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Important Health Warning from CDC: Do not kiss your chickens.

The CDC is warning backyard chicken owners not to snog their feathered friends. Over 1000 cases of salmonella have been reported recently, including two deaths.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that contact with backyard poultry, such as chicks and ducklings, from multiple hatcheries are the likely source of these outbreaks. —Center for Disease Control and Prevention

At first I was all, “Who would let anyone engage in (probably nonconsensual) poultry smooches?” Then I knew. Formerly sensible people who are now parents. Like me. For more cautionary warnings, here is an excerpt from Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home…and the dog dies.

Since my last pet column, I have had total strangers come up to me and completely seriously suggest that we should have kept the cat and gotten rid of the allergic kids. They may have had a point.

Although I chose a good home for the ex-cat, I was still easy prey to the guilt visited on me by the 8-year-old whose cat I had just evicted. The pet-store people were ready and waiting for us. We walked into the store and the adorable puppies on their newspapers in the front window reminded the 3-year-old of what he had refused to take care of before we left but had to do RIGHT NOW. I asked how much the rodents cost and discovered that they were practically free. So I left my daughter to pick out her almost-free rodent and took my son to the bathroom.

When I returned a few minutes later, the 8-year-old was standing by the cash register with this tiny boxed rodent in her hand and a Mona Lisa look of beatific delight on her face. Next to her was an enormous pile containing about $500 worth of rodent paraphernalia. The equally delighted rodent pimp purveyor rehomer explained that she felt sure we would want to provide our new rodent with the basics which would ensure it continued the high quality of life it had come to expect in its pet-store residence.

This was not our rodent residence. Ours was bigger. [image credit: CritterHub] http://www.critterhub.com/small-animals/super-cool-hamster-cages/

This was not our rodent residence. Sadly, ours was bigger. [image credit: CritterHub]

There was the palatial split-level abode including a complicated series of climbing tubes so we wouldn’t have a claustrophobic rodent. There was about an 18-year supply of gourmet rodent chow, vitamins, and litter so we wouldn’t have an unhealthy rodent. And of course, there were a variety of wheels, toys, and a little clear ball for excursions so we wouldn’t have a bored rodent.

My husband suggested naming our new rodent “Chewy” in honor of the dog’s strong interest in it, while I felt “Bubonic Plague” might add the correct note of historic panache. My daughter, of course, chose “S’mores”, which I practically had to have insulin even to say.

OF course the 8-year-old loved rodents. In her entire life, I doubted she'd seen more than three movies that didn't include animated rodents. And she loved every one of them, from Anatole, the bravest mouse in France, to Mickey, the richest mouse in pants. [Image Credit: TheShortPetal] http://theshortpetal.tumblr.com/post/97823377365

OF course the 8-year-old loved rodents. In her entire life, I doubted she’d seen more than three movies that didn’t include animated rodents. And she loved every one of them, from Anatole, the bravest mouse in France, to Mickey, the richest mouse in pants.
[Image Credit: TheShortPetal]

For my daughter, it was instant love. She played endlessly with the rodent, and even—I’d have to sit down and put my head between my knees whenever I saw this—kissed it. For me, getting used to having a rodent on purpose seemed about as easy as getting used to breathing underwater. Luckily, the rodent appeared suicidally bent on escape from Rodent-Oz, so I figured we wouldn’t be enjoying its company for much longer.

I’m not sure how S’mores got out so often. I suspect it got little chisels and saws smuggled inside its LeRodent Chow. But as soon as an escape was spotted, the alarm would go out and we’d have to follow the trail of rodent droppings to its new hideout. This was complicated by the dog, who very diligently consumed all evidence of the rodent’s passage. Once the rodent was spotted, of course, we had another problem—getting S’mores back into Rodent-Oz before being spotted by the dog.

That meant that an adult had to pick up the rodent. Deliberately. But due to some mystical alignment of planets and luck, my husband was never around during one of The Great Escapes. (This didn’t actually come as a surprise to anyone. We have four children, and not one of them ever barfed on the Hub. If I was out, they waited. It was completely expected that I could return and someone would immediately barf on me…) Similarly, I swear that S’mores would wait until the Hub’s plane had taken off before making another bid for freedom. And I would have to pick up a rodent.

Before becoming a parent, I was a reasonably fastidious person. Over the years, these standards had, under merciless siege (and much barfing), disappeared. Only two elements remained—I didn’t vote Republican and I didn’t touch rodents. It became clear that at least one of my core principles would have to go.

You’ll probably recognize me on election day. I’ll be the one carrying the rodent.