June 08, 2005

Pets I Have Had, and Pets I Will Never Have Again

I'm pretty laissez-faire when it comes to pets--I like the furry critters and I'm not particularly invested in the whole dog v. cat debate--but I've lately determined that when the two animals currently cohabiting with Hublet, Boy and me shuffle off this mortal coil I won't be in a hurry to replace them. Why? Because when I look back at my personal pet history, I get the impression that the animal kingdom would have been better off without my interference.

Let's start with dogs; namely a black lab named Missy that my parents purchased when I was a toddler. One of my earliest memories is being knocked onto my behind in the kitchen by that dog, and wailing. One of my other earliest memories was the sense of elation I felt when Missy ran away. I still harbor an irrational hatred of black labrador retrievers. Hate them. I think Missy picked up on that vibe. But at least she escaped unscathed, unlike...

Cats I have known. First there was Jiggs, a mean as hell tomcat. We have a photo of 4-year-old me sitting on the porch steps with a fearful look on my face and holding an orange blur of claws and teeth at arms length. Jiggs was evil, and he ran away. Which would have been great, except that when I got a cat I liked, Sugar, Jiggs came back. And then Sugar had kittens. The first litter consisted of one sickly kitten that Sugar euthanized by crushing its windpipe. The second litter was healthier. We kept two, Snowball and Muffin (I try not to think about what happened to the other ones, it being the early 70s and the pound being just down the road). Snowball met an unfortunate end because he liked to sleep in the wheel wells of the car and my dad backed over him, leading to a super-traumatic ride to the vet and a giant guilt-trip for my dad. When Muffin--so named because we thought he was a she--reached adolescence, Jiggs reappeared again and in a Darth Vader-like moment almost ripped Muffin's tail completely off. Muffin lived, though, which is more than I can say for Sugar, who got hit by a car one Sunday while we were at church and dragged herself all the way home to die on the porch (the trail of gore proved that). How much pet-related trauma can one pack into early childhood? Quite a bit, if you have cats.

The luck with cats being somewhat sketchy, I moved on to fish. Killed the first ones by overfeeding them, then had a goldfish commit suicide by leaping from its bowl. Sigh.

On to gerbils. I hate gerbils. They're nocturnal, they aren't particularly fun, their tails come off at inopportune moments and they're nasty. Had two--ostensibly two males, until one of them gave birth and then ate the babies, yay--then Muffin ate one of the adults. The other one was understandably never the same. He or she finally perished of fits a few months later. And when I say "perished of fits" I mean it--I walked downstairs one morning to find Mickey (or Minnie--who freaking knew?) jerking and spazzing in the aquarium. Even though I was only nine at the time I was more relieved than anything. Gerbils suck.

Then dogs. Duffy was a great dog--a sheltie--who, along with Muffin, is really the only pet success story I've ever had. He died of heart failure at age 12. Muffin wandered off to die at about the same age.

Now I have Gertie and Kitana, the dog from hell and the most murderous cat in christendom. Between the random deer legs that the dog stashes in the bedroom and the headless rabbit corpses that the cat leaves on the porch, I think I'm done, petwise. When they're gone, that's it.

Although I've never tried my hand at reptiles...

Posted by Big Arm Woman at June 8, 2005 08:43 AM

We have 12 pets. Yep, 12. 3 dogs, 2 cats, 3 hampsters, a guinea pig, a bunny and 2 lovebirds.
tHE birds sit on a stick all day and look pretty all day. The guinea pig and the bunny poop in a cerain corner of their house, making clean up fairly easy. The hampsters are portable and can move- cage and all - to a friend's house if we are traveling. The cats are seldom seen, preferring to haunt the garage for crickets during the day and sleep on the sofa at night. The dogs come when they're called and will only poop in somebody else's yard.
So what's MY complaint?
My 4 sons.

Posted by: dave'swife at June 8, 2005 09:58 AM

So, read two little chapters from Vicki Hearne's _Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name_, the chapter on Washoe and the chapter ``How to Say Fetch!'' and see if you're more interested in dogs.

Or okay you don't like dogs, try ``Job's Animals'' in _Animal Happiness_, on where Harold Bloom went wrong.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at June 8, 2005 08:27 PM

Hey, BAW,

How about a nice serpent?

Bonus: you get to feed it annoying rodents. Downside: They're baby mice, and you have to buy them. (Partial upside: there are bulk baby-mouse sources online. No, really.)

Anyway, they are gorgeous.

Posted by: Michelle Dulak Thomson at June 9, 2005 03:48 PM

Hey, don't be so quick to say "never again".

For some of us old guys, owning a pomeranian is the only way we'll ever again have something warm and furry to cuddle up with at night!

Posted by: snopercod at June 10, 2005 04:26 PM

Oh yeah I hear ya! We are now on death watch around here too. We have gone from 13 cats (well 8 of them kittens that found other homes) to just two. I refer to them as dead cats walking. When they're gone, as much as I love them, they won't be replaced. Time for some me time again!

Posted by: cooper at June 13, 2005 02:11 AM

Between the recent death of our last cat and the recent potty-training of my last toddler, I am now responsible for no one's poop but my own for the first time since 1988. And I've got to tell you, it rocks.

But if you want to try out a reptile, just install a pet door. The cat'll bring you one to try, probably at 6 a.m. on a Saturday when you're trying to sleep. With luck, it won't be venomous.

Posted by: Lex at June 23, 2005 01:19 PM