My Family Pet Adventures
Sam and Suzie the goldfish
Sam and Suzie
As a young child, I was not particularly fond of animals. Nor was my older sister Chris. But our little sister Jamey loved anything that swam, walked on four legs, sported wings, sang in a cage, and so forth. We started out with two gold fish, Sam and Suzie. I was mildly curious for about an hour when mom brought them home. We'd been at the mall, where as usual, my little sister Jamey had wondered off and out of the clothing store where we were stocking up on school clothes. We learned very soon, that when Jamey disappeared, the first place you looked was at the pet store, fish aisle. So, on this particular day, mom came out of the dressing room with me and realized our little Jamey Joy was missing.
"Oh good grief. Lori, would you go over to the pet store and see if she's in there looking at the fish?"
Now keep in mind this was in the early 60's. My sister Chris was assigned to accompany me and she was not a happy camper. She wanted the pleasure of going through the cashier line and impressing everyone behind her what awesome style and taste she had in clothing (gag me, please). So we arrived at the pet store, aisle 4, the fish. Little Jamey's face was all aglow with the fluorescent lights of the aquariums shining on her face. Ooo's and aaah's rang in the air as Jamey was held captive with wonder.
Chris, with hands on her hips said: "Jamey, what are you doing here? Come on, Mom's getting ready to pay for the clothes and I don't want to miss it."
Jamey: "Oooo, look at the blue fishy."
Chris, stomping her foot: "Forget the fish you dope, we gotta get back, don't we Lori?"
I was mesmerized by the blue fishy too: "Uh huh."
Jamey: "Oh, isn't the little purple fishy cuuuute."
Chris: "I'll give you something cute, now come on."
Grabbing little Jamey's arms, we hauled her back to the department store. Chris snarled and lamented all the way. Mom was standing outside with all the clothing folded and bagged, ready to take home and put in the closet. Chris was irate. "You dummy, because of you, I missed the buying part."
Mom began to scold Jamey for wandering off. Jamey, cute thing that she was, somehow charmed Mom with tales of beautiful fishies at the pet store. Forty-five minutes later we pulled in the driveway, hauled out the clothing purchases, a new little fish bowl, some rocks, and a baggy with two goldfish swimming claustrophobically - Sam and Suzie.
I enjoyed watching Sam and Suzie about once a week. And why Chris and I had to change the water is beyond me. To this day cleaning a fish bowl or anything to do with live fish grosses me out. The day of infamy soon came, though. We all stood around the commode ceremoniously, ready to say farewell to our fallen fish comrade, Suzie. Tears streamed down Jamey's face. Even Chris wept quietly. I was ready to lose my lunch thinking that soon that little fishy was going to be swimming in the dark abyss of the sewer system. The only thing that was missing at this funeral was the playing of taps and the folding of the flag. "Good riddance," I thought.
Missing his mate desperately, Sam's demise was soon to follow.
The nameless twin turtles
Then there was the time we went to the mall for a little wading pool. We were in the pool store, and once again, Jamey made the great escape. Chris and I rolled our eyes when Mom realized that Jamey was gone again and said "Would you girls mind...?" There she was, in the pet store as usual, this time in the baby turtle aisle. Now I found these little creatures quite fascinating. Their little heads and limbs would withdraw into the shell and pop back out again. How cool is that? Mom bought two that day, plus the little turtle bowl, the turtle food, and all sundry of turtle essentials.
I don't remember what we named the turtles, but we kept them on the buffet and the whole family enjoyed them immensely. One morning, Mom got up and went to feed the turtles (ever notice that all of Jamey's pets were cared for by the rest of the family?) and noticed they had expired. "Hmm, I wonder what's going on?" Mom said. She turned one over and there was a little slit on his belly with a trace of blood. "Oh my gosh, whatever could have happened?" She flipped over the other little guy and he had the same exact wound. We never found out for sure what happened.
Duck A'la Jamey
One weekday afternoon, my sisters and I were visiting my aunt. My mom and my aunt went out somewhere and left us three in the care of our cousin Nancy. Chris and I were in the kitchen with Nancy, intent on something or other and in walked three year old Jamey with her hand vise gripped around my cousin's pet duckling. Ducky's head was flopped over to the side, and there were deep indentations of Jamey's fingers around the little duckie's upper body. "See, isn't he the cutest little thing?"
"Oh my gosh, Jamey, noooooo!!!" said cousin Nancy. But it was too late of course. R.I.P. little duckie. At least he went out being loved to death.
