I guess the correct title of this post should be “family pets.” These are the pets I grew up with, cared for, loved, and in some cases had to make some difficult decisions regarding.
- Teddy–a pomeranian that my father bought for my mother before I was born. Teddy was around for a large portion of my childhood. Although to this day I’m still a little bitter that my mother had a painting done of the dog after his death. That painting hung in our house for years, even though there were no pictures of me or my brother.
- Cookie and Whitey. My mother hated cats. So what was the only thing I wanted for my 8th birthday? A cat. My parents got two so that they could play with each other, and I oh-so-graciously gave the unlucky black one (named Whitey) to my brother. I named mine Cookie because there was a Vietnamese girl in my class at school who had a younger sister named Cookie and I thought that was just the most fantastic name ever. A few years later, Cookie and Whitey
got tragically hit by cars on separate occasions and were secretly disposed of by my parents“ran away.”
- Sarge–a mutt that we bought as a puppy with the intention of making him into a guard dog for my father’s garage. He was supposed to be a border collie. Instead, he was just a mutt. I was so excited because I got to hold him on the drive home the night we got him. We found out the hard way that Sarge got VERY carsick. It was a long ride.
- Blaze–a retired barrel racer. My mother boarded him at a stable not far from our house, but when they stopped boarding horses, we had no choice but to have a 2-stall barn built behind our house. I was so excited. Every little girl wants a horsey, right? I found out quickly enough how much effort it took to clean up after the horse, unload sawdust from the truck, sling bales of hay, etc. Unfortunately, Blaze got his hoof caught on the fence, tore a tendon and never recovered fully. My mom had to have him put to sleep. If you’ve never felt the tremors from a horse hitting the ground 100 yards away from you, consider yourself lucky. I still remember how it felt.
- Peppermint. One day when my mom was at the hairdresser’s–who ran her shop out of her house–I saw the perfect cat. She had long hair and was gray and white striped. Her name was Peppermint. I fawned all over her. Before my mother had a chance to give “the look” to the hairdresser, the unsuspecting woman casually mentioned that she wanted to give the cat away because they had just gotten a dog and the two didn’t get along, but she hadn’t yet found a good home. I wore my mother down over the hour or so it took for her perm, and we went home with a cat. She turned out to be the craziest cat. Peppermint sat in the windows and meowed. On the few occasions she was allowed in the house, she sat on a chair at the kitchen table. My mother swore that the cat thought she was a human. About two months after we got her, Peppermint gave birth to one kitten (just one!) in my window sill. She wouldn’t take care of it and even though we tried to feed it with an eye dropper, it died a few weeks later. Not too long after that, Peppermint went to the vet one day and never came home.
- Heidi–a pomeranian mutt mix that we got at the Humane Society.
stray that ended up on our doorstep looing for food and ended up stayingcat we “acquired.” He got hit by a car (seriously, people in that neighborhood needed to slow the hell down) and then frozen in a snowbank. We had quite a surprise when the snow melted.
- Bridgit. Even though my mother couldn’t stand cats, she also couldn’t stand to see an animal in distress. One day my parents were taking a walk and there was a cat stuck on an island in the middle of a fairly wide but shallow creek. They saw it as they walked over the bridge and ended up rescuing it and taking it home. My mother named her “Bridgit” because it looked like someone “bridged it” by tossing it over the railing. Odd sense of humor my family has.
- Marshmallow. A beautiful husky that friends of my dad’s gave to us after the dog kept jumping out of their truck when they were leaving my dad’s garage. Marshmallow clearly wanted to stay with us, and the guys who let us have him had a farm with dozens of dogs running around so they didn’t mind parting with him. But Marshmallow ended up biting a neighbor kid (who was a brat and was viciously tormenting the dog and deserved to have his butt nipped), and my parents thought that it would be best to give him away to a good home
before the kid’s family sued us. A seemingly nice man who said he had a farm came to pick up Marshmallow in his truck after we placed an ad in the newspaper. Weeks later, it was still bugging her that something was just “off” about that man. We tracked him down (there was no farm by the way) and to make a long story short it turns out that he sold dogs to animal labs. By the time we traced Marshmallow down (after a full summer of legwork, going door-to-door and posting flyers everywhere throughout the county), it was too late. My mother had a nervous breakdown not long after that.
- Giz–a stray from the farm across the street. After my mother died, Mike and I brought Giz home with us. She’s our “baby.”
- Scruffy. My parents ended up keeping two of Giz’s kittens (and then promptly got her fixed), one of which was Scruffy. She was halfway between being short-haired and long-haired, but some patches of her hair were longer than others. She was a scruffy little kitten (hence the name) but as a full-grown cat she was absolutely beautiful. When my brother moved to Delaware, he took Scruffy with him. She ended up running away. I don’t think she liked the beach, although you’d think she’d be excited to have a giant litter box.
- Wrigley–the other cat we kept from Giz’s litter. I brought Wrigley back to Pittsburgh with me the fall after I graduated from college. Maybe it’s because I lived by myself at the time and she wasn’t used to a lot of noise or commotion, but she was definitely a “scaredy cat”–afraid of everything and everyone. We had to have her put to sleep when she was only 7 years old because her kidneys failed, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. She was the first pet that had been all mine. And that was the first time that I had to make the decision all by myself to have an animal put down.
- Guinness. Scruffy had had a litter of kittens that were severely deformed (hello, inbreeding!) and almost all of them ended up dead. Some died on their own. Some Scruffy dropped off of a table in our basement to break their necks–I think she knew they had problems. My father drowned some of them (which I didn’t find out until years later and it still makes me angry), although he said he cried the whole time and would never be able to do that again. The one survivor of the litter was Guinness. She made the trek back to Pittsburgh, too, to live with me. She was only a few weeks old at the time and was so tiny that she fit in the palm of my hand. She’s been called “little kitty” ever since. The only visible deformity she has is a broken tail, but from the beginning she’s been my “problem child.” She fell out of a third-story window when she was a few months old and broke her leg. After a few weeks in a hot pink cast, I took her back to the vet to get her fixed. When I took her home, the vet had said that she’d be lethargic from the anesthesia. Within 2 hours of being home, she was jumping up on windowsills and running around like crazy. She ended up tearing open her stitches and ended up at an emergency vet to have her stomach stapled and a cone put on her head. She was always a shy, timid cat around other people, but after Wrigley was put to sleep, she started to come out of her shell. She turned 10 years old last fall and is just now getting to the point that she’s able to tolerate being in the same room with anyone other than Mike and me.
So that’s it, except for the miscellaneous goldfish that I won at the county fair over the years and the 5 baby snakes I had in college. The goldfish never lived very long. And the snakes? They escaped one day and before I could get them, they crawled into the ductwork and were never seen again. I’m still friends with my college roommate, but she still hasn’t fully forgiven me for that one.