Pets have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember- cats, dogs and a few other species when my kids were growing up. They are members of our family, and provide companionship and unconditional love for as long as we have them. They also provide entertainment to varying degrees.
There are two funny stories about our pets from when I was in grade school. The first one is about taking our dog, Angus, to obedience class. He was a wire hair terrier, the only dog we ever bought from a breeder. He was pretty incorrigible, so I was in charge of taking him to the classes. We were dropped off, and were placed in the remedial group- he would barely walk on his leash, ignored my commands, and didn’t care if treats were involved. To “graduate”, he had to do several on leash tasks, and then a few off leash, while the rest of the class watched. We practiced a lot, but I wasn’t optimistic. To my amazement, he was a star at graduation- did everything with ease, and clearly liked performing with an audience. So we passed, but he was never that obedient again. The second story is about our mixed breed dog, Schiller, who would eat anything. Back when women’s nylons were in individual pairs, he managed to eat one that was drying in the bathroom. It started to come out a few days later, and the vet recommended letting nature take its course. It was quite a site, and it was pointless to try and speed it up with a pull. But nature did eventually take care of it, and he was back to his misbehaving self.
During high school, we had another mixed breed dog named Chaucer that was my ever present companion. He never went to obedience school, so even though he was nice, he had a few habits we had to deal with- one was chewing anything left on or near the floor. He especially liked leather gloves and shoes. He was also an escape artist who ran out the front door whenever it opened, and would not come when called. The only way to get him back was to take meat in the car ( hot dogs were a favorite), and drive around calling his name. If there was a sighting, you had to dangle the hot dog out the window, avoid running him over, and get the little guy in the car. I’m sure our neighbors thought we were nuts.
One of my favorite dogs after I had kids was a shih tsu named Muffie. She had a sweet disposition, and I never had to sweep the floor after meals because she lapped up everything that the girls dropped. She was willing to be dressed in doll clothes, pushed in a stroller, and be placed inside cabinets for hide and seek. Really a sweetheart of girl, and we were lucky she had a long life. We also had an adopted cat named Ginger, who was very independent and a nice addition to the house. The only time I struggled with her was when we needed to go to the vet or kennel. She was not amused by those trips.
Since I was used to cats and dogs, the other two “pets” we had weren’t quite as easy to handle. First, we had a gold fish named Mr. Wilson. One child won him at a school carnival, and named him right away. When we stopped to buy him a bowl and food, we got a second gold fish to keep him company, and for the other child to name. The second fish was smaller than Mr. Wilson, and this turned out to be a mistake. When I got up the next morning, unnamed Fish #2 was gone- Mr. Wilson had eaten him, and didn’t leave a trace. He had no remorse, and was swimming happily in his new bowl. So we got off to a bad start. As usually happens, the kids helped a little, but over time I became his chief caretaker. I didn’t really like him, but thought he would only be with us a short time. Wrong again. I don’t recall exactly how long he lived, but it seemed like a decade. I occasionally thought he could be left on a low shelf where the cat could get him, which seemed like karma for eating his bowl mate. But I didn’t, and he finally died of natural causes. The other weird experience was with Coco, the 4th Grade Bunny. I am all in favor of pets in the classroom, but in Coco’s case, she had to be taken home by a student on the weekends. We somehow ended up with Coco in the middle of winter, and during a blizzard. Coco wasn’t a cute little Easter type bunny- she was huge, and produced unbelievable amounts of bunny poo in her cage. This got so full it had to be emptied outside, in the blizzard, several times. We only had Coco for a weekend, but it seemed like a month. I couldn’t wait to return her to the 4th grade classroom.
For the past several years, we have had several fur kids, all dogs. When Covid started, they were thrilled we were working from home and with them all the time. They keep us, and each other, endlessly entertained. We have a ramp they walk up to get into the back of the car to go for walks. When I met a neighbor on the next block a few years ago, I was trying to point out which house I lived in. She finally said- “Oh, you’re the people with the dogs”. Yes, that’s us. I also felt compelled to tell her we had a special permit from the city to have them. You never know when someone will complain.
The only downside to having pets is that they don’t live as long as we do. As hard as it is to let them go, I can’t imagine life without a dog or two or three around the house. They are the first ones to say hello when you walk in the door, even if you’ve only been gone a few minutes. They know when their humans are sad or aren’t feeling well, and they make a special effort to comfort them. Loyal and brave, they will bark at anyone who comes to the door, and in our case, anyone who comes inside to visit too. They are also excellent judges of human character. If they are afraid of someone, you probably should be too.
So here’s to our pets- may we enjoy each other’s company for as long as possible.