Our parents thought it would be really cool to get us a small animal pet in a cage. Enter Jose, the Guinea pig. Now there's a cool pet. Why was he cool? His nose wiggled 24/7, he had buck teeth, you could see and hear him crunch his food, we could feed him by hand, and he had a cool name. I have no idea who named him, but this was in the 60's and I'm fairly certain he was named after the comedian, Jose Jiminez.
Every morning at the very same hour, we heard a piercing chorus of whistles and screeching. Jose was hungry, and he was not a patient waiter. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. How many pets call for their supper? The whistles were so annoying that it was very effective in getting his meal, NOW! Mom and Dad got sick of it after awhile. Cleaning the cage got to be a real chore. He constantly flicked the sawdust out of the cage so we had to clean the whole blamed area. Thus, another fond farewell to a pet.
Ralph was our first reptile. He was a horned toad. Pretty boring, Chris and I thought. But Jamey and my mom thought he was the greatest thing to come along since peanut butter and Jelly. I just didn't understand. What is so exciting about a living, scaly, bug-eyed creature who never moves, never blinks, and just sits there acting like a stone?
The only thing that was at all interesting about Ralph, was that when he went to eat his food, he would get a little bite, and then sit there for hours with the little food thing sticking out of his mouth, for hours I'm telling you. My mom and Jamey would just howl with laughter. Chris and I would glance over for a moment, look at each other and go "Let's go play some record albums."
When Jamey introduced her Ralph to visitors she said "I'd like you to meet my horny toad Ralph." You can imagine the reactions.
The day Jamey brought Baby into our quiet, happy, home, a war began between Chris and Jamey that took years to settle. Baby was a hamster. I personally think Jamey privately coached him on how to escape. After all, she was a master of escape herself, though she was older now.
Baby constantly got out of his cage. No matter how tight we locked him up he got out. Chris was terrified of him. He was too small, too soft, too trembley, and too much like a mouse. We were all getting sick of having to look for Baby. One night, Chris and I were sleeping soundly. Jamey slept in the next room. All was quiet on the western front. All of a sudden Chris' screams of "Oh my God" shattered the still night. She jumped up on top of her bed and kept saying, "Oh my God, there's a bird in my bed."
"A bird?" I said. "How can you have a bird in your bed?"
"Cuz, I hear it chirping and moving around under my covers."
Sure enough I did see some movement under the sheet and heard some squeaky, chirpy sounds. All of a sudden Baby's little head popped out. I could swear he was grinning from ear to ear.
"Oh my God, I don't even !@#$-ing believe this. It's Jamey's !@#$-ing hamster. JAAAAAMEEEEY!"
Chris snatched up Baby fearlessly. Baby needed a diaper and quick. She stormed into Jamey's room where Jamey was comatose. I will spare you the expletives, but they were so loud and profuse that Mom and Dad ran into the room in various stages of undress, wide eyed and wild haired and saying "What? What's happening?" Chris told them very colorfully what happened, all the while she is yanking on Jamey's hair trying to wake her up. When Jamey was finally able to sit up and focus, she suddenly saw little Baby's cute head popping out of Chris' fist. As if she could not hear the cannon like volume of Chris' rage, without missing a beat Jamey said, "Oh hi Baby. Come to Mommy."
Mom and Dad had to restrain Chris from beating Jamey to a pulp. We dragged her out of the room while she screamed threats of murder if Baby ever stepped one furry little paw in our room again. I don't know why Chris is so inept at expressing how she feels.
Baby was the last pet we had as a family. Soon, Chris and I were married and out on our own. My parents split up and Jamey and my mom lived together, enjoying their weird cats.
When my first little boy Kenny was about 2, we decided we should get him a little puppy (I know, we were first time parents, what did we know?). I don't remember where we got him, but we found an adorable little black and tan puppy of a varied mix. Kenny named him Ernie, his favorite Sesame Street character. Little Kenny loved his puppy. Since Kenny wasn't quite potty trained yet, I was getting a little stressed trying to keep both puppy and boy from wetting and soiling everything.
One morning I got up, made breakfast, and called Kenny to come eat and bring Ernie so I could let him out to do his business. Kenny came out and sat at the table with a very slight, impish grin. There was no puppy.
Me: "Kenny, where's Ernie."
Me: "Kenny, did you hear me? Where's Ernie?"
Kenny: (shrugging) "Don't know."
So I set out on a hunt for little Ernie with the pea sized bladder and colon. I looked under every stick of furniture, every closet, every bathroom, every nook and cranny in Kenny's room. Kenny finally walked in and sat down on the bed, smirking with breakfast all over his face. "Kenny, you tell Mommy where Ernie is right now or I'm going to..." something, I don't remember. Kenny waited several seconds, thinking, deciding. He rather reluctantly went to his dresser, opened the top drawer, lifted up all the pajamas and pulled little Ernie out. I was so mad I couldn't speak. I took little Ernie into my arms and glared at Kenny. He stared back up at me, half impish, half stubborn. I could just tell by the look on his face that he was saying, "Gottcha!"
