Thursday, February 09, 2012

Of Pets Gone Bye

Following the fantastic critical reception and blockbuster commercial success of my previous post, and at the personal request of notable fashion designer Shannon Armstrong, I have decided to write a follow-up that addresses the pets I/we have had, or at least those I can recall. I warn you in advance that the times, locations, names, and other details mentioned in this post are likely to be subject to correction.

In Innisfail, the first pet I can remember having was a dog (we’re dog people; only my brother has recently crossed over to feline fascination) named Buttons. For some reason this dog eventually ended up with our uncle who kept him for many years. Next came Herby, a smaller, short haired dog. One of my earliest memories is visiting the puppy farm where we acquired him with my dad. I remember watching this small but energetic pup running about and knowing that he was the one I wanted. Herby proved to be a loveable enough pet that I did, occasionally and for purely scientific purposes, drop from our deck. And that’s all I have to say about that.


Our move to Red Deer saw an expanding of our house pet related horizons as we branched out to hamsters and birds. I remember two hamsters, a smaller short haired one named Hammy (original, no?) and a larger long haired one named Goldie (in reference to it’s blonde coloring). I’m pretty sure all three children treated these poor creatures less than excellently (fuzzy memories of bouncing them on tennis rackets) and I imagine they died at some point in our “care.” The birds, on the other hand, budgies named Pepper and Salt, lived a life generally free from concern, high in their gilded cage. They too died eventually, but from what I recall was natural causes. We buried them in the back yard where their remains were later dug up by a neighbour’s sacrilegious cat.


The next pet I can remember was another dog, Kuma by name. A terrier of some sort with thick, curly, black hair. I remember how early on in our ownership of him he demonstrated his fondness for eating his own feces (see: Coprophagia). I seem to recall our family passing him off to someone else at some point, which also happened to the next dog, Sandy (aka Snoop), which my dad brought home from work one day. We only had her a short time before her proper owner was found. I also remember another pair of birds named Peep and Sky. Apparently Sky starved to death because Peep horded the food. I was never a big fan of keeping birds as pets.


In Swan Hills we briefly adopted a Doberman Pincer (was it a mixed breed?) named Dandy. The poor dog was put down not long after as it bit someone. This would be the last animal we would take in from the SPCA. During this time Jeremy had some fish (Big Mamma & Little Baby), a turtle (Tarzan), a newt, and some more hamsters (Smoky and the Bandit, I am not kidding). Shannon had a rabbit named Dilbert. I had to be reminded of these last few as I really don’t remember them at all. Molly was another dog we had briefly before giving it to our aunt for reasons I don't recall. Our next furry friend, however, 
would herald the pinnacle of our pet ownership experience. 

We acquired a new puppy, an incredibly cute Miniature Schnauzer that we named Becky. This dog was adorable, affectionate (perhaps too much so at times), and smart as a whip. We all loved Becky a great deal and she was a part of our family for several years. She was especially close to our dad, often waiting anxiously at the window for his return from work. Tragically, one winter (we lived in Airdrie by then) she was hit by a car and critically injured. We were with her in the animal hospital when she was put down. I remember hearing her horrible moans from the back when she recognized dad's voice. I remember 
petting her, feeling her body grow cold and rigid after the deadly injection. I sobbed uncontrollably for several minutes and we were all somewhat depressed for days afterward. Becky was a tremendous pet and I hope my first dog will be a Miniature Schnauzer as well.

Other pets in Airdrie included a chinchilla that Jeremy eventually released into the wild, and an albino gerbil named Snowball. 
Since then we’ve all grown up and moved away from home. Jeremy has gone through one dog (Tyson) and, as I said, is now into cats (Mocha and Latte). After a long hiatus (which I believe was, at least in part, a testament to his love of Becky), dad recently got another dog (Cocoa – maybe he stole the beverage theme from Jeremy). As for me, traveling off and on as I have been hasn’t been particularly conducive to pet ownership. But shortly after getting married in Osaka, my wife and I decided that we needed a furry friend in our lives. 

Technically we were not allowed to have pets in our apartment so we wanted to go with something small that could stay inside. We considered hamsters (too small and impersonal) and rabbits (too big and messy). Ultimately we decided to go with a guinea pig, which bring us to Dori. 
I had never owned a guinea pig and they didn’t seem to be widely available in Japan. We visited several pet shops but Takako wasn’t really drawn to the few that we did see. On the verge of giving up, I suggested one more visit to a pet store. Literally before we even made it through the door, Takako saw the guinea pig that captured both our hearts, a long haired Abyssinian with rare triple tone coloring.

We made the purchase and brought him home where, traumatized from the relocation experience, Dori sat pretty much still and silent for the better part of a week, barely eating or drinking. We were quite worried at first but a quick bit of research showed such behaviour to be normal and by the second week he was making himself at home. Guinea pigs make excellent indoor pets. They are relatively clean and quiet while being inexpensive to maintain. We were pleasantly surprised at how affectionate and personable Dori could be, and we both fell very much in love with him. 
Of course there was the one, small problem, when Dori accidentally scratched my eye leaving me completely blind for the better part of a week, but I try not to think about that.

As I said, guinea pigs are somewhat rare in Japan and Dori proved to be somewhat of a celebrity wherever we took him. Moreover, Dori must surely hold the world record for most traveled guinea pig. He has accompanied us around Japan (including a flight to Okinawa) and has now gone intercontinental in joining us here in Israel. Of course, he will also be going with us to Canada where we look forward to introducing our "son" to the rest of the family. In the meantime, he's enjoying his time here at beautiful Yad Hashmona in the Judean hills outside Jerusalem.

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