I like animals. When I was a child, we always had a couple of dogs or cats in the house (or sometimes both).
We also had a couple of horses at one point – but by that time I was an angsty teenager and didn’t want to be involved in the maintenance and upkeep of equines. Within a year I had moved out to go to college, so I didn’t really make a connection with or remember much about them. Don’t get me wrong – I love horses – they are fun to look at and pet, and I like to ride them from time to time – I’m just not a big fan of huge, stinking piles of shit and the mucking out of stalls and such.
My mother gave me a pomapoo puppy when I was in high school. She came to pick me up from swim team practice and when I got in the car, she had a Top 40 station blasting on the radio. This was unusual. My mother normally listened to things like soundtracks from musicals – not newer, popular music. We had to make a couple of stops on the way home and each time, she opted to stay in the car while I ran into the store to get what we needed. Each time, when I came out, the music was even louder. I became progressively more and more confused by her odd behavior. When we got home (by this time the radio was so loud that I was eager to escape the confines of the car), mom cheerfully yelled at me to “Go ahead! I’m just going to sit here for a few minutes. I love this song!”
What. The. Fuck? Who was this woman? Obviously an alien pod person attempting to lure me into a false sense of security and comradery!
I went inside the house and sometime after dinner, my mother contrived an excuse for me to go to my bedroom to get something and there, on my twin-size bed, was a box from which there were coming odd, snuffly, whining noises. When I took off the lid, there was Peppy. As I lifted her out to cuddle and let her give me a kiss on the nose, I noticed my family clustered in the doorway behind me, delighted at my surprised reaction. Apparently, Peppy had been in the back of the minivan with us on the way home that afternoon — and she was not happy to be in her crate. In order not to let the cat out of the bag (see what I did there?) my mom had to keep turning up the volume to drown out Peppy’s crying.
That is a good memory. Unfortunately, Peppy was basically eaten several years later by a rogue Great Dane who lived in our neighborhood. That’s not such a good memory.
I should pause here to let you know that if you are a member of PETA or a particularly soft-hearted animal lover, you may want to pass on this story. It involves more death. Perhaps I should have told you that earlier before I mentioned Peppy’s untimely demise. Sorry.
When I was in junior high, we were asked to be the custodian of three white mice in a cage – if I remember correctly, they belonged to a friend who was on vacation or something. We put them in my dad’s office – and my little brother, who was about two-years-old at the time, was entranced by them. If we couldn’t find James, it was a given that he was in my dad’s office, staring at those mice.
James was a smart kid (he still is) and before long, he figured out how to open the cage door by himself. The next thing you know, James was happily babbling to my mother about his new pet – holding out his hand to show her the white mouse he had scooped up out of the cage. The white mouse he had loved and hugged and petted and squeezed…to death. He was too young to realize that he was now toting around a dead, limp, rather crushed mouse. He was just excited that, after the difficulty he had in trying to capture it (I can only assume the three mice were running around the cage in a panic, attempting to dodge his chubby little hand that was flailing around trying to grab one) his chosen mouse had become still and compliant to his administrations of affection.
The mayhem did not stop there, I’m afraid. My dad’s office had a sofa-bed and one night I had a friend over for a sleepover. We opted to sleep in the office as the bed was large enough for two. We admired the remaining two mice, letting them run around on the bed, gently holding them, and petting them with the tips of our fingers. When it was bedtime, we placed them carefully back in the cage and, after some giggling and whispering, we finally drifted off to sleep.
In the morning, I woke first and got out of bed to make my way to the bathroom. I had a small bladder and I had already woken up once in the night and made the trip. As I walked towards the door, I saw something lying on the floor – something small, and white, and…furry. I leaned over to get a better look and then gave a little scream and gasp of disgust (a “scrasp” if you will). It was the very dead…and very flat..body of one of the remaining mice – who had escaped from his cage sometime in the night. Apparently, on my way to the bathroom in the nocturnal darkness – I had stepped on the mouse and smooshed him into the afterlife. A rather two-dimensional afterlife.
My family was very careful with the remaining mouse. His cage was reinforced to protect against any escapes and it was placed out of the reach of curious toddlers. We were diligent with feeding and watering and opted not to play with the last survivor during the remainder of his stay in the death house.
I’m pleased to report that he made it back to his owner alive – but for some reason we were never again asked to babysit mice…or other animals…by anyone…in the whole town.