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.


  1. we are sort of sitting on the fence right now in the pet dept. we thought a gecko would be cool but Jonam? not so interested. our evil cat, Louise, is not coming back to live with us and Silas, my birthday gift from two years ago, isn't either ... my parents got way too attached and when we visit, the cat hisses at us anyway. so much for respect.

  2. Poof. How cute. My mom told me that when I was 2, she ran over our cat in the garage and when I got out, I said, "Mommy, the kitty puked." LOL

    Glad there's no memory of that one.

    My cat Minga hinders our schooling, too. She loves my son and seems bent on distracting him. I have to chase her off all day.

    However, when it comes down to it - I love them and wouldn't have it any other way.

    I draw the line on the dogs, though. My neighbor's dog is enough for me. He barks all day and night.

  3. I sometimes think about a no pet household....but I wouldn't trade our zoo for anything....

  4. I love the Lollypop Farm story! :-) We are currently pet free due to allergies. But kitties are my favorite. I had several growing up.

  5. Lollypop Farm - what a funny story!

    I agree that pets are important and I can't wait until we can enjoy a few. I'm thinking that maybe I could handle something in a tank right now - we'll see :)

  6. Loved the story about Lollypop Farm!!!


  7. I had aquariums when I was younger... several at a time... and I also went through my share of hermit crabs, gerbils, and guinea pigs. I never had birds because my Mom really didn't like the idea of them "flapping their wings and spreading their germs all over the house."

    I've always had a dog (one at a time) but never cats until I had my own apartment. Then I tried a kitten, and it was OK, but I'm really not a cat person at heart. We have a cat and a dog now, and a few aquariums.

    In college one year, I tried a hamster. It was the only pet I ever hated. I named it "Spaz" and it would always bite everyone. I got tired of him and so one day in the middle of December I brought him outside of Sutton Hall to the wooded hillside that went down to the canyon. I just let him go. The last I saw him, he was crawling off over some brown leaves, in the cold night air. Bye bye, Spaz. :) I kept waiting for a giant, vengeful, mutant hamster to appear on campus later, but it never happened.

  8. I agree that pets add depth to your family life. Plus, I think losing pets (which inevitably happens) helps prepare our children for losses later in life.

  9. Oh, we had one of those evil cats in the past, of course she loved my husband and I but HATED everyone else.



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