I’m going to hell so I figured, why not take you along? After reading Michael Murray’s poignant pet piece , I felt a little badly. Even though I’ve had a few pets in my lifetime, I’ve not truly gone through the death of a beloved pet thing, so I couldn’t entirely connect. I read through the comments feeling a bit like I was having an out of body experiences; empathetic, yet floating above it all.
Growing up, my family had a cat and a dog with opposite personalities. The cat, Fluffy, was anything but a pet. He refused to be kept, really only showing up when he felt like eating and then going on his merry way about the neighborhood. Fluffy had nothing but disdain for any of us and he wasn’t afraid to show it with a claw to the hand or face. Just as some people are just dickheads for no reason, so can cats be. At some point during my childhood I had also had a bunny, kept in a cage by the garage (don’t ask me why—I didn’t make the rules) and I’m pretty sure Fluffy ate him. I remember crying over it once, but the bunny hadn’t been with us for long and I was young, so it wasn’t a drawn out emotional experience. Frankly, I can’t even remember if it had a name. The only true pet we had was a dog, a Poodle-ish mutt who was supposed to be my mother’s dog, but took to me instead. Pepe (again, not my choice) seemed to sense my need for an ally in the house and he became my best friend and protector. He only ever bit two people and both times, he was defending me. One of the bites occurred when I was doing a backbend in our kitchen and a close family friend and neighbor, who often walked right into our home, came in the kitchen door and seeing me in a vulnerable state, promptly tickled me. Naturally, I screamed and out came Pepe from under the table, sinking his teeth deep into the offending arm. The second bite happened when my angry dad strode into my room to spank me for something or other (Who knows? I was always in trouble.). In the blink of an eye, Pepe the Killer donned his superdog cape and he lept up to latch onto dad’s cheek, draw blood and save me from that whupping. Best.Dog.Ever.
When my parents split, everything went to shit. My dad moved out and for a short time, I went to live with him because my alcoholic mother wasn’t in the mood to deal with me any longer. She kept custody of Pepe and promptly lost track of him. The first time he ran away, Pepe was gone for two weeks. He showed up at my dad’s new place (having only been there once before), barking his crazy head off as if to tell us all the things that happened during his road trip. His fur had gone from white to dirty black and it took hours, petting him in my lap, to calm him. I don’t know how in the world he found us, but he did. Unable to have pets at his new place, my dad promptly took Pepe right back to my mother’s house. The next time Pepe ran off, we never saw him again. I told myself stories about how he was off having grand adventures, denied any possibilites that harm could ever befall him and that was that. He was the best dog a girl could have and I hope he had a great rest of his life.
It was a strange thing for me to grow up and bear a child who feared animals. Because the mister has severe allergies, we had never considered getting a family pet. So, having never been around them, my first daughter was afraid of dogs (especially large breeds), but nothing I said to her could allay her apprehension—she’d see a dog on the street and be absolutely terrified…even cry. It didn’t help that when she was three, during an evening beach walk someone let his very enthusiastic (and unresponsive to owner commands) retriever charge at my daughter, knocking her down. The poor dear was traumatized. But when she was about seven years old, my girl’s voracious reading habit led her to several books that featured relationships between kids and their dogs. Though her interest was tenuous, she seemed to get the idea that pets and people can get along. The mister did some research about dog breeds that are tolerated by people with allergies and in the interest of warming our kids up to animals, we made the decision to look for a new addition to our family. And though we had designs on adopting a puppy, it seems fate had something else in mind. I came upon the picture of a fully grown, cream colored, dog with expressive eyes and a sweet face. Her name was Alice and she was five years old, described as perfect for a family with small children. We picked her up, children in tow and everyone was immediately smitten. Alice was sweet, gentle as could be, trained; she seemed to be the perfect dog. Or was she?
You know how sometimes you meet a person and though there is nothing outward you can put your finger on, you just don’t like him? That’s how I feel about Alice. Try as I might, I just cannot find the love for our dog—something I’ve never experienced before. I’ve always been drawn to animals and other than the odd encounter with a vicious dog, I can’t think of another animal I didn’t like (not even Fluffy, who I tried more than once to befriend). Here was the first one, living in my house. There are certain things I can name that rub me the wrong way; Alice has zero personality (she is more like a stuffed animal than a dog), she has a penchant for hunting down and eating her own poopsicles in the wintertime and neediness drips off her like melting ice cream on a hot day. Every person who knows Alice will tell you he has never seen such a needy dog—no matter how much petting and stroking you give her, it is never enough. If she had it her way, she’d be in your lap being petted 24 hours a day. But she’s pretty and people “Ooh” and “Aah” over her; at her first entrance in our town’s Halloween Dog Contest, Alice won the prize for Most Beautiful. She is compliant like no dog I’ve ever seen and though she looks ashamed, she will let herself be dressed up in any costume:
If I take out her leash, Alice will scamper to the front door and be anxious to go for a walk. After a quarter mile, she’ll decide she is tired and steadfastly refuse to go further. If a deer should happen to wander in our yard, Alice can be let out—she will only stare disinterestedly—the creature is not there to pet her. She is afraid of rain and any beeping noises (we suspect the previous owners had an electric fence or some such device) and all day, she moves only to go from one sleeping place to another. She is the strangest “dog” I have ever met and awful as it sounds, I can’t wait for her to be gone. Sometimes I feel as if I’m in one of those Lifetime movies where a couple adopts a child who turns out to be a devilish imp they don’t want to keep, though I can’t really blame Alice for any strange mishappenings. If I could, I surely would. Though we have tried to make the kids be responsible, as often happens, I am the one who ends up making sure she is fed and watered and attempts at exercise are made. As for the fear of pets, the mission was accomplished and the children now enjoy animals…but me, I’m left cold. On the upside, I suspect when she dies I will still never have faced that rush of overwhelming emotions at the loss of a dear pet.
Cindy Davis should perhaps consider adopting a cold fish as her next pet.