Saturday, July 15

I grew up in an animal-friendly family. There were pets before there were children. My big brother was a seal-point Siamese called Mah Jong, aka The Coon; my Dad isn’t what you’d call PC. He’d share my bassinette when I was tiny. There was always a Siamese cat in the family while I was growing up, Mah Jong II, aka Baby Boy and Mah Jong III who was run over before we could give him his own name. And then there was Mephistopheles, Moof, an ex-breeding tom with dark blue eyes – literally the colour of lapis lazuli. Mum went out to get a kitten and brought him home instead, she felt sorry for the poor skinny thing and thought our house was a far better place.

There was always a second cat too. Meatball, Gunsynd, named after the Goondiwindi Grey. Mehitabel another Siamese and the only girl cat my parents ever had. She was a joyful thing who made you smile just to think of her, we coined the term Mitty Movie, to describe a movie that just made you smile. Then there’s Thing, another grey cat with wild yellow eyes. He was rescued from the feral pride that lived in my Grandmother’s backyard. There’s no Siamese living with mum and dad now, after Moof died Rastafarian, ‘Rasta joined the family. He’s a huge Abyssinian mum found languishing in a pet shop.

I carried on the Siamese tradition bringing home a half-Siamese kitten called Hieronymus, shortened to Harry. One of the first things I did when I moved into my own place was get myself a cat. Harry later went to live with Mum and Dad when I moved into a flat with no garden. He loved it on that huge tree-filled block and stayed even when I moved back to Canberra to set up house with Mr Brown.

Then came Sidonie, named Small because when she first joined us she was a small small ting. Not the seal point I had intended to come home with but a blue point, with cornflower eyes. Small was terribly lonely so along came Kismet, Toogie, a wee Russian Blue with a toxic bum. Toogie’s kidneys failed and Pingu the wonder cat joined the house. Again not the seal-point Siamese I fully intended to buy from the mad cat lady, but a lavender tabby oriental - meh, we love her.

But the pro-pet family didn’t stop at cats. First I was allowed goldfish, Tweety (I suspect a succession of Tweeties) and his friend Speedy Stephen Snail, to keep the glass clean. Then my Dad finally caved (only 4-5 years of nagging) and fulfilled my desire for a puppy, Dixie, a black and white bitsa. Dad convinced me she was a rare black and white corgi, the kind of puppy I actually asked for. He got her in a pub, she was going to be drowned, and brought her home in a sock. She was too tiny to leave mum really but survived to about 13 or so, blind, deaf & toothless but she lived a full doggy life. Dixie used to dive for rocks we threw in the river, hence her old-age toothlessness, and could change the course of rivers and streams with her sand engineering.

Many years later Amber joined the family, a daft Irish Setter who never really grew up and could run from one side of Canberra to the other in an afternoon. There were also chickens, Alice & Henrietta; ducks, George & Roxanne; budgies, Sailor, Scrimshaw and Twitfeatures; a pigeon, Walter; a rabbit, Bellamy; a ferret, Fairyfloss; and a pony (that took 12 or 13 years worth of nagging and winning a bet with Dad), Yarraman. And the mice, how could I forget the mice? Tumbleweeds, Derrymouse, Paleface and Shirleymouse (named by Dad for Ms Bassey).

How could we not be pro-pet people growing up with that lot? My sister has had a tribe of cats, Merv, Wilbur and Mia (a boy) the latest lot. And my brother followed in my Dad’s foot steps and brought home a tiny wee puppy that was headed for the bucket, Deah (head spelled backwards, apparently significant). Deah loved Moof, she slept with him when she was teeny wee and never grew out of her love for him. She’d run up and bowl him over with joy when visiting and Moof never ran just crouched and braced himself for the onslaught. Brother OJ has no pets at the moment but I understand he has a deal with his wife - she can have a baby if he can have a puppy! (I think she comes from a non-pet family).

Apart from ripping off the ghastly wallpaper, bringing Small home was pretty much my first action as a homeowner. But before that there were fish, axolotls and a Canary called Mike. Poor Mike, Small was the end of Mike. He did fill my days with song though, his happy but inordinately loud trills blasting me out of bed at first light.

Life without pets is pretty much unimaginable; I really do feel sorry for kids whose parents just don’t get it. I’m blown away by people who think pets are dirty or smelly and are creeped out or (worse) frightened by cats or dogs. Their children will never know the joy of a furry friend and will grow up with their parents’ prejudices and deny their own children a part of life that should not be missed. Hell, a bit of dirt never killed anyone, I remember my dad snatching a sausage my little sister had dropped from Dixie and handing it back to the sister, my Aunt was horrified but she was one of those no pets people.

I’m not sure teenagedom would have been survivable without a friendly dog or pony to weep on or cat to snuggle with when everybody else hated me (I was a teenaged girl, pretty much the most unlovable thing on the planet). Coming home to nothing at all is unthinkable. Being greeted at the door by a couple of furry purrers is a joy and lazy weekends reading the paper just wouldn’t be the same without a lapful of cat. Sure, pets teach you about life and the inevitability of death but I don’t think that’s a good reason to get kids a pet. A pet can be your only friend when growing up, certainly they forgive all and don’t care if you have pimples or don’t have the trendiest clothes or your mum won’t let you pierce your ears. And you can tell them all your secrets and dreams and they will NEVER TELL, much safer than a diary.

All this is a leads up to this, just too creepy an idea for words. Pets as products is a revolting idea (yes I know it’s not real, but the very idea!!!). That said I’m pretty sure if I saw a row of them at the shops I’d not be able to resist!


caw said...

Wow, a veritable menagerie! I would love a pet but for reasons previously mentioned, I am temporarily petless. I had very bad luck with pets as a littlie - they just used to disappear. I think I need to have a word with my mum about that ... oh how I yearn for a fluffball ...

Ms Brown Mouse said...

Poor you but best to wait until you return to Aust eh? You don't really want a neurotic american puppy or kitty really.
What I want is another pony but I don't suppose that will EVER happen now, sigh.

caw said...

Hmm. Could you buy a virtual pony? Not quite like the real thing, but a close likeness.

I sometimes remind my mother of all the years I wrote to Father Christmas asking (begging) for a white pony. I never got one.

I still tell her I have Pony Trauma after all these years. She thinks I'm kidding but I'm really not. LOL

Ms Brown Mouse said...

Mr Brown actually suggested I go riding at centenial park once a week or something - but then we ran out of money - buggerbum - perhaps that's an option one day ...
The unfulfilled desire for a pony can lead to a life of crime you know, I had a school friend who actually STOLE a pony, such was her yen.

caw said...

Nooooooooooooh. She STOLE one? I want to know her!! I bet she has a houseful of stolen ponies just waiting for new homes.
That is too funny!