You have had lots of pets. Remember how you spent a whole year looking after a dragonfly nymph? It was the easiest pet you could ever own. Put it in water, and watch it grow was about all you had to do. The tadpoles that grew legs and walked away were not much harder to manage. A little trickier were the minnows especially as you had to walk a couple of kilometres to carry home a supply of fresh brackish water. Truly the most troublesome water creature in your life was the axolotl. We never did understand it’s needs.
How well do you remember the bite of the ferrets? It is as easily remembered as the smell of their cage. It is much harder to remember any catch they made when you sent them into a rabbit warren. Possibly because you hadn’t closed off all entrances from which the rabbits found exits.
The first pet you had the sole responsibly for was Dalray. He was a thoroughbred black Labrador. Within his first year he won a ribbon in the Camperdown Agricultural Show. Your lack of dog training skill ensured Dalray was never shown again. The pair of you roamed all over the district instead. You even set rabbit traps together – many decades before they were outlawed for their cruelty to animals.
Life lessons show it is parents that seem to end up looking after their children’s pets. At least that is what happened to yours. And Dalray shuffled off under their care. In our case our children left us to look after Friend. Their tabby cat. As can only happen in families, we also adopted the pet that once lived with another family. And that is how we ended with the other tabby called Pugsley. He and Friend never knew one another but they might well have been twins. They were both oversized lazy boy types that give cats bad headlines.
Of all the things pets gave you, The worst was the unsubstantiated charge from the judicial officer daughter who falsely accuses you of killing them. As the defendant you have to admit this is not a pleasant acquisition. How you defend the charge is to give the pedantic response of the livestock grower.
Like most things the rationale for the response comes from your past. It was the observation of the adults in your life when they had to call the Veterinarian that set your sail. Too often you heard the vet say, we will give this – or that – a go, only to have the animal die, to respond with, “The only way I can be sure what caused its death is to carry out an autopsy. “
“No thank you, says the stoic farmer, I will phone the Knacker.”
A day or so later in the mail the farmer would be faced with a bill the size of a replacement animal.
These deep memories allow you to defend having a beloved pet put down when reason demands it.
These events are regrettable yet they allow an animal to die in dignity without it carrying the burden of it being forever anthropomorphised.
Given your years, the roll call of departed animal companions is long, but none is really forgotten. Not that foxy your grand parents had that would secretly nip you when you least expected it. Or the ancient collie, Laddie, that came into you life with the girl you married. The cross little Scottie Wee Drap that thought it was a Doberman and it would attack dogs five times it’s size until it really did go too far. Even the vet said it was undeserving of a reprieve.
A retirement change to suburban living meant deciding to live without animals, nevertheless you have given in and now you support little creatures once more. That happened, as many things do in your life, when you bought home an orphan lotus plant from The Heights. First you had to buy a water feature to help the plants grow. Then you bought some fish to keep the mosquitoes down. Next, in order for the fish to live you then had to aerate the water. That meant purchasing a pump. Now you have a new round of daily, let alone extra weekly jobs, just to keep them happy. And you can’t even see them in the deep water until they are fed.
Dalray was named after the 1952 winner of the Melbourne Cup