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The At-Home Zoos of the Barrack Faculty

Raphael Englander

Executive Editor

Ms. Marsha Messinger, Core

Ms. Messenger has two dogs, an eight-year-old poodle mix whom she adopted from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and an eight-year-old shih tzu mix whom she got when her previous owner had to rehome her. Ms. Messinger has had dogs her entire adult life and has always had multiple. At one point she had five dogs at the same time (although it was a bit much!).

She loves making a home for dogs that are homeless. Also, they keep her company and can sense when she does not feel well or is sad. In those moments, they stand by her and provide companionship. Her pet peeves are when they bark like maniacs whenever someone walks by with a dog. (She lives in an apartment complex, so this is fairly common.)

Ms. Messinger most loves how sweet and not demanding dogs are. “They are always happy to see me! If I have had a bad day, their wagging tails and kisses fix it all!”

Ms. Cynthia Miller, Core

Ms. Miller is the “mom” of two cats, Jip and Cuffy. Jip is 15 years old and loves to attend Ms. Miller’s virtual Core online classes. Cuffy is 6 and acts as the best natural alarm clock imaginable (especially if you want to wake up at 5:00 in the morning!).

Ms. Miller has had as many as six cats at the same time and they tend to live long lives. The ones she has lost are “angel cats” and they each have dances Ms. Miller’s students do in their memory. (Her past and present students should all remember.)

She has always had animals -- “everything from parakeets, kitties, dogs, turtles...and I remember each one clearly.” She also had a great relationship with a neighbor’s dog when Ms. Miller was three. Her name was Queenie, and she was a “nanny” to all of the kids in the neighborhood.

Ms. Miller adopts pets because she simply loves them, always has and always will, although Jip and Cuffy do love to spread their food all over the kitchen floor as they eat it. “They have such individual personalities and they are lots of fun (dinner habits notwithstanding). I cannot imagine a life without them.”

Ms. Cheryl Gray-Mitchell, Science

Ms. Gray-Mitchell and her family provide a home to a wonderful and large assortment of animals. Her three dogs, Honey, Mabeline, and Beau, three cats, Diego, Darwin, and Rosie, two chickens, Ethel and Laverne, two dozen koi (with names like Fluffy, Here Comes the Sun, and more), and thirty thousand honey bees, definitely fill the house. As Ms. Gray-Mitchell puts it, “We are at carrying capacity.”

Ms. Gray-Mitchell has had pets her entire life. Ever since her first cat, Midnight, and first dog, Sampson, Ms. Gray-Mitchell has found that “animals offer a great source of emotional comfort.” As an only child, her pets were almost like siblings.

This long history with animals is reflected in Ms. GM’s passion for rescuing animals from abusive and/or neglectful situations. All of her cats and dogs are rescues, with some of the dogs even coming from puppy mills. As a result, the animals arrive in all different emotional states and levels of training and socialization. Ms. Gray-Mitchell rehabilitates these animals and gives them a good home.

Ms. Gray-Mitchell and her husband love nature and being outdoors. This love for the natural world informed their decision to become beekeepers. Taking care of a honey bee hive is a “meaningful and fulfilling hobby” because honey bees are in danger of going extinct. One great benefit is that Ms. Gray-Mitchell can collect and eat the delicious honey and give it away to friends and family.

Ms. Gray-Mitchell has always loved Japanese gardens and gardening in general. This interest led to the building of a koi pond in her backyard. Sitting next to the water, watching the koi, and hearing the sound of the waterfall, while the fish eat out of her hand, “provides [Ms. GM] an inner peace.”

Last by not least are the chickens. The hens provide “yummy fresh eggs,” eat pests around the garden, and help fertilize the soil.

Ms. Gray-Mitchell’s many pets allow her to live in the present. They give a sense of companionship, help her forget the craziness of the outside world, and equally importantly, keep Ms. Gray-Mitchell warm in the winter!

Ms. Stephanie Raphel, Core

Ms. Raphel has three cats, Johnny, who is thirteen, Jean Paul, who is four, and Ophelia, who is six months old. She got them all as kittens. Johnny is from Georgia while Jean Paul and Ophelia are local. She also had a dog named Charley, a three-year-old standard poodle, a six-year-old ferret named Dawg, and a myriad of fish.

Although her parents did not let Ms. Raphel have any pets except for the occasional cat, once she was on her own it all changed. At one point she had four cats, two ferrets, a guinea pig, and two dogs. Ms. Raphel’s animal pet peeves are scooping litter and when the dog barks incessantly and does not listen. Also, when he takes off at the dog park, and you're thinking, "Yeah, don't know when I'll see him again."

She adopts animals because they are fun, affectionate, and bring her great joy. (The dog can be a pain in the neck sometimes though.) The kitten just embodies joy. “We all need more joy in our lives.”


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