We were in the car. I was, at a guess, about 7 years old. Mum was driving (as per the norm) and my aunt was riding shotgun. I remember it SO clearly – “Where are we going mum?” There was an air of excitement about the journey, even though I had no clue about the planned destination. I think it had been badged as a ‘surprise’.
“OK”, said my mum. “What is it that you want more than anything in the whole world?”
I pondered this for a millisecond, my seven-year-old brain whirling with the knowledge that I had been banging on about one particular thing which I desperately wanted for months. I had sustained a relentless nagging which I seriously doubted would ever actually pay off. Could it really be that? Wow, I really had better parents than I had thought!
“Is it a……hhhorse?” I ventured, tentatively.
“Ah. No.” The reply, accompanied by a stifled snigger, spoke volumes. It had been too much to hope. Probably some crabby relative we’re visiting or something equally boring.
“Try something a bit smaller.”
Oh well, in for a penny…..”A…dog?” I offered.
Had my mother really just agreed to buy us a dog?! I leaned forward between the two front seats and screamed (this was the pre Clunk-Click-Every-Trip era) and planted huge kisses on both womens’ cheeks.
She was small & black, with a curious ginger beard and a white throat. She had only half a tail – an unfortunate case of mistaken umbilical identity by her mother at birth we believe. She was a beauty, much loved, gentle and loving, and she was our constant companion for about 7 years until her sad demise in 1981. She gave us 7 delightful puppies (an unplanned pregnancy!) in around 1978, which crawled all over each other in the garden shed like little mice. My brother and I adored and named them all, and begged to keep one.
The pups were all black, with one exception which was a ‘nude’ colour. He looked SO nude when he was born that we nick-named him ‘Kojak’. He was destined to be our favourite from the off. Parental common sense prevailed and we found good homes for them all.
In the intervening years, pets have played a huge part in my life. There was a Guinea Pig named Suki, a pair of gerbils which half creeped me out (Bubble & Squeak), and later a mongrel dog, lovely Sam, whom I inherited from a boyfriend. He simply like me better. Who wouldn’t? Later came a hamster called Scratchy and a fierce (and also inherited) English Bull Terrier called Sweep (another case of love me, love my enormous killer white dog). All of the above sadly departed.
Latterly, as children arrived, pets made a resurgence. So much so that my life is now dominated by furry friends and I am a veritable Doctor Dolittle.
Meet, respectively :-
a) Dandy & Rosie, our Border Terrier brother and sister (we went for one and came home with two – don’t judge me).
b) Tarzan, the Siberian puss – yes, I know it’s a stupid name.
c) Pancake (an even more stupid name), the vegetarian lizard – in a bid to finally satisfy my eldest’s unquenchable thirst for animals to ignore and for mummy to feed & tend.
We are critter-lovers, I cannot deny it. They bring a degree of joy and fun to our family life which is irreplaceable, along with a degree of chaos which I could well do without.
They each merit, at the very least, a place in the family albums, and for some, a lifeline of their very own.