Monday, 30 July 2012


30 July 2012

If you share your life with kids, then inevitably, you will also share your life with pets.  And like most families, we’ve done the conventional pet thing.  Loads of dogs (currently just three).  Barring one, all of indistinct parentage.  It’s like a mystery package.  As they get older you get more clues as to their lineage.  It’s simply amazing how many different breeds can be visible in just one dog. 

We’ve also done the cat thing.  And we loved our cat until Grant found him sleeping on Luke’s head as a baby.  Grant never quite got over it and still has a general feeling of mistrust towards all cats.  He was convinced that a jealous rage towards Luke led our cat to take drastic measures and try and “off” our child.  I’m “happy” to report that our cat died years later of natural causes at a ripe old age – Grant restrained himself remarkably. 

We’ve also got fish.  Goldfish in the past, and now we have some breeding guppies, much to Amber and Cole’s delight.  Wisely, after our last male died, we never replaced him, so now it’s just a bunch of sibling spinster sisters in our tank. 

And would you believe it, in the past we also had little bunny rabbits.  However the problem with the bunnies, was the incredible inbreeding.  They truly bred like rabbits and from starting off with two, we eventually ended up with about thirty.  It was an epidemic of biblical proportions, but to be honest, it was not all bad.  Never before had our grass looked so good.  Lots and lots of “organic” fertilization, if you catch my drift and while the bunnies were still in residence we never had to cut our back lawn.

Naturally we’ve also done the obligatory hamster thing.  We started off with two – yet again we were duped – a male and a female.  Evidently even they bred like rabbits, but luckily the pet shop were happy to take the babies off our hands once they were big enough.  The hamsters were in fact Cole’s pets and the poor boy was in a bit of a dilemma.  They were absolutely identical.  As is the case with a new pet in the house, there was much excitement over choosing a name, and finally Cole came to a decision.  He named both of them “Popcorn”.  Clearly the boy is not well.  His reasoning was that he didn’t want one to feel left out if he never called it.  This way, he hedged all bets.  If he called “Popcorn”, then both would come running to him.  Obviously his plan was flawed, because hamsters don’t run to you.  Uh, duh!

And for a while, we even considered getting a little piggie.  We did lots of homework and research about breeders and where to find them.  We learnt about how intelligent they were and how easy to house train.  What they ate, how clean they were, the whole enchilada.  In the end, we decided against it and went with yet another dog, but long will the glow of the pig search live.  We had sooo much fun coming up with names for the porker we never got.  For a while we thought of something cute-sie, like “Babe”, or some such.  And then we thought of more quirky names like “Bacon”, “Pork Chop” and “Rasher”.  But by far, the most fun was had with choosing some unconventional names like “Shlomo”, “Mordechai”, “Heinie”, “Saul”, “Tamir”, etc.  You know – good solid Jewish names.  Very naughty, I know, but funny nonetheless.

We even had a humongous tortoise, aptly called “Captain Slow”.  He was simply gorgeous and a real old gentleman.  I think that perhaps he was an elderly statesman in a previously life.  He knew his name and followed me in the garden and would come to me if I called him.  He ate veggies from our hand and he was just so regal.  We got him rather unexpectedly from a neighbour, after I had mentioned loving tortoises.  We tried to get a permit for him after the fact, but was told by the powers that be, not to bother.  It would take years for the red tape apparently and they assured me that they don’t do house calls checking on “illegal” pets.  I still felt badly, but we had tried.  It did however seem very cruel to keep him confined to our small garden and after a few months, we decided that the humane thing would be to release him into the Nature Reserve.  I’m hoping that he met a lovely lady friend and is now enjoying his golden years.

But our most bizarre pet by far, was our pet squirrel.  It was a love affair.  In actual fact we had two squirrels.  The first one died, sadly and I can’t remember ever crying so much over an animal.  I was truly inconsolable.  We came by “Squeezel” rather unexpectedly.  My grandfather phoned me to tell me that they had had some bamboo cut down in their garden by the tree doctor and later found a little new born squirrel lying on the grass.  The racket had made the mommy flee and my grandfather didn’t quite know what to do and thought that perhaps I would like to bring the kids to come and see.  It was sooo cute!  His little eyes weren’t even open yet and the second I saw him, I grew a whole new heart.  My grandfather gladly gave him to me and we set off trying to find out what we should do with him.  I wasn’t even sure if there was a sanctuary or a rehabilitation centre that would take him. Eventually after much phoning, I got hold of a lovely lady, who informed me that they do look after baby squirrels, and that we should come over so that they could have a look.  And so off we went. 