Kenny was a rather secretive little boy. He loved to hide from me.
Ben and Scotty ready for a walk
Ben came to us via a neighbor friend. I don't know what breed he was. In fact I think he was some sort of mixed breed, but he was short haired with golden, brownish hair. He had a great personality and the kids and I loved him to pieces.
Hubby, however, was not particularly fond of animals. Ben knew the minute he met my husband that he was not appreciated. Thus, the war began. My husband worked nights. So the kids and I got up for breakfast around 7a.m. and got ready for school. Hubby would come home just as the kids were heading off to school. We'd sit down and I'd watch him eat breakfast and listen to his stories about work. Then he'd yawn and head off to bed.
One morning I heard him take God's name in vain, which really irritated me, and off he went in a rage. I ran into the room to see what all the commotion was about and he pointed down to his side of the bed where a big puddle of dog pee was soaking into the sheet.
Ben looked scared poopless and ran out the bedroom door. I followed him out, let him out in the back yard, and blocked the doorway so my husband couldn't get out and strangle him. A few days went by. Hubby and I and the kids went out somewhere for a few hours and came home. Hubby went into the bedroom to lay down for a nap. I heard God's name again and hurried in to see what was going on. My husband pointed down at his freshly laundered work clothes sitting on our chest. Dog pee was pooled on them and piddling down the sides of the chest and on to the carpet. I ran out of the room with my hand tightly wrapped over my mouth, into the garage and doubled over with laughter. Ben was not going to put up with being ignored and slandered. Or perhaps he was marking hubby as his territory. I don't know, I'm not a dog expert. Ben soon found a new home. God bless him, I miss him.
Our ill-fated mouse
Our son Troy adored animals. He should have been my sister Jamey's son. He had a variety of pets while growing up. My husband liked small creatures who couldn't pee on his stuff. So he got Troy a little white mouse. Troy loved his little mouse passionately. He held him and played with him, groomed him, fed him. Never was a little mouse more loved and cared for. One day little mouse got out of Dad's hands and the little guy streaked down the hall faster than lightning. He made a left into my husband's and my bedroom. In an effort to contain him, Troy slammed the bedroom door. We heard the sickening sound the Mouse's demise. This is not a funny story. It was so awful, and poor Troy fell to pieces. Weeping and wailing he kept repeating, "I killed him, I killed him." We all stood around Troy and his mouse weeping. It was gut- wrenching. What a way to die. What a way to lose your pet. I can't even stand to remember it.
For some reason, one time we got a cat. A black and white cat, pretty enough, I guess, but I am not a cat lover, nor was anyone else except Troy. Troy couldn't come up with a name. We thought about it for days. Meanwhile, all this cat did was meow. It wasn't a sweet kitty meow, it was a whiny meow. We could never figure out what he wanted. It drove us all crazy. Dad announced one night at the dinner table while the cat was rubbing against his leg whining endlessly, "I've got a name for the cat, Troy." "What is it Dad?"
Ted the vile sewer rat
Ted was the vilest pet we ever had. Ted did not have one redeeming characteristic. Ted was a rat. A big, fat, gray, bristly sewer-looking type rat. A neighbor boy's parents said he had to find Ted a new home. Troy, my pet loving son, brought him home with a glass aquarium type house with all the sawdust stuff at the bottom, and a cache of pellets to eat.
I shuddered so hard when I saw Ted I felt my brains jarring against my skull. "NO! No, no, no, no. We are NOT having a sewer rat for a pet. Send him back, no way. Ain't gonna happen." "Mom, mom, mom, he's not a sewer rat, he's just gray. See?" they said, stroking his long, rodent nose, "he's so sweet." When Troy kissed him I almost vomited in revulsion.
"Get to the bathroom and wash your mouth. How can you kiss a sewer rat? GET HIM OUT OF HEEERE."
Enter hubby. "Now dear, he's a nice pet. He doesn't bark, leave gifts on the carpet, and his food is cheap." I was outnumbered.
