Pets On Death Row

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 9 2012 @ 9:22am

Deadspin excerpts Damien Echols' book about his time on death row, Life After Death. Here he describes having a tiny kitten for a cellmate:

I've absolutely no idea where she originally came from or where she eventually went, but she was being passed around so the guards wouldn't find her. When it was time for her to be passed on she'd be placed in a stocking cap and sent down the line. The kitty didn't seem to want to do anything but sleep. The problem was that she was much like a fussy baby and wanted to be held as she slept. She would lie on your chest, curled into a small white ball, and sleep forever. The moment you put her down, the tiny blue eyes would pop open and she would begin to give voice to her outrage. Tiny but high-pitched meows could soon be heard from a considerable distance. It was amazing that such a minuscule creature could be heard from so far away. Perhaps it was the fact that the sound was so alien to the environment. No amount of talk would console her. "Shhh! Hush, you little monster, or they shall discover our plot." She paid no heed to my warnings.

The other animals he saw on death row:

The most common are mice and rats, but I've also seen spiders, a couple snakes, and even a bird. The mice and rats were bred for the purpose of serving as pets. A guy would manage to catch two wild ones, and every time a litter was born he'd give the babies out to whoever wanted one. They grow up with you and won't bite or scratch. The snakes would wander into the yard and suddenly find themselves stuffed into someone's pants and smuggled indoors. The biggest rat I've ever seen in my life was raised by a guy here. It was as big as a Chihuahua, and he even fashioned a collar for it. It was as tame as any household pet and slept in the same bed as the guy who had trained it.