Growing Up With Pets: My Memories Of 10 Childhood Pets

11 Jun

yellow lab with tennis ball

Photo via flickr by derekskey.

As if having seven children wasn’t enough for my parents, it seems like they could never say no to a new pet. And with seven kids, if one kid gets a pet, another one starts crying for one too. That’s how we ended up with two ferrets instead of one (I was the crier). We had lots of pets growing up, 10 of them are memorable for me:

1. The Ferrets. How it came about that my parents ended up at a ferret farm buying a ferret, I don’t know. But as soon as my older brother had a ferret, I cried and cried for one too. I picked out a fat, lazy, white one and named him Rusty. My brother’s ferret, Nipper, was slim, active and looked like a typical ferret. Many other ferrets followed, but Nipper and Rusty were the first. Ferrets are cute, stinky (some same musky) and sleep a lot. We used to carry ours around in a backpack as they slept. They hopped sideways and made squeaky sounds after we gave them baths with baby shampoo.

2. Butch, The Guinea Pig and his jailbird wife, Mathilda. For some reason, as kids we had a great disdain for hamsters and gerbils. Instead we had guinea pigs. We had a beautiful orange and white long-haired guinea pig named Butch. We pretended that he didn’t have a mate because his girlfriend, Mathilda, was in jail. We’d have Butch talk on the phone to Mathlida in jail. When we got a female guinea pig, the ever-absent Mathlida was paroled, and there was a joyous reunion with Butch. I have no idea how we came up with this stuff. Kids and imaginations are incredible things.

3. The Tarantulas. My older brother ordered these from science lab or something. They were giant and hairy, and well, tarantulas. Luckily, the ferrets seemed to like to get into their tank and eat them. That put an end to the tarantulas.

4. Dix, The Budgie Parakeet. I got Dix for my tenth birthday. To French speakers that makes his name very obvious: Ten. He was also the first in a line of many budgies. For my 22nd birthday, I was going to get a fish for my apartment. Instead I had too many drinks and picked out two budgies at the pet store. More than ten years later, one of those budgies is still alive. Oh, a fish would have been so much easier…

5. The Chameleons. Another one of my older brother’s random-animals-in-a-tank ventures. They escaped one summer, and we’d see them around – green in the grass, brown on the weathered shingles. I still have a fondness for little lizards.

6. Sebastian, The Hermit Crab. I don’t know how a hermit crab can be friendly, but Sebastian was the friendliest hermit crab. He had a companion whose name I can’t remember because he was not nearly as friendly. I loved Sebastian. Then my little sister took the two hermit crabs out to play and promptly forgot them outside. She left them baking in the Southern sun until there was nothing left but a shriveled bit inside their shells. Oh, little sisters.

7. Circe, The Chicken. Circe was all shiny black. I was into reading Greek mythology at the time if you couldn’t tell. I sat and watched Circe nestling in the grass until, all the sudden, out popped an egg. That was something crazy to see as a kid. The ferrets lived next to the chickens and when there was a commotion in the hen house we knew the ferrets had weaseled their way in there. The ferrets didn’t bother the hens or the eggs. They just wanted to sleep curled up under the hens where it was warm and cozy. The hens did not approve.

8. Jacques Cousteau, The Cat. I’d grown up with cats, so when I graduated from college and got a job, it seemed like a cat was a good idea. I adopted one from a shelter. When I moved, the cat went on vacation to my parents and disappeared. We thought he had been eaten by a fox or coyote, but a year later we saw a town publication with a photo of an elderly woman and a cat. That cat was definitely Jacques Cousteau. Maybe all black cats look alike, but I could tell it was Jacques. I was happy to know he wasn’t eaten, and did not want to disturb his happy life with the elderly lady. So long, Jacques.

9. Snowball, The Yellow Lab. I think all kids have a special place in their hearts for the dog with which they grew up. We got Snowball when I was around eight and he died when I was in college. Man, that was sad. He was the best definition of a dog – ever-loving and comforting.

10. The Fish. We had lots of fish. Guppies that had babies that then got eaten. Black mollies. Angel fish. A skeleton fish named Bumpy. But I really loved winning goldfish at the state fair and bringing them to a happy home for a week. They never lasted more than a week, but it was a happy week.

 What’s your favorite pet memory?

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