My Not-So Glass Menagerie: My Animal Family
An Animal Lover from the Start
Animals have been a part of my life as far back as I remember. While my parents and I lived in an apartment in Los Angeles which allowed no pets, my father's sister, who lived only a block away, bred bouncy Pugs and owned cages of colorful parakeets. As a toddler, I learned to love these creatures; many of my childhood memories are of them. My first word, in fact, was "ohnny" which was most certainly my young voice trying to utter the name of the dominant male Pug, Johnny. While not regular church-goers, my family knew much of St. Francis of Assisi, and I grew to appreciate his care for the animals. Most of my childhood books were wondrous animal stories, and I could never get enough. As an only child, I found friendship and companionship with these animals, fictional and not, and most of my toys were creatures of all sorts and shapes.
Once on my own, I began a personal, never-ending collection of creatures, an addiction, so to speak, to their company and beauty. Each pet I have owned has had its own personality, quirks and tendencies which continue to fascinate me. Their interactions are as complex as humans at times; rivalries as well as loving bonds exist between them. What began over 50 years ago continues to this day, and will continue, I am sure, until I die. I am simply unable to imagine life without the presence of pets-perhaps to care for me, at times, since their lives enrich mine in a myriad of ways.
And so if I may, I would like to introduce you to my current menagerie, a varied lot that share and enrich my life.
When my husband, son and I decided to move to the Eastern Sierra town of Bishop, we really had no idea how very rural a community it was. What had initially been a plan to escape the dangerous conditions of South Central Los Angeles eventually became an infatuation that we have yet to get over. The beauty and lure of this area has made its impression on us all. Our first home was on the North side of Bishop, Mammoth Mountain and Mount Tom in view. My son was just beginning Kindergarten, as well as learning the art of persistence-he wanted a kitten. Now this was a rental, so financial arrangements had to be addressed, but without too much resistance on my or my husband's parts, we went to the local shelter and my son chose a pitifully small and weak-appearing kitten. According to the documents, the cat was in good health, my son was infatuated, so we took him home. My boy, Aaron, named the creature Rocky.
In the early years of Rocky's life he seemed determined to go through a number of his lives; he was hit by a car early on, lost a leg as a result, had terrible ear infections that persist to this day. His exploits ended early on, however, when he got in a cat fight so vicious that cats no longer leave these doors. Rocky is quite the grouchy old man these days, he is well-known for swatting at dogs seemingly for the heck of it. Rocky prevails as the most dominant creature that we own.
We acquired our first dog here in Bishop quite by accident. While enjoying a summer outing to one of the local natural springs, we saw a beautiful, lean black lab puppy scampering around a nearby trailer. I was horrified as I watched the pup's owner hit the dog with unnecessary force, and said so to my husband. We offered to take the dog off his hands, which he agreed to without a thought. Once home, Aaron named her Friday, and she has been everything that Labs are touted to be. Loyal to a tee is our girl Friday, obedient to a fault. Not too long ago, however, she began to disregard our commands, preferring to do as she pleased. Had we paid closer attention, we would have noted that she had gone deaf; I found this out quite by accident, and now it is we who need to remember not to call her, yet we still talk to her, every day.
When in fifth grade, Aaron decided that his mother needed a kitten all to herself. Kattan was thus brought home to me by my young son with 'please' in his eyes, kitten in his arms. What could a mother do? He had picked up this cat at our local grocery store on his way home from school, and, well, I was hooked. She is a lovely cat who has indeed been 'mine' since she set eyes on me. I believe this cat is addicted to me, she follows me wherever I go, often getting dangerously underfoot. At times she has been an annoyance, but I am blessed by her devotion.
Aaron was determined to name the next member of the family after a weekday, and it just so happened that we adopted him on my husband's bithday. A Border Collie mix, Birthday has been by far the most intelligent of our pets. He is quick to understand certain words, such as 'toy.' and when directed to find one, looks around a room in search of that very thing.
Recently, however, the dog has developed seizures, and 'goes down' for days at a time-obviously in a great deal of pain. Last November our veterinarian determined that Birthday's spine was fused, and unless we were willing to spend an inordinately large sum of money for spinal surgery, he would have to be put down. We said our goodbyes here at home, took our last photos of him, and my husband and son took him to the vet to be euthanised. Within 20 minutes, Birthday had regained his muscle control and my boys brought him home. He has recovered almost completely in only one year.
Ranger was not a chosen part of this household-he was, shall we say, dumped. In our backyard. Perhaps we were by now known as people who sincerely cared for our pets, and someone left him in our fenced yard-we'll never know of his origins. Aaron and I were the first to lay our eyes on this gorgeous young beast whose ears were far too large for his body. Convincing my husband to take in another animal by this time was quite a task. Once he allowed Ranger to show his playful affection, though, my husband couldn't resist, and we had one more mouth to feed.
As a wolf mix, Ranger is especially sensitive to his place in the pack, and shows his submissive behavior without fail when dealing with the other dogs. He has been with us four years now, and is still quite the pup.
Nemo is my familiar, though I am not a witch, he is my nemesis, my buddy and muse. We came upon this little cat over a year ago and he remains one of the most fascinating creatures I have ever had. From morning until night, he is a constant source of mischief, rattling away in cupboards I thought secured, and tearing around this domicile as if being chased by wily adversaries. He is far more intelligent than any cat I have ever owned, and far more watchful. His penchant for being 'in my business' is at times bothersome, yet always cherished
And so it Goes...
I plan on surrounding myself with animals for the rest of my life, and hope they remain, content, in my care.