Thursday, 30 December 2010

Creature Comforts

Essays in this chapter, the last post about Simple Pleasures, include:

Grooming the dog
In pursuit of the purple emperor (watching butterflies)
Porcine pleasures (pigs, apparently, make good pets?)
Lambing at Wimpole
Walking the dog
Collecting the eggs
In praise of zoos
Owls at night

Other posts about this book can be found here:
I can tell you that Brits really love their dogs; I think that every time I see someone huddled up in a raincoat, shoulders hunched against the cold and wet, walking their dog, morning and evening.  It's a common sight.

Strangely enough, allotments 'gardens' aren't always given over to growing food or flowers, some allow poultry and some folks love their fowls.  Pigs are also said to make marvelous pets and lambs bouncing around in the spring are adorable, but I don't want to own any or be responsible for them.  Still, I know that whether grooming a pet or observing an unusual creature, there is a lot of pleasure to be had from animals.  I only have to think about warm, furry puppies and I feel better.

I love dogs and would love to have one again.  I'm just not certain we're in a position to be completely responsible dog owners just now.  We enjoy talking about the possibilities, though.  Bill favours Jack Russells because they are clever and small.  I think Golden or Labrador Retrievers are the best friends in the world, they are so good natured.  We recently read that the retired greyhound/ whippet/ lurcher charity near us need help finding homes or fostering dogs, because of the cold weather.  Once I took a dog, though, I'm certain I wouldn't wish to give it back.

I would have to learn to walk it, mind.  For all my years in the States, the dog was just let outside in the back yard to its business.  Now that ours is all brickwork or vegetable garden, that wouldn't work here.   The neighbours have a King Charles Spanel who is so fat and lazy they have to drag it down the street.  I worried that he was too old and tired until I saw him springing up the street on the return.  He's just a homeboy, I suppose.  Other neighbours have a grand-dog that their Audi-driving daughter drops off each morning.  It's a huge short-haired black ball of muscle, some sort of bull dog, named 'Lulu'.  With a name like that I think it should be required to sport a pink tutu, or at least a pink collar.  Lulu drags Sarah down the street twice a day.  Sarah says it's great exercise. 

I've had three dogs that were mine.  One was Pepe, a toy poodle that I got for Christmas when I was 7 or 8.   (His registered name was Mon Ami Petite Pepe - nauseating, isn't it?) He didn't last long.  That summer I was hit by a car and spent a couple of weeks in hospital recovering from a ruptured kidney.  Upon returning home - to my Grandmother's as it happened - I contracted scarlet fever.  Things coming in threes, Mom had the sad chore of telling me Pepe had died from leptospirosis, a disease for which there was no vaccine back then. 

It was another couple of years before Mom's old friend, Jack, had me come out for a visit to see the puppies his Border Collie, Princess, had birthed.  Their father was a standard-sized silver poodle that lived nearby.  I remember riding home from his house in Shawnee, in the front seat of his van with a lap full of drooling puppies, three or four there must have been.  It was all I could do to keep them in my lap and me on the seat (this was long before the days of seat belts).  We kept the one that came out from under Mom's couch to play when I got down on the floor and called.  Being the daughter of a Princess, she was named Duchess.  Of course, Dutch and I were inseparable for many years.  She was without question the smartest dog I ever had.  I left her at Mom's when I moved away from home, barely being able to look after myself, fledgling bird that I was.  She died of old age in Mom's lap, one summer day in the back yard.  

My Golden Retriever was a gift from husband #1. Sunny was short for 'Shelley's Golden Sunrise', only he ate his registration papers before they got filed.  He was beautiful and just as good natured as Dutch, but not terribly smart.  Maybe the problem was that I worked full time by then and didn't train him soon enough.  He just didn't seem able to catch on initially and by the time he had sufficient attention span, he was so large that he was difficult to control.  I managed to teach him basic manners and left it at that.  Sunny was a homing dog, and when I divorced and moved to another house, he kept jumping the fence and going back to the old house.  I'd drive over looking for him and always found him on the front porch.  Eventually, he go the idea that I'd got custody of him.  

Unfortunately, this homing instinct struck again when we moved to Salt Lake City.  He disappeared only a couple of weeks after I'd started a new job, with no leave and 17 animal shelters in the vicinity to visit, I never did find him again.  I hope someone recognized what a great dog he was and took him for their own.  Once I got a new husband, a surprise 20-month step son to raise, was finishing my master's degree and learning a new professional job, not to mention keep up with the laundry, Sunny didn't get much attention, not nearly as much has he'd been accustomed to.  I never blamed him for leaving, and this is why I've never got another dog.

I've only ever had one cat, Mom's last cat.  He never really had a name.  She considered 'Sammy' as her last cat, a female, was 'Samantha', but Mom never really settled on a name for this lovely white cat.  He didn't seem to need one, somehow.  He was the most affectionate cat I've ever encountered - more like a dog, really.  He would be waiting for me in the front yard when I pulled into the drive after work.  He would sit in my lap with one paw either side of my face and rub his cheek against mine, purring.  He also liked to wake me up by chewing on my hair, which was more painful than cute, but still was somehow endearing. I had to find him a new home to come to England, as I wasn't prepared to put him in quarantine for 6-months, the observation period for rabies, about which Britain is quite paranoid.  Giving up Mom's cat was probably the hardest thing I did to embark on this adventure.
Mom's cat
I won't have another pet until I know I can be a better owner.  I've always believed that children should grow up thinking they were desperately loved, just as I did.  I think exactly the same about dogs and cats.

1 comment:

Rick Stone said...

You are correct, pets need a lot of love and attention. On the other hand I can't see being without one under foot. We had decided to not get anymore once our Buddy Joe is gone and we were doing the RV thing. (Buddy will be 10 years old in March.) Then Bridgit Jeane came along and we could not say no. Really don't ever see us without a Mini Schnauzer in the house even though we are working extra hard to correct some of Bridgit's bad habits she picked up in the first year of her life.