A couple of weeks ago, I set out to find my wife something unique for Valentine’s Day. As the years go on, we get less and less interested in “stuff” and more interested in new experiences and making memories.
I did get a few tiny “stuffs,” but the big gift wasn’t tiny at all. In fact, it was really big — about 10 feet long and more than 900 pounds. It’s a manatee. Yes, my wife is now the proud (at least I think she’s proud) adoptive mother of Margarito.
I met Margarito, virtually, while researching Save the Manatee — the nonprofit founded by Jimmy Buffett and then-Florida Gov. Bob Graham nearly four decades ago — for another article. Since 1981, the manatee has made a big comeback in the state thanks to the organization’s work. Clearly, they now have enough manatees in the state that we could adopt and take one home.
You may be wondering why I didn’t just adopt a puppy or kitten like a normal person. One, I’m not normal. Two, puppies grow into dogs, and there are already a few too many barking dogs in our neighborhood. And, three, we already have a cat. Besides, as I’ve explained to my wife many times, when her old cat dies (probably around the age of 76 or so the way she is pampered), I get to pick the next pet — a Pet Rock. When my Pet Rock dies, it’ll be her turn again to pick the next pet (hopefully another Pet Rock and not a cat).
The Save the Manatee organization emailed me a genuine, official pdf of an adoption certificate in my wife’s name with an official copy of my favorite musician Jimmy Buffett’s signature right there on the paper. (He’s still co-chairman of their board.) We also got a biography of Margarito, who was first spotted at Blue Spring in Florida back in 1984. Like most manatees, he can be identified by the unique scars from encounters with boaters. He also is missing his left flipper, which got entangled in discarded fishing line 30 years ago.
There are other animals we could have adopted. For instance, Ellen DeGeneres will help us adopt a gorilla. But manatees are more my speed, and they don’t shed all over the couch like my wife’s cat or a gorilla.
Like many manatees, Margarito heads upriver in the winter to the warm springs that stay around 72 degrees. He’ll fit right in at our house because my wife doesn’t do cold temperatures, either. We were once in Indianapolis when it hit minus-4, and now she is convinced that everything north of LaGrange, Ga., is basically frozen tundra and off-limits.
Of course, this means we’re going to have to give up our bathtub to Margarito so that he can have plenty of hot water. With just one flipper, he should be able to squeeze in nicely.
I’m writing this, by the way, from the parking lot of the Florida Welcome Center on our way to Blue Spring. We’ve got a sleeping bag laid out in the back of the pickup, and I’m playing Jimmy Buffett music loud enough so Margarito can hear it on the way back and feel at home. We appreciate your well wishes and positive thoughts as we continue this special journey to expand our little family. Thank you.
UPDATE: Well, well, well. The folks at Blue Spring told us we are not allowed to bring Margarito home. Seems like something they could have told us when they mailed the adoption certificate! Apparently this was all some sort of elaborate scheme to raise money to help the manatees continue their comeback. I couldn’t be more disappointed if they told me Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” wasn’t a real place.
Alas, with no Margarito, my wife will have to be content with another fat, slow-moving mammal in our house — me.
On the bright side, Honey, I’ve still got both of my flippers!