I reached for the door handle, and instead, grabbed the LIVE BAT HANGING FROM THE KNOB.

    Listen… can you hear my scream? It was so loud and powerful that it has traveled all the way through time to this moment.

  3. bec on July 15, 2008 at 9:07 AM

    well i too have done my fair share of pet-sitting. but in all of my jobs, i feel that i personally took more of a beating than the animals themselves did.

    how about when i nearly sliced off my thumb opening some canned cat food?

    or, sticking my little white arms down the throat of a newfoundland to ensure that he took all 490 of his pills (along with mini marshmallows, of course). i mean, have you SEEN the jowls of a newf? i also gave him allergy shots.

    i locked myself out of one house. the same house that i lost (but recovered) their hamster.

  4. Rebecca on July 15, 2008 at 9:49 AM

    I am sitting on my couch and laughing out loud…I can’t stop! I read your post about the spider, too. Nasty. I can relate. It’s like it may as well be a human intruder into your home b/c your reaction is nearly the same. Although thankfully there’s not a whole lot that a spider can actually DO to you. Makes me think of the time a GIANT thousand-legger thing came racing out of my sock drawer and UP MY ARM (I was about 13). I SCREAMED, shook it off, and had to sit on my bed, shaking and nearly crying for 5 minutes to recover. And people wonder why I’m going to LONDON for missions and not Africa… ;)

    And I LOVE that you said you, “Mark McGwired it…”

  5. Anonymous on July 15, 2008 at 9:50 AM

    I’m am laughing so hard right now!
    Good times!

  6. Kelli on July 15, 2008 at 10:15 AM

    Wow Annie!!! Maybe it’s a good thing you are a singer rather than a professional pet sitter. I think if I would have seen all those ducks maybe I would have required some sort of counseling.

  7. Marijke on July 15, 2008 at 12:00 PM


    oh by the way? can I bring my dog when I come to Nashville?

  8. duane on July 15, 2008 at 12:31 PM

    annie “clarice” parsons and the silence of the ducks.

  9. Sarah on July 15, 2008 at 12:58 PM

    You are so dramatic. It brings such joy to my heart…

    Only in Annie’s world.

  10. Case and Los on July 15, 2008 at 1:24 PM

    My neighbor’s dog killed a rabbit and brought it in to lay at her feet to ‘honor’ her master. My neighbor was at the computer, smelled something funny and looked down. To her dismay…

  11. Sarah on July 15, 2008 at 3:14 PM

    oh annie, you are the Dr. Kevorkian of pets

  12. Greta on July 15, 2008 at 5:08 PM

    Ew!!! Ew!!! Ew!!!

    And also, HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

    Yay that I get to read your blog every day again. :)

  13. rachel rianne on July 15, 2008 at 6:04 PM

    those poor poor ducks.

  14. David Murphy on July 16, 2008 at 8:01 AM

    Your stories are both frightening and hilarious! This reminded me of my own bird death story.

    I was walking around my backyard when I was about 8 yrs. old. My dog, a miniature snauzer and God knows what else, found a baby bird fluttering around in the grass. I took the dog inside and grabbed a shoe box. I filled the box with grass, branches, things any small bird would like. Then I gently guided the bird into the box.

    As I was carefully walking back to the house, I suddenly tripped over my feet on the driveway. The box flew through the air and went skidding to a halt several feet away. I ran to the bird, checking for movement. The bird was lifeless.

    Here is the worst part. My neighbor was watching this whole incident. He sneeringly remarked that my tripping over my own two feet killed the bird. I quickly ran inside, locked myself in the bathroom and bawled my eyes out. A few minutes later, he knocked on the door and apologized. I was still mad and hurt that he held me responsible for the bird’s death.

    I gave the bird a proper burial, a couple feet down under the pine trees. Years later, after forgetting about the bird, I was digging under the pine trees and found the bony remains of the bird. I said to myself, “Wow! This is really cool. I’m an archaeologist!”

  15. Lyla on July 16, 2008 at 10:14 AM

    There’s no way I could have handled the open-chested pigeon. I would have walked out the front door, sat on the porch, and called the nearest male friend to come collect it for me.

    About the rat, it’s called a veterinarian and it’s called euthanasia. Why on Earth would she expect the pet sitter to be the grim reaper?

  16. Lyla on July 16, 2008 at 10:28 AM

    Incidentally, it’s like $20 to euthanize a rat. That’s why I don’t see why she didn’t just leave the kids with a friend one day and take the rat to the vet.

  17. Sarah Kate on July 16, 2008 at 11:55 PM

    My first thought was, “Annie is never pet-sitting for me.” Then, I realized MY pet-sitting horror stories like finding the gerbil downstairs, OUT of his cage, chasing cats through the yard in heels, being trampled on by a 120 pound Golden Retriever, locking myself out of the house and the numerous times that the dog ate the kids’ toys. I should never pet-sit for me.

  18. […] my Memorial Day weekend plans include the following: –    Pet-sitting for a former co-worker (uh oh) –    Cleaning out the 12-year old black lab’s eyes on a daily basis (the owner showed me how […]

  19. Erin on May 21, 2009 at 9:59 PM

    HILARIOUS. In a “those are some of the most horrifying stories I’ve ever heard” kind of way. I have a spider story as well…

    I don’t like to kill bugs so I usually catch them and take them outside. But on one occasion I was talking to my mom on the phone and saw one of the biggest spiders ever (might have been that spider you killed’s cousin) and let her convince me to get my neighbor to come kill it for me. (Yes I was that much of a girl and still refused to kill the thing directly.) So he came over, hit it with his shoe, and I kid you not, hundreds of (or at least 100) spider babies came pouring out of the big spider and were running around on my carpet.

    That was the last time I had anything to do with killing a spider…

  20. Erin on October 15, 2010 at 9:06 PM

    I was looking through your archives (weird?) and this has got to be your funniest post.

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