How time flies. This week our family commemorated exactly a year since we lost our beloved Henri, our adorable Siberian husky. He died at the ripe old age of 14, but not a day goes by when he doesn’t get a mention in our house. Birdy particularly misses him. So to commemorate the first year since he died, I got some photos done up on a canvas and gave it to Birdy and hubby to remember him.
So now that a whole year has passed, it feels like to right time to think about another pet. Not that every kids needs a pet, but Birdy seems to be particularly interested in animals. She’s a bit of a Bindi Irwin at heart, without the annoying accent. Even before she was two I remember sitting with her patiently on the pavement for about 15 minutes while she waited for a rabbit to come over and say hello. Whenever we go for a walk she makes friends with the cats we meet. Just a few weeks ago we looked after our neighbours’ chickens and she just picked one up and held it without batting an eyelid. I could never do that. All that flapping and pecking just unnerves me.
I don’t know where she gets her animal talents from – certainly not from me. I’ve never been great with animals because we never really had them around when I was a kid. A number of my friends had a real menagerie in their backyards. I was always sooo jealous. I remember begging my parents for a dog for about ten years of my childhood. When my parents went away, I got to stay at my godmother’s house where I made friends with an old blue heeler – I just loved him. Perhaps my love of dogs comes from the fact that we had a Labrador when I was a baby. He was ‘put down’ when I was only nine months old and in spite of my continual pleading, my parents never caved in to my requests for a dog. You can see I’m still bitter about it.
The closest we ever got to a real pet was a blue budgerigar called Higgins who only survived for about nine months. There was also a brief period when we had a couple of goldfish, but that was pretty unmemorable. Probably the highlight of my childhood was the week we looked after a potty lamb for a neighbouring farmer. (Unfortunately the lamb ate rat poison and died about a week after he went back to his home.) Finally I gave up on the idea of a dog and begged for chickens instead. Dad said we could only get chickens if I would cut their heads off when their time was up. Needless to say, we never got chickens either.
Although we didn’t grow up with animals, there is a little bit of animal talent in the family bloodstream. My Dad’s sister runs a pony stud in England. A few years ago, my husband and I lived with her for about six months. While we were there, she commented off-handedly that my father had a gift for handling livestock. This came as a bit of a shock to me as I’ve never seen my father working with animals. I knew he used to be a dairy farmer and I know he used to do very well showing his dairy cows. I also remember hearing a story from my father’s ag college days about a bull that was supposed to be extremely aggressive. Dad had been told to wait while the lecturer got someone to help him move it but the lecturer never came back so he ended up just handling the bull himself. Afterwards, when he told the lecturer what he’d done, the lecturer nearly passed out because this animal was supposed to be so difficult and temperamental. I also remember my Granny telling stories of their dogs in England, of how well they were trained; they used to go out and catch the rabbits if they escaped and bring them back by the scruff of their necks, perfectly unharmed. In spite of all those stories, hearing my Aunt say that my father had a gift with livestock really surprised me – it’s always strange to learn something you didn’t know about your own parents.
But my point is that it’s certainly possible that Birdy could be naturally good with animals, like my Dad and my Aunt. And if she is then I’d like to encourage that gift. The thing is, we really can’t get another dog. Henri cost us a small fortune in vet bills, and because we’re renting, getting a dog in Sydney would really limits our options if we had to move. We can’t get a cat. I’m not a cat person. We can’t get a bird – I don’t like birds in cages. We don’t have room for a fish tank. We can’t get chickens because Birdy’s allergic to eggs which makes the whole exercise a little pointless. So that leaves us with the choice of a rabbit or a guinea pig. Guinea pigs are a bit too much like a rodent for my liking. I’d prefer a rabbit, but I hear they get a bit smelly. I feel like I’m in that picture book Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell where the kid orders every kind of pet from the zoo, but keeps sending them back until he finally ends up with the perfect pet: a puppy. Sigh. In my heart I know the truth: a dog really is the perfect pet. Anything else will just be a poor imitation.
What pet did you have as a child, or what pets have you got for your children? What are the pros and cons of each type of pet? Has it been expensive? What would you recommend? What’s the better choice – a rabbit, a guinea pig or neither?
PS. If you’re a lover of all things canine, check out my friend’s new dog blog, Pretty Fluffy by Serena Faber Nelson.