She reckoned that he was about 2 days old and she said that they had a huge problem with people cutting down trees, as the squirrels were losing their natural habitat. Furthermore, once their mother had abandoned them, they would not come back in search for their baby.  Another problem, was the labour intensive care that new born squirrels required and then she asked if I wouldn’t perhaps consider being a “squirrel-kangaroo-mommy”.  I was sold!  Huge excitement all around.  We got all the right mootie, syrups and syringes and off we went.  Squeezel was just too gorgeous for words.  I had to syringe feed him every 2 hours and rub his tummy clockwise to help with digestion.  In fact, we were all in love.  And for the first few days, Squeezel did really well, but in the end, he had just come through too much.  We were experiencing an extreme heat wave at the time followed by a sudden drop in temperature, and despite the warm light left on at night to keep him warm, he simply didn’t make it.

I phoned the squirrel lady in tears.  Absolutely devastated.  But a few weeks later she called me and told me that they had received a baby squirrel and would I perhaps like to Kanga again.  For sure!!!  We named our second squirrel “Squiggle”, because her little tail looked just like a little curly squiggle.  She was gorgeous.  She was a few weeks old and her eyes were open already.  We all bonded with her instantly.  I still syringe fed her and she used to hold onto her syringe in exactly the same manner that a baby holds onto a bottle.  She lived in a pocket in my clothes, or in the back of a hoodie.  I felt a bit like Paris Hilton, or some such airhead.  Wherever I went, my little squirrel and it’s cage would come along.  At least I drew the line at matching outfits, but it was close, I tell you. 

After a few weeks she went on to solids and we marvelled at how cute she was all the time.  As she got older she eventually had free reign of our house.  We never locked her up.  We had bought her a little wooden box with an access hole and she lived and slept in there.  As one would do for a human baby, we squirrel-baby-proofed our house - packing most of our ornaments away.  She ate Jungle Oats for breakfast with the kids in the morning and had even been potty trained to a large extent.  As she got more adventurous, we took her out to a little tree in our garden (it's kind of like the squirrel equivalent of walking your dog) and she simply loved it.  As she got bigger we let her go to a bigger tree in our garden, but she still spent the majority of her time indoors or in someone’s pocket.  And not long after that, she would demand to go out every morning shortly after her Jungle Oats and morning ablutions, but still she came home every night.  She would literally tap on the door outside to be let in.

We were fearful of the fact that she was so domesticated.  She was not scared of either people or dogs.  Luckily she was fond of us too and always came home.  And then, all of a sudden, a strange thing happened.  We all got usurped in our Grantie’s affections by a squirrel.  The kids and I actually got quite jealous and the kids often mumbled about “Daddy loves Squiggle more than us”, or “Squiggle never gets in to trouble when she’s been naughty, but we do”.  Truthfully, Squiggle didn’t really get naughty, she just got busy.  She’d scramble up the curtains and lay in wait on the curtain rods, pouncing on a shoulder for a ride as you came along and she gnawed on absolutely EVERYTHING!  Nothing was sacred and “Squiggle never got into trouble”.  To this day, our house bears witness to Squiggle’s escapades.  Shelves, curtain rods, cupboards and tables all have gnawing marks.  And then one fine day, all of a sudden, Squiggle got a strong nesting instinct.  She took little pieces of material and what-nots from our house and made herself a little burrow outside.  For the first time ever, she never came home and sadly we never saw her again.  I like to believe that she met the squirrel of her dreams and is currently living happily ever after raising her beautiful squirrel babies.  I feel blessed to have had her in our lives and miss her still.  It’s been years later and we still occasionally find nuts that she had hidden away.  It was the sweetest, most unusual experience for us.

So I kind of feel that we’ve run the gamut of pets and I’ve been remarkably accommodating to everyone’s tastes.  I do however draw the line at rats – I simply can’t do those tails (eeekkk!).  And let’s not even mention the “s” word.  There will never intentionally be a reptile in my house.  Come to think of it, we’ve never had chickens or ducks.  And I wonder if silkworms count?  I absolutely love silkworms – I think it’s the smell and the way I get instantly transported back to my childhood.  Memories of clambering in Mulberry trees, ostensibly on the pretext of getting leaves, whilst actually gorging on mulberries and staining everything in sight.  My kids have completely given up on the silkworms and I’ve given up on the pretence.  They’re mine and I don’t get them for my kids.  And would you know, I still love Mulberries? 

Ooh, and what about tadpoles?  I used to love tadpoles when I was little.  However, not entirely sure about the whole transformation-into-a-frog-thing.  Perhaps dogs are the safest bet after all.  A bit boring and conventional, but hey – we’ve seen the other side already and can always tap into the unconventional pet market again, should we wish to do so.  I hear that little monkeys are waaaaayyy cute!



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