Saturday, September 22, 2012

Animal House

I had room mates for a night. They are in charge of promoting self sufficiency in these parts by way of growing your own food. Some folks have to taken to raising chickens, and others to planting a garden. some of the chickens and vegetables are heritage types, more suited for thriving in these parts, with some TLC. The chickens go to school sometimes, and they are trying to convince some schools to incubate some eggs.  remember fondly when we had to imprint ducklings in high school for biology class. My poor parents. Because the following year, I brought home a gosling. I told my Mom that this was for a different class, liar that I was. I just wanted the gosling for that short period of time. I was president of the Biology Club, so I had access to all creatures great and small in our zoo room. I got home from school one day, only to find my mom dusting the floor with the dust mop, one little gosling nestled happily on top, enjoying the ride. It got me to thinking about the pets I've had over time.
1. Fish. The usual goldfish, I think these days they are termed "feeders'" but for my brother and me, they were our first pets. Which as usual, Mom had to take care of. Oscar and Charlie. I think my Mom named them. After two mice that used to watch her in the restaurant of her youth until the exterminator came for a visit.
There were a few Oscar and Charlies, naturally. None so eerie as the two that were found belly up one morning. Later that day, we received the news that my Grandma, my Mom's mom, had died. My Mom was full of little premonitions like that.
2. Turtles. Green Bay and Wally. Mine was Green Bay, after the Packers. Don't ask me why. I hated football, but I guess I may have been trying to impress my brother. Wally was named after Wally Gabler. maybe he played for the Packers. Or the Argos. These guys lasted about a year. Again, nothing known about aquariums or proper turtle nutrition. a steady diet of raw hamburger and ant eggs knocked them off. However, being the curious sort, after the first one died, I think it was Wally, I dug him up a week or two later, to see what he looked like. He still looked dead.
3. Cats. First was Gypsy. I had her for a week or two. Then I developed severe abdominal pain. My Mom read in the ancient medical dictionary that abdominal pain could be caused by allergies. so Gypsy went to the neighbour's daughter's farm lickety split. Turned out I had acute appendicitis, in the days when you spent a week in hospital. As it turned out, I found out that cats don't cause appendicitis, but I never got Gypsy back.
Next was I think Squeaky, a lovely black and white male. He grew up into a night prowler, and neither my folks nor I had figured out that you could neuter something and/or keep them in the house. So one night, Squeaky went out, and never came back. I spent hours on my bike looking for him, to no avail.
Then there was Smokey. she was still an outdoor cat, but I kept my eye on her, made sure she came in every afternoon. Caught her consorting with the boys, too, I was rather excited over the prospect of kittens. So obviously we hadn't learned our lesson about the neutering bit. And Smokey had one really bad habit. There was a shallow pot hole in front of our house, and she liked to flatten herself in the pot hole and chase cars. I think brains was another thing we forgot to ask for when we got her. One afternoon she limped up to the door with a broken leg. Off to the vet, and I never saw her again. My parents told me at the time that the break was too bad and that neither she nor the kittens could be saved. I only found out not too many years ago that my parents could not afford the surgery, so they had her put to sleep. I probably would not have understood anything like that at that age.
4. Quail. Okay, these never quite made it into the house. I was in grade seven or eight, and one of my Italian friends, it was either Joanne Franseschini, or Maria Caruso, had a father who bred these little things. He was willing to set me up in my basement. I am sure my Mom's jaw must have dropped to the floor. It was November. She finally said no, but my folks agreed that day at lunch time, that I could have another...
5. Cat. They both figured that in November there would be no kittens to be found, and that by spring I would have forgotten all about it. As if. I went back to school after lunch, and asked every single kid who crossed my path if they had any kittens to give away. When my folks returned home from grocery shopping, they were greeted by Taga, a black and white half Siamese. I seem to remember two dropped jaws and the deer in the head lights look from both my parents. But what could they say? Taga we did right by. she was tied up in the back yard so she wouldn't get hit by a car. She used to run to the patio and wait until you fastened her up. When her caterwauling and slinky butt at heat time became too much for us, she was spayed, and vaccinated. That cat was a tenant in the house for over 22 years. When she died peacefully of kidney failure, my Mom called, I was out of home already. I went down and picked her up, and a growl  came out of her throat, and there I was, shaking this cold, stiff as a board, dead cat, asking her if she was alive. Scared the bejeebers out of me.
