If you have been reading along, you know that I love birds. But you may not know that I also love dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, horses, fish, lizards, snakes, in fact it will be a shorter list to name what I don’t like. Give me a minute.
I like people, which is good because I work in a sector of local government dealing with people in difficult situations. More time than I can count, these same people have been overwhelmed and grateful for a small amount of courtesy and understanding. Sometimes just listening is a great gift to people.
I have had dogs in my life as long as I remember. At the age of 4 or 5 I pretended to be a dog, and my mom obligingly put me to sleep on the back porch with the other canines. Luckily when I decided I preferred a people bed, I was easily able to climb over the gate and go to my room.
I loved cats so much that I tried to hide a kitten in the back yard. He was a pretty black kitten, and I had a collar and a rope. I staked him out back. I named him Midnight. I had lied to the man who was finding homes for the kittens, and told him my mom said it was okay. Within an hour of my bringing the kitten home, mom found out about him, and returned him to the original owner.
This history should tell you that I had an addiction and my mom didn’t help me get over it. I also had an addiction to reading, especially animal stories. I read a book about a boy who saves a mountain lion cub and raises it. The lion was named Tawny. I bugged my mom until she got me a ginger kitten that I could name Tawny. I read about Smokey the cow horse, but could never convince my mom that there was room for a pony in the bathtub. I read The Yearling, but there were no deer where we lived. I read Lad: a Dog, Big Red, and The Black Stallion books.
One of my aunts by marriage also loved to get pets like rabbits and ducks and Yorkshire Terriers. She gave us a rabbit, a beautiful black male, not sure what breed he was. We didn’t have a proper rabbit hutch, and as a single mom with little education, my mom was lucky to keep us housed. We did have an odd cube-shaped thing with wood frame and screen on one side, but no roof or floor. This became the rabbit’s home, a very tiny area I know now. Shortly after that, I begged three Easter chicks from my mom, easily obtained from the local feed store. They, too, had to live with the bunny. The weather turned cold, the ground grew frosty, and for some odd reason, one by one the chicks succumbed to a strange malady that left them flat and frozen on the ground. I finally realized the bigger bunny was using them to keep his toes warm during the cold nights. Poor chickies never had a chance.
My brother-in-law had a carpentry shop and one day a mixed breed puppy wandered in. She rolled in the sawdust, and earned the name Dusty. She was obviously a shepherd mix, and due to changes in circumstances she became my dog after several years. Adopting Dusty was one of the best things I ever did. I loved taking her down to Dog Beach, but she wasn’t so thrilled when I tried to go swimming. Dusty would swim out past me and try to push me back to shore. Over and over, she tried. I had roommates at the time Dusty came to live with me, Dana, Ted, and Dana’s 8-year-old daughter Keri. Their dog Miko got along with Dusty pretty well, so sometimes we all went to Dog Beach. Ted and Keri paddled out on a boogie board, and the next thing we knew, Dusty was following them. She did her usual attempt to push them both back to shore, and nearly drowned in the deeper ocean water. Ted and Keri had to come back to shore so Dusty would not die, and after that I had to hold her on a leash when they wanted to go out.
We took Dusty out to Borrego Springs one spring to view the desert wild flowers. We found a great hiking path, and followed it up to a cliff. Dusty never left Keri’s side. If Keri tried to look down from the cliff, Dusty would step between her and the edge. On this trip, Dusty earned the nickname of Our Tried and True Trusty Trail Dog Trixie.
Long before that I had roommates who were members of the local herpetological society. They had lizards and snakes. We lived in a condo in a formerly rural part of the world, and when gardeners found a king snake, some time after they tried to kill it by hacking at it, they brought it to my roommates. They set up a cage for the snake, treated the wounds, and fed it a mouse. I don’t know how many days later I was sitting in the living room reading, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a black striped shape slither across the dining room floor. The snake had pushed the top of its cage open and slipped out. When the roommates got home, they located and recontained the snake, putting heavy books on top of the cage. A day later, the cage was once again empty. And so the snake earned the name Houdini.
I had a boss whose husband worked for a local zoo as a reptile curator. He often brought home Galapagos tortoise eggs to incubate and hatch. They had an enclosure for the tortoises, and soon had a couple of good size herds. I loved watching them, especially the hatchlings. They were so adorable, and it was so hard to fathom that the tiny being would grow to such a size and live so long.
Animals have played a major role in my life for as long as I can remember. I cannot imagine my life without them. I may not have had the easiest childhood, but I remember realizing once that I hadn’t known I was a deprived child until other people started pointing that out to me. There were always dogs or cats around to play with, to learn with, to read to, and to just be with. If the Creator is indeed love, my life has been filled with the grace of heaven.