Table of Contents and Summary
Chapter 1: The Unsuspecting Spouse. On the way to get groceries one morning, Mark states that his son, Conrad, wants an aquarium, and Amy suddenly finds herself at a local pet store. When Amy asks what Conrad wants to put in the aquarium Mark says, “Whatever he wants.” Instantly worried about hairy spiders and killer snakes, Amy helps Conrad capture leapard frogs. She also finds herself catching flies for the frogs to eat. Amy is admittedly intrigued watching the frogs leap across the aquarium, mouths agape and catching flies, and somehow, her enthusiasm clears the way for the appareance of two very messy iguanas.
Chapter 2: Goin’ Hog Wild.
Sonic is a female African pygmy hedgehog that Mark always wanted and she becomes the first pet store animal Mark brings home. Amy is intrigued by the walking pin cushion and makes the mistake of mentioning that she hates it when an animal is caged by itself. While Amy proposes a female companion for Sonic, Mark asks Amy’s sister to stop in East St. Louis, Missouri to pick up a male hedgehog on her next trip home. Louie, the male hedgehog, is kept in a separate cage, but escapes four times to be with Sonic. The result: four litters of baby hedgehogs.
Chapter 3: Ferreting Out Another Want.
Mark always wanted a ferret, and Coco, the first ferret he chooses, is a biter who likes biting Amy the most. Thinking perhaps Coco will be better with a pal, Amy and Mark buy Chunky, a sweet ferret who ends up costing $1,200 in vet bills. Amy and Mark end up with four ferrets, all of which steal small objects, dig up house plants, pulverize hapless rolls of toilet paper, and destroy patches of carpeting.
Chapter 4: Barking Up Another Tree.
Mark falls in love with an impractical, white puppy at a pet store and it’s all he talks about for days. Dusty is so energetic that Amy and Mark decide to get Dusty a playmate. Little Dipper, a caramel-colored female puppy, prefers walks and rides in the car instead of playing with Dusty. With one female puppy and one humping male puppy in the house, Dusty has to get neutered, an event more traumatic for Mark than Dusty.
Chapter 5: Of Mice and Gerbils and Pigs.
Mark rescues two blind guinea pigs from a department store and gives them to Elizabeth for her 13th birthday. The guinea pigs take up residence in the front entryway. Weeks later, Mark saves a dwarf hamster from being eaten by snakes at Alma College, where he teaches biology. Mark puts Hammy’s cage on the kitchen counter “so he isn’t neglected.” Hammy is soon joined by several gerbils and mice, one of which chews her way out of her cage and ends up behind the refrigerator. Amy and Mark fail to separate a male gerbil from a female gerbil, resulting in even more gerbils. In little time, the kitchen counter is covered with cages of rodents. In honor of all the hamsters and gerbils, Conrad writes a song called “Rancho Rodento.”
Chapter 6: Fuzzies He Didn’t Know He Always Wanted.
Amy discovers a kitten under her deck one fall day and Mark agrees that Purrkins will become a member of the family. Purrkins is a hit at the veterinarian’s because she has ticks, fleas and a rare case of lice. A few months later, Amy is mountain biking at a local wildlife area and stumbles upon several domestic rabbits that had been dropped off. She, Mark and several friends use fishing nets and round up half a dozen of the rabbits whose ticks and fleas are discovered after Amy has her rabbits all tucked away in a spare bedroom. The quest to rid the rabbits and house of the crawlies is humorous, the highlight of whic is Mark removing a botfly larvae from one of the rabbits while talking to the little larvae the whole time.
Chapter 7: Bumpkin.
By this point in the story, Amy and Mark are fairly well known for taking in a variety of critters, so when a student where Amy works finds a yellow duckling wandering around East Lansing, she brings it to Amy. Bumpkin is a pekin (think Aflac) duck and rides on Amy’s shoulder all the way home. She spends her nights in the bathroom and her days walking around a house which is lined with towels from one end to the other. Evenings are spent eating young sunflower chutes and pecking the dogs and cat. This chapter ends with Amy and Mark finding a home for Bumpkin when she gets big, and, later, the sad news of her passing.
Chapter 8: A Few Furs Out of Place.
This chapter shows animals in need special care as they get older and includes Amy and Mark humorous attempt to collect a urine sample from Dusty to save a few dollars prior to some dental surgery. One of the critters dies tragically soon after.
Chapter 9: Just When I Thought I had Everything.
In preparation for his retirement, Mark brings home a big, fuzzy teddy bear hamster. Little Buddha is cute but bites, so Mark brings home another hamster. Nibs is a nice hamster but there is another kind of hamster at the pet store called a panda hamster so Mark brings home a panda. A week later, the panda hamster has eight babies. It proves difficult to find homes for baby hamsters, so Amy and Mark keep them all in various and separate cages. Mark follows his hamster hoarding by purchasing seven discus fish which prove too much for one aquarium and results in a second aquarium. The discus fish pair up and lay eggs, which means moving discus fish from one aquarium to the next in the hopes of raising baby discus fish, and proving that even fish can be stressful to have as pets.
The Epilogue summarizes the state of the remaining pets as of early 2013, including one ferret, Purrkins, the cat, 11 hamsters and two aquariums full of fish. It also includes very brief and humorous stories of several of the animals in the book told from their perspective. The stories are prefaced with the overriding message in the book: that every animal has a story, and our job as humans is to make that story as good as possible. The animals’ stories also serve to promote Amy’s four children’s photo books: Bumpkin Gets Big; Purrkins, the Cat; Dusty, the Angel Pups;
and Goodnight, Big Wuzzy,
all of which include characters from Something Furry Underfoot.