I clearly remember, years ago, standing at the window of a friend’s house noticing that all along her windowsill were treasures–a shell from a trip to the beach, a stamp from an old love letter, and a sweet potato with toothpicks stuck around its midsection so the bottom half could root in water. There were six to eight more of these kind of bits from life’s memorable moments lined up along the ledge. It occurred to me that she had accumulated. Here was a woman who never collected, someone who never wanted clutter in her life, and yet, now, after enough time, her bits become a collection of a life well lived.
Her life now was like new South in the movie, Gone with the Wind, the past has changed, a civilization gone with the wind.
That is my life today. The only difference is that I’ve always been a collector. It just took me a while to acquire a breathable kind.
My last animal was a cat named AC. I was 24 years old at the time. When I moved to London for graduate school, I had to give her away,
My life before AC was filled with the love of a dog. A succession of them, in fact–Josie, Sport, Little Sport, Ralph, and Honey. Growing up with a dog, I believed there was no better friend in the world. When my last dog passed on, I held off replacing her until I finished college. But then the cat came along, and then I moved.
My days in London were the first break in 20 years caring for an animal. As the years went by, I liked how liberating it was not to take care of an animal. I missed having a dog around, but I didn’t miss figuring out what to do if I had to go out of town, and in those days, I traveled for work a lot. It wasn’t practical.
Then I married a man who never had a pet. Ever. I find that sad, but he never knew what he was missing, so I got over it. However, this man would be the father of my children, and it wasn’t likely that I would be able to convince him to allow our kids to have a pet. But like Scarlett O’Hara, I figured tomorrow was another day. I’d work on that tomorrow.
Today, my husband and I have three kids, two lizards, six fish, a cat, and a dog. We were also brief guinea pig owners (no regrets finding a new home for those rascals.)
The kids eased my husband into pet ownership. First we rescued a green anole. We then added a fish tank. As the kids became bored with these pets, David, my husband, became the lizard and fish caregiver. The kids wanted something warm-blooded. They wanted a dog. They began the dance to pull at their daddy’s heartstrings. I was getting ready to come to their aid to discuss all the virtues of being a caregiver to a dog. Almost as if the big animal decision maker in the woods was about tell turn us down, Sunny walked into our lives. We needed to continue to ease into animal-hood. Baby steps. I was relieved, because cats are so much easier to care for than dogs. I needed to ease into this as well.
After a year passed, I began to frame a case for having chickens.
First I explained to the kids how lucky they were to have a cat, that now it was time for mommy to get chickens. I failed getting them excited about chickens. We got so far as coming up with names of the hens. Aster wanted to name his chicken Broiled. Lily wanted to name hers Roasted. Bud was committed to Fried. So you can see how this was going, right? Can you feel the love?
Those three kids of mine schemed and banded together laying on a huge guilt trip saying that I couldn’t get chickens unless they got a dog. It worked; Pepper entered our lives. And oh how I love that sweet pup. She is also known as Belle Pepper, Sweet Pepper, Princess Pepper, Pretty Pepper, and sometimes Banana Pepper just because it seems to fit. She is so loved. I could almost forgo the chickens for the love of that one pup. Almost.
Taking care of animals is a lot of work. Each animal acquired started out with the kids promising to help, but like with all the other pets, the kids got over the promises to care and feed their new pet within an hour, so now I’m taking care of three kids, two lizards, six fish, a cat, and a dog. And in the case of the chickens, my kids aren’t interested, so I know not to expected even the first hour curiosity. But I still wanted chickens. With the other animals, I held out for the hope of kids pitching in from time to time. I don’t have the same expectation with the chickens. But this is good. There is no room for disappointment.
Gone are the days of civilization in my household. We have gone with the hens. Am I nuts to want to add more? Well yes, but the deal breaker was Jamie, our pet sitter. Jamie will also sit for chickens. When we travel, she is here anyway, so why not have more for her to do, right? And you never know, the chickens might just fascinated my three young ones enough to want to spend some time with them; at the very least, Sunny, Pepper, and I can chill each evening as we visit our girls.
Next week, I’ll introduce to you our girls…