6. Gerbils. Rusty and Misty. They stayed in my room at night for awhile, and then my brother would come in and get them and put them in the living room so he could watch them. When I think of it now, I was pretty selfish with my critters. These were a birthday gift from my best friends Patti and Louise for my birthday. We used to walk to school together, and for weeks before my birthday, they would make me walk ahead while they discussed their surprise for me. I was so upset, I was ready to disown them because I though they were keeping secrets behind my back, well, which they were. All was forgiven of course.
Taga thought they were something to play with. One day I returned home from high school to find Misty missing - they were in an aquarium with a lid, which had been knocked off. I found her in the basement in a heap. Front incisors knocked out, broken tail, blinded in one eye. Needless to say she was barely alive. I phoned the humane society who said I could try to syringe feed her, which I did. Applesauce, ground oatmeal flakes, ground gerbil food. She lived until she was almost three, the usual life span for the critters. They lived in a secure cage after that episode.
7. Nuts and Bolts. Being president of the Biology Club had its perks. Jocko the Squirrel monkey was one of them. he liked me, he used to sit on my lap during biology class, and then he would try to get it on with my ear. he was the first animal who taught me how to say no. Well, Jocko could not stay in the school over the weekend, there was one family who always took him home. One weekend they were unable to take Jocko home, so I eagerly volunteered. I must have asked my parents, because a monkey in a cage wouldn't have done public transit very well. I am sure in addition to the jaws dropping, the eyes must have rolled. But Jocko came home, under the "promise that he stayed in the cage. Well, didn't I feel sorry for him, he needed to get out and exercise. So out he came, and my parents didn't say much as he careened throughout the house, until he ended up on top of the hutch and was eyeing the Swarovski chandelier. My dad took matters in his owns hands by grabbing onto Jocko. Into the cage he went, biting my Dad. Still pushing the envelope, I would take the cage in the bathroom and close the door and let him loose in there for a bit. For Jocko loved mirrors and would spend hours staring and chattering to his reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror while suspended from the shower curtain rod. For some reason, I was never allowed to bring him home again.
The one they didn't know about was the mouse. Someone had fed this mouse to the boa constrictor, and I watched as the little guy tried and tried to escape his nosher by jumping up the sides of the aquarium, and after a half hour (the snake wasn't hungry) he made it to the top. I figured anything that tried that hard to get away deserved to live. So Mousy became a basement dweller, my brother my accomplice. Mousy was already old, so he died later on that summer while I was away. My brother buried him. My parents never knew. I think.
Then the teddy bear hamster came home for the summer, hidden in the basement again. This time near the furnace where a patch of sunlight would hit during the day. This happened to be under my parents' bedroom, My poor Dad, started having asthma attacks, and was hacking, spitting and sputtering. My Mom thought the house might be a little dry, so even though she NEVER checked the furnace at that time of the year, she did so, and found my hamster. Both the hamster and my Dad's asthma went away.
Dogs. I really all of my life wanted a dog, but my folks didn't. My Dad offered to get me a little one after Smokey died, but my Mom knew the time and the clean up commitment involved, and who would be involved in it, so I didn't spring my doggy surprise on them until I was 19, when my Dad was in the hospital with an unknown ailment. Mugsy belonged to the landlady of a college friend of mine, and was lonely and mistreated, so to speak. However, Mugsy was well fed and well groomed. Before I could convince them she was a stray, I had to make her look raggedy. I dragged her around outside in the February slush before taking her home. The curtains were opened, unusual for my home at that time of day. Mrs. Milligan, bless her heart, informed me that my Dad had gone into surgery late that afternoon. She took Mugsy for me while I joined my Mom and brother at the hospital. I'm sure her jaw was on the ground as Mugsy stepped into her house. My Dad died early the next morning, and Mugsy eventually went to her forever home with a family that treasured her and loved her to bits.
We won't mention Hobie the greyhound who excelled at stealing roasts off the counter, or making cow patties look like rabbit poop in comparison to his. Or the cat, the dog and the chinchilla that were planted on my Mom's doorstep along with myself and my child when I had to move home. I'm sure my Dad's jaw was dropping in Heaven. Hopefully they are both smiling over it all together now.

1 comment:

  1. We raised our sons with quite a menagerie on a farm...lots of hard work...but it makes us who we are....FUNNY!!! and it sounds like it made you who you are too!