This month my article Pet Problems appeared in the Kaw Valley Senior Monthly Newspaper on page 33. If you don’t want to go to http://www.seniormonthly.net/seniormonthly-august2017.pdf , click on the picture, and scroll all the way to that page, read below.
After WW II, life began to settle a bit. Dad came home from fighting in Germany. Mom quit her job as a clothing store manager in Ottawa, Kansas, and we moved back to Fort Scott, Kansas.
Dad decided I needed a dog. Mom wasn’t so sure, but on my fifth birthday, I got a cute little black and white puppy. When I took him out of the box he wriggled in my arms and licked my face. I giggled with joy.
That spring we moved to a different house at 905 Horton. This one sat beside the only greenhouse and florist shop in town. Their trash barrels sat near ours in the back yard. Mom often went through the florist’s less-than-pristine castoffs to make bouquets for the dining room table. She seemed to know the names of all the flowers, as if they were old friends from long ago.
But the dog was not her friend. In fact, she hated him.
Dad championed him until the day he chewed Mom’s new alligator shoes. That was the last straw. I heard no discussions about the dog between Mom and Dad, but by nightfall, my pet had a new home a couple of miles south near the edge of town. I was heartbroken.
Dad said, “But Sally, I gave him to a little girl with only one arm. Doesn’t she need a companion worse than you do?”
I wasn’t so sure, but finally resigned myself to Dad’s decision.
We later learned he barked all the time and someone put poison in his food to kill him. What a sad end to my dog.
Perhaps a pet that didn’t eat shoes might go better with Mom. One Saturday I went to the Ben Franklin’s five and dime and bought a chameleon. He didn’t have a cage so I put him in a pint glass milk bottle. I heard they turned the color of the place they were. Maybe he would turn clear. Then Mom wouldn’t see him and be upset another pet occupied the house.
I had no idea what to feed him so I pulled some grass and put it in the bottle.
He was dead within a few days.
Dad understood my desire for a pet so he built a large pen for the new white rabbit he brought home one night.
I named her Judy. Soon she got fat. I drew her pictures and thumb-tacked them to the inside of her pen. She didn’t appreciate my preschool artwork and chewed them to pieces.
One day at feeding time, I discovered six pink babies in her pen. This did little to make Mom happier about the big stinky pen in the back yard.
After several weeks, the phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “Is this the party that has dressed rabbits?”
“No. Ours don’t wear any clothes.” I hung up the receiver.
Dad heard the conversation. “What was that call, honey?”
“Somebody wanted to know if we dressed our rabbits.”
The phone rang again. Dad beat me to it. “Yes. Yes. I’ll have them ready for you this afternoon.”
“Why did that guy want to know if we dressed our rabbits?”
Dad sat me on his lap. “Honey, those rabbits were running out of room in the pen. I’ve sold them to the person that called. But I’ve saved the fur. I’ll make you a rabbit coat after I’ve tanned the hides.”
My eyes widened as the gravity of his words sunk in. I whispered, “You killed my rabbits?”
“Yes. But I’ll make you that rabbit coat, I promise.”
Crushed, I decided maybe I shouldn’t have a pet at all. They all seemed to die.
Dad’s tanning job didn’t turn out and I never got the fur coat—not that I would have worn my sweet rabbits anyway.
Later, I acquired two parakeets. They were kept in my room and I faithfully fed and cared for them—until they died also. From then on, pets were not allowed at our house—ever.
When our own children wanted pets, we allowed a few ducks and gerbils but they too met bad ends. Perhaps our house has an unseen sign over the door, “Warning—all pets who enter here are about to complete their life cycle.” At least it seems so.