The start of a new series that introduces you to some of USask staff’s animal companions.
Once upon a time, when I was trying to think of new and interesting article prompts, I thought to myself, “wow I really wish I could write an article about my pets because they are just so wonderful.” Then, in a flash of awareness, I realized that everyone loves to talk about their pets. Hey, maybe an article about other people’s pets would be cool!
As a student who started at USask in the peak of remote learning, I got a unique view of parts of USask staff’s everyday lives, visible in the little rectangle that made up the screen for our class Zoom and Webex lessons. I watched as instructors grappled with the new challenges of online teaching, and found what was probably the greatest challenge of all: keeping their pets off of their keyboards, out of the way of the camera, and quiet in the background.
“Sorry, my dog won’t stop barking” and “my cat will be sitting around my neck for the rest of this lecture, apologies,” were the slogans of 2020 to 2021 virtual conference calls. But hey, I wasn’t complaining. As I said, I love pets.
So, with these fond memories in mind I thought it would be fun to try to connect with our instructors and other university staff by meeting their animals formally. Not just having them hold their critter up to the camera and say “this is my creature, Marcus Aeurelius” or something of the sort. With hopes as lofty as a cat on catnip, I began this paw-ject and contacted over twenty USask professors and staff members about introducing their pets to us, to which I received astoundingly pawsitive feedback. Sorry if my puns seem a bit oppurrtunistic, but the pet-tential here is immense. I could keep this up fur-ever. Anyway, as it turns out, plenty of people love the idea of getting to show off their sweet little pets, and I decided to take full advantage of that.
With that, we start our first article looking at USask professors, lecturers and staff alongside their amazing animals. Keep an eye out for new additions in this series, and maybe one of your instructors will be featured! I hope you enjoy reading these articles as much as I enjoyed making them. Let’s begin.
Dr. Shakti Brazier-Tompkins is a sessional lecturer in the English departments of both USask and St. Thomas More. She famously won’t allow anyone to get through a class of hers without hearing about her lovely cat, Crick. She says that Crick’s photo “occasionally – mysteriously! – appears on my PowerPoint slides.” It’s always nice to be learning about something strenuous and then suddenly have the next slide be a picture of a cute cat.
Crick’s name was inspired partially by the physicist Francis Crick and partially by the “crick at the end of her tail.” She was adopted by Dr. Brazier-Tompkins from the SPCA in March 2011. Crick is now a senior cat who still wields the kitten-ous traits of mischief and friskiness.
Dr. Brazier-Tompkins says that Crick has “become bored with flushing the toilets,” which unfortunately means that at one point, Crick was not bored by flushing toilets and likely wasted a good amount of water in her time playing with the porcelain throne. That sounds like a 25% potty-trained cat right there. Crick also takes an interest in opening doors, which I can only think would be all kinds of fear-inducing. Imagine: it’s 2am, suddenly, you hear a flush from another room and the door slowly creaks open. Who… or rather, what could it be? Oh. It’s just Crick ready to jump on your shoulders because apparently Dr. Brazier-Tompkins also taught this creature how to jump onto her back. I’m sure that goes over well. In her own words, “I should not have done that.”
Once online teaching began circa March 2020, Crick spent hours curled up inside Dr. Brazier-Tompkins’ sweater, “like a joey in a pouch” during online lectures. Dr. Brazier-Tompkins says that she once made the “unforgivable error” of starting an online class without her sweater. Crick commanded her to pause the class, get the sweater, and put it on before class could continue. That cat communicates a lot better than most of my ex-partners. Ah, I’m just kitten around (kind of).
According to Dr. Brazier-Tompkins, Crick is also an academic: “Toward the end of term, I always post a photo of her sprawled across a bunch of exams to show everyone how much Crick loves their exams: she magically expands to cover All The Paper when I am grading. Exams don’t exist solely to make her happy, but shhh! She doesn’t know that.”
So it’s okay when Crick sprawls across exams to get comfortable but when I do it I’m “distracting the proctors” and I “need to leave the exam room.” Harsh.
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this pet highlight — as there will be more to come! Keep an eye out for the next time a cute little animal appears in the paper, alongside their USask staff.