The first pets I remember having were a pair of turtles…I was four, I think. They were tiny, dark green things with the little red spots on their heads. I can’t recall what their names were. They lived in a clear plastic bowl that didn’t smell very good most of the time. It’s a wonder that my brother and I didn’t die of salmonella poisoning…I don’t ever remember my mom telling us to wash our hands after holding those turtles!
After the turtles went to that “great terrarium in the sky,” we got Toby, a miniature dachschund (weiner dog). Toby lived in a pen in our basement, and was a very good barker, especially as my brother and I raced around the basement on our tricycles! After a couple of years, he was diagnosed with distemper, and we had to put him to sleep. I don’t think my mother missed him much!
One night, as the family ate supper, we heard a big thump…a pigeon had flown into one of our windows. His wing was damaged, and he couldn’t fly. My dad built him a cage in the basement with scrap wood and chicken wire. We named our new pet “Hector Birdwell.” I think he eventually recovered from his injuries, and we released him back into the wild…
In roughly that same time period, we discovered a rabbit nest in our back yard with four tiny bunnies in it…the mother was nowhere to be found. We brought them into the basement (do you see a pattern here?) and named them Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter. Unfortunately, none of them survived without their mother.
After we moved to Canada, we had cats…they were all outside cats…my mom didn’t allow cats in the house until we had all moved out! At our first house, the stone house, we had Tripper. He was a beautiful striped tomcat with a great personality. He was my brother’s cat, mostly…he’d ride around on Jeff’s shoulder. After we moved to Rednersville, we got Nicky (whose full name was “Nicholas Saone Georges Chat”…I was ten, and had just started taking French at school). Nicky was a honey-coloured tabby with the personality of an angel, unless you were a rodent or a bird (those were captured and the remains left proudly in front of the back door for my horrified mom to find!). We had Nicky for about ten years…one day, he just didn’t come home…
My brother and I were in Towers, a local department store, one day, and saw a cage full of white mice. Begging ensued. My parents caved, and we each brought home one white mouse. They didn’t last long, and soon we were back at Towers buying a pair of hamsters, Tops and Harold (named for a wonderful couple who were like grandparents to us). Since they were male and female, one morning we discovered that there had been six hairless hamster babies born during the night. Being novice hamster owners, we didn’t know that you’re supposed to take the father out of the cage when there are newborns…it wasn’t long before the babies “disappeared”…who knew that daddy hamsters were cannibals? The second time Tops and Harold presented us with offspring, we relocated Harold until the babies were big enough not to be devoured by their father.
The eight hamsters lived in a large wooden box covered with a window screen. One night, we were invited to another family’s home for dinner. When we came home, some irresponsible child (might have been me…nobody really knows) had left the screen off the top of the box, and we had hamsters all over our house! After several hours of searching, we’d found most of them, except for Harold (he’d probably had enough of his brood, and found some young hamster hussy to shack up with). One of the babies had managed to fall through into the basement (they lived on our first floor), injuring his spine. “Dickie” just dragged his useless back legs around after that.
I was fourteen when we got Pixie, a small black chihuahua/terrier mix, who was pregnant when we brought her home. Pixie also liked to bark, and would terrorize any boy I brought home. She must have mated with a much larger dog…the four puppies were huge, and had to be literally pulled from her straining body (she chose to give birth the day my brother and I were being interviewed by a local newspaper reporter about our community newspaper, the Rednersville Review…we kept getting up from our chairs to go over and see how the dog was doing)! We named them Samantha (Sam), George, Chestnut (Chessie), and Cleo. Sam and George were black with white on their paws, and the other two were a lovely light brown. I crocheted each of them little coats to wear.
We gave away the puppies when they were eight weeks old…they all ended up to be bigger than their mother was. Mom had Pixie long after my brother and I had moved out, and was sad to have her put to sleep after Pixie eventually lost her eyesight and control of her bowels.
My first pet after I moved out was Mandy, a dark striped tabby. We never had the money to get her fixed, and she got nastier and nastier whenever she was in heat. When my oldest daughter was about a year old, we decided it would be best to have Mandy put to sleep, as we were worried about her attacking the baby.
Then we got another “Nicky.” He wasn’t nearly as nice as his namesake…he was also a blond tabby. He didn’t like people to come into the house, and would howl at them if they came near him! One time, Nicky accidentally got into our downstairs neighbour’s apartment, where he spent the next nine hours trapped with SEVEN other cats! Judy was at work, and we had to wait until she got home to rescue Nicky…it took an hour-and-a-half…I ended up just throwing Judy’s comforter over him and scooping him up. He was traumatized for weeks!
We got Rusty from my oldest daughter’s babysitter. He was a beautiful, big ginger tabby without a brain in his head. One night, I was in bed and my ex-husband came in to wake me up. “Rusty’s in the living room, dead as a doornail,” he said. “What?” I asked, in a sleepy stupor. He repeated what he’d said. I roused myself and followed him into the living room. There was Rusty, lying on the floor with his head thrown back…to this day, we don’t know what killed him. Kaylee was seven at the time…she was heartbroken!
We replaced Rusty with Buddy, another dark brown tabby. Buddy was Nicky’s opposite…a big suck who would soak up any attention anybody gave him. Nicky sulked for a while, but eventually accepted his new brother.
A few years later, my ex-husband and I split up, and I had to take the cats to the SPCA, as we were leaving the city. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done…
Fast forward to the present…we can’t have cats in the house, since Jim and his kids have severe allergies. Our Schnoodle (miniature schnauzer/miniature poodle), Jake, just turned two (we got him when he was eight weeks old). He continues to amaze us, and at times, drive us crazy, but we love him anyway (to read more about him, search “Jake” in the Search box at right).
Anna’s trying to talk me into getting another dog to keep Jake company, but it’s not happening…