It has been a long time since I have written about our pets. When I was growing up I was not allowed to have any pets so moving to the farm with the opportunity to have them was a big deal for me. I have more than fulfilled my desire for pets having been a mother to several wild pets plus a number of dogs and cats.
Let me say this to begin with — when you have pets there is always sadness. Eventually our pets die and we must deal with it. I remember talking about pets in school with one of my classes. It was part of a health class. After sharing my experience with a pet that died I allowed anyone who wanted to share the experience with the class.
After that one father came storming in and told me “I was cruel” talking about pets dying. I had been teaching for quite a while so I will call myself a seasoned teacher. My reply was that it was part of the health curriculum and it was a part of life that we all will have to deal with at some point. I also prefaced my comments with the idea that it is better for a student to deal with the death of a pet before they have to deal with the death of someone close like grandparents or parents.
My first dog was a white German Shepard which we named Duchess. She was a very good dog, but she had a hard time on the farm since she had allergies. Gee, I could relate to that. In the end we ended up giving her away to some people who lived in town. She fared much better there. Incidentally, I on the other hand had to learn to live with my allergies.
When we moved to Hickory Heights my daughter got a kitten for her birthday. Kelly was badly injured when she was hit by a car and died a short time later. Jill got another cat which she named Mittens because she was black with white paws. Mittens lived a long full life.
We had another dog named Heidi. A friend found her for us and brought her home. She, too, was hit by a car by the barn and died. After that it was a while before we were ready for another dog. My in-laws had gotten a dog and there was another puppy there, but my husband did not want that one. Some friends knew about another dog that was related to the television dog, Max. When we went to see her, it was love at first sight.
Ebony went to the barn every day with my husband. She was a family dog, but really, she related to him. Eventually her hips began to bother her. As she got older and older it was more of a problem. That is the thing with German Shepards. Often, they have hip problems. It was a very sad day when we had to put her down.
Somewhere in between all of this we had pet rabbits, a crow, a woodchuck, a red squirrel, and a raccoon. The woodchuck my husband always handled with gloves. Although it was tame, it was not above biting. The first raccoon came to us from another family who had helped it when it was injured. They got tired of it, so we took it. It was still being fed from a bottle when we got it. We had it for a couple years. It wandered about on its own. But stayed near the house. When it came into the house it played with the cat. In the winter it rode on the sled, but it begged to be carried back up through the lawn to ride again.
We also had a pet fawn. My husband found it in a field he was mowing and moved it out of the way. It had a broken leg so we nursed it back to health. As soon as it was able to run we let it loose. It stayed in the barn at night sometimes if it happened to come in. We had a lot of fun with that fawn. Our French foreign exchange student even shared his ice cream cone with Buckwheat.
The experiences our children had with pets I am sure contributed to the eventual career path taken by my son. He made his decision early to go to veterinary school. Of course, he grew up milking cows so that was part of experience as well. During his animal rotation he was asked to milk a horse. When he told the professor he was finished, the guy told him to keep trying. At that point, he said he’d need another container if he was to continue.
I loved all of our pets and yes, it was sad when they were no longer with us. That experience taught me as well.
Eventually, we found another dog. It was at the clinic where it had just undergone surgery to remove a growth. My husband asked if I thought I was ready for another dog. He had been playing with her while I shopped. I, too, had seen the dog in the back of the hospital and thought she was oh so cute. We brought her home. By then my husband was no longer milking cows. Hannah was a house dog. She proved to be a very faithful companion to my husband throughout his illness. She was also a faithful companion to me after he passed. She was truly my first dog and I loved her even though she ate everything in sight.
When I realized that Hannah was slowing down I picked another dog I found at the clinic. It was April 1 when I made my decision. My granddaughter thought it was an April Fool’s joke. Now Micah and Goliath my cat are my companions and I love them.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.