Three ferrets, cagefuls of gerbils, hamsters and mice, tanks of fish, one turtle, two dogs and incalculable numbers of cats…this is the long, illustrious list of animals that have spent their lives with us, entrusted their lives to us. I love animals; can’t help it and never have been able to.
It started way back when I was small, bringing cats in off the street. This was a problem mainly for my father since a) he didn’t like cats; b)we lived in a very small apartment and c)he really didn’t like cats. That did not bode well for the parade of cats that I fed on the front stoop or, in the winter, on the top landing of the apartment stairs (all of whom, for some mysterious reason to the adult me, I named Frisky: Frisky 1, Frisky 2, Frisky 3, etc. Probably due to the very effective commercials Frisky’s cat food was running in the 70’s and the amount of time I spent watching T.V.) It certainly did not end well for one kitten I actually was allowed to bring into the apartment, to whom I gave the regal name Cleopatra Puss-in-Boots. Cleo , it turned out, was not a kitten after all, but a cat, a full-grown cat, a pregnant, full-grown cat. As soon as the kittens were old enough, my brother and I hit the streets on dad’s orders (A.K. A. threats) with all of them in a cardboard box, begging people to take them. If there is one thing people cannot resist more than a kitten, it is sad-eyed children holding kittens.
It did bode well, however, for the scrawny, filthy dog the neighbors dragged home from Flushing Meadow Park with its choke collar still embedded in its neck. Dad liked dogs. Blackie lived a good, long, happy life in that apartment. None of us kids were still living at home on the day mom told us she had taken him to the vet to put him down. Even writing that, even after all these years, I can still feel a vague lump in my throat for our Blackie.
My very first gift to my husband was a sickly, scrawny Siamese cat bought with my last money and given with inmeasurable love and pride. Too bad I misunderstood his story about the Siamese cat he once had as a child- what he said was that he had one, not that he wanted one. Oh well, Cinammon Girl lived for over 21 years. We used to joke that it was a good thing she couldn’t write or talk since those years included college and pre-kid years.
The majority of the animals lived with us while the kids were growing up. The first six on the list above, along with a dog and two cats, lived with us all at the same time. We used to say we lived in a zoo. But a lively, buzzing, busy zoo it was; and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Now we live in what is called an empty nest. That means the kids do not live here anymore. But we still have two geriatric pets- a beagle and cat who are both fifteen and showing it. And we have two young cats our daughter has left us to watch while she settles down and gets organized… It is hard to watch your pets age, and hard when they die. It’s those damned short lifespans at play. So we take lots of photos, and play with them as often as we can. And then we tell stories after they are gone.