Monday, July 29, 2013

Who’s your Pet?

Sure you don’t plan on it but they are all fuzzy and cute or so funny with their rolling and tumbling they have to come home and become part of the family. Pets are the children you never had, or maybe then you did.
My family had a history of weird pets. There was this blue parakeet in the dining room. On one of those hanging cages it would make these horrendous sounds and throw it’s food all over the place. Don’t think it was dad who brought the bird into the house, but it was there when I was small. Don’t have any idea what happened to it or what its name was.
Then there was this dog. He was a brindle boxer who my mother said had pedigree papers, but I just knew him as “Ike”. I think he was dad’s dog, but I don’t know if he was handed down from his dad or brought into the house from a purchase or adoption. My brother remembers him in Charlottesville before we moved here, but as I grew up he was always around. A big sloppier brown with black striped dog that was, to me, the size of a horse. We didn’t have a fenced in yard so when Ike was let out he could just wander through the neighborhood. There were no lease laws back then and the traffic wasn’t as swift as it is today, so he, being as friendly as he was, could just wander. Many a time I remember he would walk out into traffic and sit down between two busy intersections. His head was at the height of a passing car, so they were sure to avoid him. One of my best memories of Ike was he was the nemesis to my personal elementary school bully. The postman and everyone else who saw this huge beast would worry, but Ike was a lamb. My dad said he wandered off somewhere and got lost. I never knew what really happened.
Since kids want pets, I was no different. I got a little turtle from a local drug store with a plastic tray and a plastic palm tree. Bought some turtle food and watched him crawl around on my dresser. Before I noticed it, he was covered in green slime. He succumbed to the disease I didn’t understand and the whole mess went out with the trash.
I got a hamster from a school friend. He gave me a cage and a wheel and everything. What he didn’t tell me was that this hamster was a female and pregnant. The next day, to my amazement, there were all these little hamsters. I filled the water bottle and put out food but didn’t understand what these little rodents did. One by one her babies were devoured and then she died. What a nice lesson for an elementary school age kid.
None of my friends had pets. There is probably a good reason for that.
My next adventure with a pet was in college. Somehow my mother and the mother of the guy who gave me the hamster figured out a way to get us both out of the house and become roommates. I guess it was cheaper than his dorm cost and it got me to become responsible, so we moved to a third floor two room flat and continued in our studies. What I didn’t know was there was a cat. I moved my bed in and then the next day, when I moved in, I had a bedmate. A blue-eyed crossed eyed Siamese cat named “Ming” became my sleeping buddy. Little did I know she was in heat? And she stayed in heat. For an entire year she stayed in heat. Even with a move down the block in the heat of summer, this cat stayed in heat.
Moving back home I was relieved to avoid the animal kingdom, but I started seeing a woman who had a cat. I learned about fleas and all that comes with that, but I was about to marry her.
Upon marriage, I not only got a bride, I got a cat. “Twinkle” was her name. She was a little black and white cute kitty, but always in the way. I accepted her along with the marriage as a package. I learned for eight years that I must tolerate this third member of our family.
Little did I know what would happen next? I accepted a cat for a friend who was moving. It was a temporary agreement but I was with another animal.
Then it happened. The floodgates opened.
I met a girl. She had a chipmunk for a pet. I quickly learned that a rusty wheel and a little brown and black-stripped rodent named “Beau Beau” could keep you awake all night. After changing his steel cage to custom plastic job, he found his way to the outside, where he belonged.
The girl? We became familiar. A little too familiar, but a cat was adopted to replace what could have been. “Pumpkin” an orange and white kitten became the next cuddle buddy. Then came “Rag-A-Muffin” and “Patches” as sisters. “Kiwi” was sweet and quiet. “Maggie” and “Wizzy” were from the South along with “Frank”, old ferret face. “Skunk” you can guess. “Caitlin” and “Cullen” were another pair of sisters. “Bunny” was a soft, black and at my stereo cords. “Dukey” arrived from under an azalea plant. “Cody” heard the food was good her so he stopped by. At one point there were thirteen fish tanks in the house. The list goes on and on.
Some are buried out in the yard and a few were given to others. We watched them escape and we watched them die. We prepared special rooms and places for them to rest and supplied plenty of food.
Why do we invite these aliens into our living spaces? Sure they are cute and fuzzy and make those cuddly noises, but they also pee on our floors, throw up hairballs all over the place, tear up our pillows, and take up the sofa. They need constant grooming, trips to the vet, and lots of toys. They never like the food we buy for them, but really enjoy whatever we are having for dinner. They have to be walked or scooped up after and then there are fleas.
We call them family members, but they are an entirely different species we have purchased as slaves for our entertainment. Like small children, they bring us joy when playing and give us undivided attention for our personal comfort.
After years of having every kind of furry creature roam my abode and after my wife’s heart attack, I brought home a dog. She was invited in to help my wife get out and exercise, but became so much more. This was the first dog in the house since “Ike” and while the other animals, eh, pets accepted this wild puppy, and she became the focus of our attention. A special harness was purchased to carry her when she got tired of walking. Being larger than any other creature in the house, she ruled the roost. She had her own sofa, but would not deny a nap on the bed. While training was out of the question because of being spoiled, she ate my hat, sunglasses, anything else I couldn’t get out of the way in time. But she had a special connection to me. She was the puppy I wanted when I was young, but only got a stuffed toy instead. She was named, as we have to do with all our pets, after the Vampire Slayer series.
Upon a new life adjustment, I had to decide what to do with all these critters living in my house. The cats were pretty easy to hand over to the neighbors for their children, but what to do with “Buffy”? Months went by with both of us following our usual routines, but I knew it had to change. There were too many memories so I had to let her go. I bought a leash at the store to walk her down to the vet to see if she could be adopted, but she chewed that up. I finally found a girl who would take her. I even get choked up now just writing about it.
So would I get another pet? I don’t think I want another breathing body in my house. After all these years, the sound of silence is unique. Besides I have all the outside critters to enjoy. I feed them and they entertain me with their antics without the responsibility of vet visits and grooming or waking up in the middle of the night to some “accident”. I talk to them with that same “baby talk” voice we use on pets acting like they understand what we are saying, but knowing they only recognize our noise and association to food. So be it.
Maybe someday, I can become somebody’s pet. It is not a bad life from what I’ve seen.

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