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'F' as in Frank

All in the family

Rival gangs battle in a life and death struggle for turf. A rebellious daughter from one gang falls for a guy from an enemy gang and she is later evicted from her family's home.

Sound like a Sunnyside version of "Romeo and Juliet"?

Nope, it's just a year in the life at "Meerkat Manor", a show on Animal Planet that documents meerkats in the Kalahari Desert. It's a program I have grown to love and Joni is learning to tolerate.

In the last few months we downsized our channel selection and ended up getting Animal Planet in the bargain. At any rate, I've caught some re-runs here and there of "Meerkat Manor" and I am hooked.

The show about these little foot-high critters is on my mind this week because a new season debuts this Friday and I can't wait to watch it.

A group of research students has been following the progress of one particular family, or gang, of meerkats called the Whiskers. They are led by dominant mom Flower, who keeps the peace and provides discipline as needed.

One of her daughters, Mozart, is the wayward child who got in trouble with a meerkat from the rival Lazuli gang. Last I recall, she was trying to make her way back into her family's good graces.

The meerkat turf wars aren't about gang violence as we know it. It is a matter of obtaining and preserving a two-acre parcel in claw-to-claw combat with other gangs so they can sustain themselves with enough food. That's especially true during the drought season.

What's amazing is how loyal and gentle these animals are with each other one minute, then turn on a dime to do battle the next.

Some of the meerkat characters in this real-life adventure are downright cute, some are responsible citizens, others kind of unstable and capable of cruelty. Then there's Hannibal, who resembles a one-eyed pirate. He's the battle-hardened general of the Commandos, another rival gang the Whiskers battle for turf.

The meerkats kind of remind me of a human family at times, the way they soak up the morning sun together, then cuddle up as the sun sets.

So, I'm looking forward to Friday at Fannin manor and checking into see how our furry friends at Meerkat Manor are faring these days.


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