Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fur and Feathers

I love this next question:

2. What are your views on pets, do you have them and how do you treat them?

I'm often asked, especially now that we've been out of an apartment and in our own house for a year, if we have any pets or if we plan on it. My answer is that no, we have no pets, and we're really not in a hurry to get any. I have enough to do right now with two small boys in the house. Maybe when Green Bean is older and he starts asking for a dog we'll think about it.

I'm not an animal lover. I don't make friends with other people's dogs (I'll usually pat them politely, unless it's one I'll see often, then I don't want to be stuck patting them every time I see them, so I try not to start.)

That said, I have loved a few animals in my lifetime. We had animals growing up, and while many I mostly ignored or half-heartedly helped tend, a few I became very attached to. Kittens whose mother abandoned them...our uncle on the farm brought them to us when he found them, weak and starving, 5 tiny creatures. We used warm milk in a bulb syringe, and they hungrily lapped it up. I named one Snowball, but a few hours later it died. I named another one Snowball, and it didn't make it either. Three of the five lost the fight for life, but the other two gradually fattened and energized and began to grow. American (don't look at me, I didn't come up with that name) was big and very playful! And the other one (I can't remember his name) was so beautiful...creamy white with gray ears and nose and paws and tail...markings of Siamese. We kids loved those kittens and spent our days with them. We already had two cats, though, so good homes were found for them and they lived happily ever after. We had several batches of kittens born in our home in my growing up years, and I have happy memories of doing my schoolwork with a kitten curled warm and purring on my shoulder.

One summer my younger brother and sister and I walked up the road to my grandfather's barn every day to visit a new batch of kittens that lived in the hay. We were so faithful and loving in our visits that those kittens learned to come to us when we spoke their names (I named mine Snowball), even as little tiny things. This delighted us, as most barn cats were too skittish for us to get close to. We each picked one as our "own" and formed strong bonds of attachment. Then one day we went to visit them and they were gone. We searched everywhere, but they were nowhere. Later that day my dad told us my uncle had driven over them with a tractor. They'd been sleeping under one of the wheels, and he didn't see them until too late. That was a tragedy hard to fathom and hard to accept.

In college my roommate and I were visiting a friend in his hometown in Wisconsin one weekend when we visited a pet store and spontaneously decided to buy ourselves a parakeet. Pets weren't allowed in the dorms except for fish or birds, and we decided that it would be wild and crazy and fun to get a parakeet to live in our dorm room. We bought all our supplies, then picked out a pretty blue one and named him "Timido", Spanish for shy. Because he was quite shy at first. The other friend that was with us that weekend regaled us with tales from her childhood in Moscow, Russia, where she and her parents had a parakeet that lived free in their apartment and was a real character, doing lots of amusing things, like chattering in imitation of the radio, punctuating the chatter now and then with the word, "Gorbachev". We were inspired, and Timido ruled our dorm room, nibbling the pages of all or our books, chewing his way through many a paper left out on our desks, and making a far bigger mess than we realised he could. Over time, we realized "he" was a "she", so we changed her name to "Timida." She would sit on our finger and chatter all day long, and show no signs of her original timidity. She entertained us and bothered us, and we loved her. Then one weekend I came back to our dorm after a weekend away, and she wasn't fluttering around our room. I looked everywhere, and finally saw a small box on the windowsill, and a note from my roommate. Timida liked to perch on our door whenever we opened it, and as it swung shut she would flutter down so as not to get caught, only one time she didn't get out of the way in time, and that was the end for her.

Maybe the reason I'm not an animal person is because of the tragedy I associate with them.

We buried her on campus, near some bushes, with some of her favorite toys. And packed the bird cage and all her other supplies away. Could we have gotten another? Yes, but we had learned that birds are a big responsibility, a big nuisance, and a big mess. It just wasn't worth all that for any other bird besides Timida. And we weren't sure if either of us would be in a position to care for the bird after we graduated.

I believe our family will have a pet someday. Maybe several. But when we do it'll be a big deal. I want to be ready to wholeheartedly love it, not just tend it as an obligation, one more thing to do.

And right now I love that we can pack up and take a 10 day trip to Illinois to visit My Hero's family spur-of-the-moment when my brother-in-law and future sister-in-law decide to up their wedding date from "sometime around Memorial Day" to just three weeks from now, without having to find someone to walk/feed/care for any pets while we're gone.


mopsy from lifenut said...

Awww, that is so sad about Timido!

Pets are a huge commitment. You are wise to not jump in if you aren't fully ready. I am not a huge animal person, either. We never really had pets growing up, aside from fish and a couple of rabbits.

Now we have a dog but I am not entirely convinced it was such a good idea. But she's here and we love her. We just didn't think out the decision fully.

Good luck with future pets. With kids, some sort of animal in the house is inevitable.

a girl you know... :) said...

I love our dog, but "someone else" does not. He likes her okay and tolerates her for the most part, but if something happened I don't think he'd mind too much. She can be a bit pesky at times...demanding attention when I don't feel like giving it, etc. I can't believe you were allowed to have birds at school! Of all the pets, I'd think birds would be the messiest and least desirable in a college dorm room. Well, I guess dogs can bark quite a bit and have bigger appetites than birds, so maybe not. Really why I'm writing is to tell you that I'm excited to see you really soon if you guys have time to visit. I'm not sure we'll be at the wedding, but we'll be around. :)