Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Homeschool Memoirs: Pets
Today's theme at Homeschool Memoirs is pets: "Tell us your pet history. What was your first pet? Which was your most memorable? How about today? How many pets do you have? Do they help or hinder your homeschooling?"
My first pet, as family legend goes, was a kitten named Poof. One day he was there and the next day—poof!—he'd been run over in the driveway. The first pet I remember was our good mama cat Susie, who gave birth to a few litters before my parents took her to "Lollypop Farms." They said that this was a happy place where animals could run around free and happy. When I was in college and later and would tell this story to friends, they would laugh and say, "Are you serious? Do you seriously believe there is such a place as Lollypop Farm?" I was suddenly confronted with the idea that my parents might have used Lollypop Farm as a euphemism for euthanasia. This seemed uncharacteristic of my parents, but it did seem silly to believe in such a place. Imagine my delight when I discovered that Lollypop Farm is real and still thriving all these years later!
Anyway, as a child we had an evil cat named Chippy (Susie's spawn), two fleeting kittens named Bilbo and Gandalf, and a Toy Fox Terrier named Mandy. Back then everyone had pets. I don't ever remember knowing anyone who was allergic to cats or who didn't have a dog. People just had pets. It seemed natural to me that Dr. H. and I would have pets as soon as we were married, so we started out with three cats. These were really Randy's first taste of pet ownership, besides a bird he had in elementary school. When our cat Sebastian was killed, Randy experienced his first real taste of losing a loved one. This, I believe, is one of the great benefits of pet ownership. Dealing with the loss of a beloved pet prepares one for losing a loved one. Within a few years after that, Randy lost three out of his four grandparents.
Since then we've had an assortment of pets in our home. Our kids have buried one beautiful cat, Pudding; a couple of hermit crabs; and a hamster. We have a little pet burial plot in a corner of our backyard. Several fish have been flushed down the toilet. We currently have residing in our home: our sweet Australian shepherd, Daisy; two cats, Hamlet and S'more; Brooke the hamster; and Shelob, the tarantula (it resides in my son's room). Sometimes I fantasize about our home being completely pet-free: no food to sweep up, no litter box to change, no expense of food and vet, no dog to take out every morning, no jarring barking. And hindering our homeschooling? Yes, they do. Daisy's sudden sharp barking sends my head spinning, and the kitten tearing through the house like a Tasmanian devil is rather distracting.
But the benefits of having pets far outweigh the annoyances. They are good to have about, adding a depth to our family life that makes us even more grounded. And all that good responsibility, nurturing, and companionship that goes along with pet ownership—it's all true.