Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tales Of A Non-Pet Person

I am confessing in this public forum to being a non-pet person. This is a big deal as it seems most of the world (at least my corner of it) are definitely pet people. You have your cat people and your dog people, you have your reptile lovers and people who thinks bugs lead fascinating lives. There is a huge subculture of fish lovers out there and bird fanatics and vermin adorers. It seems if we can catch it and keep it in a container or feel it's warmth against us or feel protected by it , it has become a pet for somebody somewhere.

Over the course of my life I have had probably all of the creatures listed above rely on me for their very existence and I am here to tell you they, and I, were traumatized and saddened by the ordeal.

We had a family dog when I was a tot whom the others in my clan remember fondly but we tended to ignore each other. I couldn't do anything for or to him so he politely let me go my way while he went his. He was replaced when I was eight by a very little and in my mind satanic ankle biter named Poncho. He was given to us by a fellow military family when they were shipped overseas. Who names their dog after an article of Peruvian clothing? In my heart I know this is why he had such a terrible attitude.

At the same time we owned as a family a tank full of goldfish (my mother's idea) and guppies (mine). The guppies had babies every three hours it seemed. All guppies do is procreate. The goldfish, stuck with the randy guppies and evidently having a more prurient nature jumped out of the tank on a regular basis, presenting us with guilt inducing dried up fish carcasses when we came in from school. Snails were added to the tank to help keep it clean on some fish fanatic's advice and turned out to be a slutty as the guppies. I tossed them in the bird bath. We also had at this time a cage full of gerbils which ended up being dinner for our cat one New Year's Eve, a ferret named Rufus and a mouse named Dart in honor of the store he was captured in. Between running from Poncho who had decided I needed to die one little sharp needle teeth bite at a time and scooping up papery thin suicidal goldfish while hollering at guppies (who haven't ears as far as I can tell) to leave each other alone for God's sake the pattern was set... this is how a non-pet person is created.

I had several blessed pet free years following my entry into the adult world. After Poncho had come the chicken killing dachshund Ginger and a black cat who loved to eat mice on my pillow. These two charmers pretty much sealed the deal for me. I could have happily gone pet free forever. Then I had kids. Kids love pets. Kids actually need pets. Pets help teach kids that the world is bigger than their bedroom and that they have a responsibility to the universe and all of it's parts, big and small. I was going to do this right though, no pets I knew would be trouble. My daughter brought home a goldfish from the county fair when she was four. Just seeing that thing swim in circles, looking for a way out of the bag so it could die in agony writhing and gasping in front of my baby and scar her for life pissed me off. I promptly flushed that little bugger. He could die if he wanted to, but not in MY house.

My husband carried home a kitten found in a barrel of parts cleaner at the garage he worked in. The thing was an oily matted mess we named Dextron (the cleaner). We took him to the vet, cleaned him up, fed him, nourished him, loved him. The day I realized he was healthy and quite nice looking he took off for parts unknown. Bye Bye Dextron. My daughter talked me into getting another kitten a few years later. It was an adorable, fuzzy grey and white sweetheart. She walked it on a leash and it would get out in the yard and chase a ball with the kids like a dog. It definitely had species issues.... We had had the cat for a couple of years and I was used to having it around, even, I might say, loved the little bugger. The cat had kittens in my bedroom closet several years after her adoption. She had gotten out when one of the kids left the door open and promptly got herself knocked up. Cats are like guppies in that they procreate quite easily and well. Everything was great until a tornado hit my house, taking off the roof and exposing my closet to the great outdoors. We found the cat with her kittens under a pile of someone else's clothes in what had been our bedroom. From that point on she was quite literally crazy. She went from a sweet family pet to a feline version of Cujo. After she attacked the kids for the umpteenth time we had to have her put down.

The kids found Cyclops in the woods a few years after that. A little one eyed cat, infected and malnourished and on the brink of death. They nursed him religiously, cleaning out his eye socket, bushing, dosing with antibiotics, vitamins and loving, loving, loving him until he was a stout little man full of affection and moxie. We were all outside one day when he darted out the open door, racing for the kids and was squashed by a car coming fast on his blind side. A tearful funeral was held, my husband crying harder than any of the kids, and I vowed once again to stay pet free.

Right. Sure, that will work.... Two months later we had a dog named Hannah, part lab and part German Shepherd. Hannah was a giant pain in my ass, but a good dog all the same. She couldn't swim, loved to eat trash, and was afraid of everyone and everything except rainy days and kids. She had a sense of humor... once, sitting outside with my daughter and her friends she let out an evil blast of doggy gas. She leapt up, horrified and embarrassed, and turning one quick circle, sniffed my daughters rear and barked at her. I am assuming this is the doggy version of you smelled it you dealt it. She was good at soccer and liked a party. We had Hannah 12 years. I was with her when she died and I will admit it freaking killed me.

During this same time frame we had two cats, Big Man and Little Man. Big Man, whom we adopted,  was perfect except he lived to kill small furry things and deposit them on the porch for our inspection. Since I am blind and hate small furry things this was no problem. He was with us 9 years. Little Man adopted us. Someone tossed him from a moving car breaking his tail and tearing up his face and ears on impact with the asphalt. Little Man didn't mind furry creatures but he loved to chase down snakes and bring them home. They were never dead, which I guess is good but turning and seeing a live snake wiggling around your living room is not good for the blood pressure. He was always a little skittish, afraid to be touched though he craved affection. He was a wee bit weird but a good cat too. He was with us for 12 years.

I keep trying. Snakes (YUCK), budgies, gerbils, cats and dogs, turtles and rabbits have all called my home theirs over the years. As I write this our cat, Oscar, is running around over my head sounding like a heard of horses on the prairie doing God knows what...Okay, maybe I am a pet person after all....