I went over to my friend Chriss’s house today. She has two big dogs. One is a regal Golden Retriever with soulful eyes, the other a perky, curly Golden Doodle. The Golden Retriever laid at my feet. It felt comforting and familiar to be “watched over”.
I want a pet.
I know better though, I’ve just begun to trust myself with houseplants. I have the idiot proof kind. They droop, I pour water on them, they perk up.
It’s probably a good thing I don’t have children.
Anyway, we had all sorts of pets when I was growing up. One summer that is particularly memorable is the summer our dog Lady had puppies. Booyon and Benji. Mom said she didn’t see us for the entire summer because we were always outside playing with the puppies. We only came into the house during the day to pee.
My sisters and I LOVED those puppies. We’d run around the yard pulling what was once the pea green “sick “ blanket and the puppies would chase it. They’d run and tumble and were plainly and simply adorable.
We’d stick them in our doll carriages and I once even tried to fit Booyon into the Barbie Beach Mobile. They’d comply without complaint.
We’d wrap them in blankets and pretend they were babies. They’d run around our feet and bite and pull on our pant legs. Only once did we discipline those puppies, and that was only due to my carelessness. I regrettably left Barbie and Ken outside when I came in for supper. At one point I glanced out the dining room window, fork suspended in the air between the plate and my mouth, and watched Benji run by with Ken’s legs stiffly protruding out of his mouth. I dropped the fork and rescued Ken, but not before his plastic head had been punctured by pointy puppy teeth.
Along with the puppies we also had cats. One old mother cat, dutifully called “Mother Cat”, reliably proffered a litter of kittens every summer for us to play with. Dad would reach his arm into a hole in stack of straw bales and magically pull out a kitten for each of us to hold and cuddle. When Mother Cat started meowing Dad would then gently return each kitten back into its cradle of straw.
We had a number of cats on the farm. After Mother Cat came Beatrice and Vern. Beatrice was a dainty pretty grey cat who would catch mice and proudly leave them on the front door step. Oftentimes she’d catch a mouse, find Dad working in the yard, and deliver the mouse to him to snack on if need be. Vern, on the other hand, wasn’t right in the head. He was white with grey spots and a little grey “Hitler ‘stash”. And was as BIG and fat. For some reason he always ran into the rubber boots stacked neatly in the garage. He’d also always fall off window ledges for no apparent reason.
Dogs and cats and at one point during my childhood we even tried keeping fish. Mom and Dad bought an electric fish tank and two fish and placed the whole contraption outside my bedroom door. It all seemed interesting and exotic until I realized the noise the filter and pump system made a noise that seemed twice as loud at night than during the day. That was the year I learned to sleep with my pillow over my head and did so until my little cousin came over for a visit, turned up the tank temperature, and literally fried the fish. Needless to say no tears were shed.
We never did replace them.
After writing this I realize that I don’t necessarily want a pet per se. What I DO I want is the go back during those summers when these animals were a part of childhood innocence. A time of sunburn, skinned knees, dirty fingernails and the undivided and unconditional attention of another living entity. A time when there was no list of things to do other than to wake up, down a glass of milk, and go out in the sunshine to play with the puppies.