We kept Ted's little glass house on the floor next to our antique sideboard. No way in H-E- double toothpicks was he going to reside on a table or counter in my house. Knowing how repulsed and outright terrified I was of Ted, my three sons found a new amusement to while away the hours. I would sit at the kitchen Island on my stool, drinking my morning java and the newspaper. Suddenly, Ted was thrust on my back, digging his ugly, vile, sewer rat nails into my back, and nosing his way up to my neck. This was followed by gales of laughter from my boys as I screamed and squealed and stomped and shook until I nearly had a heart attack. I have never been more terrified and grossed out as when they put Ted on my back. This went on for months. Dad thought it was hilarious. I learned to drink coffee and read the paper in the bedroom when the boys were around.
As we lived in a rural area, replete with wild rodents such as mice and rats, it was not unusual to see a mouse every now and then scamper through the house. They were bold. One day mealy mouth, our whiny cat, was in the kitchen batting a little mouse around, oo stupid to actually kill it. The boys took the opportunity to catch the mouse. There was a lengthy discussion as to what to do with him because he was still alive. They had him upside down by the tail. One son had the brilliant idea to put him in the cage with Ted to see if they could cohabitate harmoniously. They lifted the lid of Ted's cage and dropped the mouse, head first into the cage. Little mouse never made it to the floor of the cage alive. Faster than lightening Ted sunk his razor sharp teeth into the mouse's jugular. I will spare you all the graphic, horrifying details of the mess this made. I could not believe how my own offspring and husband could stand over the cage and say "Oh, cool, look at that," with awe and grotesque curiosity.
That was the final straw. Now it was my turn to ix-nay the family pet. I actually tried to tell another mother what a wonderful pet Ted made. She didn't buy it so I sprung Ted into the forest and I am happy to say we never saw his ugly sewer face again.
Whiskers and little Jake
When are oldest two boys got into their teens, and our youngest was about 10, we all decided we'd like to try having a family dog again. I was apprehensive only because we'd yet to have a dog my husband liked. Yet, he was the most enthusiastic of all. One day he gathered the kids into the car and they went down to the humane society to get a canine companion. They were gone forever. I was very excited. Would they bring home a beautiful Golden Retriever? A Collie? An Irish Setter? A German Shepherd? A Lab? Boy, i just had a feeling it was going to be a really cool dog.
About 2 hours went by and I heard them pull up. Scott and my husband came bounding in all red cheeked and excited. "We got the most awesome dog, honey." In walked the other two boys with our new canine friend. They set him on the floor and I just stood there in unbelief. There sat this scrawny little Jack Russel/Fox Terrier mix. All I could see was his skinny, golden, trembling, ribs, and fox like ears the size of New York. "But...but...that's not a dog. That's a...thing. I wanted a real dog." Shame on me. To this day I am ashamed of this reaction. We named him Whiskers, for which he had many long ones, and within 24 hours I never loved a pet so much in my life. He was dearly, dearly loved by all and he and Troy were constant companions.
About a month into his life with us, my husband went down to the laundry room and saw that Whiskers had left us a gift on the carpet. Well, instantly Whiskers went from beloved companion to canine curse in my husband's eyes. When the kids and I went out later that day, he took Whiskers and dumped him off on the side of a country road about four miles from our house. When I came back home and he told me what he'd done, I was too mad to talk. The kids and I refused to talk to him and were very upset.
Next day, Hubby went to work. Usually, I would not have stuck to my guns, but in this case, it was the dogs safety at stake, and the heartbreak of my boys. I put an ad in the local paper and about four days later my husband came home from work and there was Whiskers, sitting in Troys lap, looking forlorn and betrayed. My husband was stunned and said, "How did he get here?" I told him how we got Whiskers back and that I would not tolerate anymore abandoning of pets, especially Whiskers. Fortunately, my husband and Whiskers became dear, dear friends. He was our most beloved pet of all time.
One thing I loved about Whiskers was that he was very senstive to our new baby. Jake came along late in our marriage. The other boys were aged 11, 15, and 17. When little Jake was in his infant seat or bed, Whiskers dutifully sat guard. He knew this little person needed gentleness and care. Once little Jake learned to crawl, I had to watch him like a hawk, as he was fascinated with Whiskers. I walked in countless times to find Whiskers hide wrapped and enveloped inside of Jake's little fist. He would squeal with delight and pull Whiskers skin out. Whiskers sat there dutifully, leaning into the pull. Of course I rescued him. But never once did he cry out, try to get away, or nip at our boy. We taught our son as quickly as possible not to hurt the doggie.
That was our last, and most beloved pet. I miss him so.
A number of years later my marriage ended. Several more years went by and I adopted the most precious pet I've ever had in all of my life - Nellie. She was a collie I adopted from a collie rescue place.
Pets make life more fun; give us much comfort; and some teach us how to love unconditionally. I am pet-less at the moment, but I hope one day to have another.
© 2011 Lori Colbo. All rights reserved.