Monthly Archives: March 2017

Our Furry Friends #4

Standard

Karen Eisenbrey, who is today’s woman of choice to tell us about her pet experiences, lives in Seattle, so naturally she isn’t just a writer but also a drummer and backup singer in a garage band.

Karen donated two stories and a few haikus to our upcoming anthology, Paws & Claws.

*****

Cat People Adopt a Dog

We had always been cat people.
By “always,” I mean my lifetime, which at that time was about nine years. In those days, we had two cats, a petite longhaired calico named Calico and her son, a lanky longhaired orange tabby named Rover.
We’d had short-lived starter pets before: goldfish and a guinea pig. I didn’t know other pets were even an option until my older sister campaigned successfully for a dog.
One day we went to the Humane Society and came home with the world’s cutest puppy. White with black spots, freckled paws, floppy black ears, and one black spot on the top of his head. Because he had hairy feet, a round belly, and ate six meals a day, we named him Bilbo.
Upon first meeting, Calico swatted Bilbo on the nose. He bowed down, said “Yes, Ma’am!” and even as he grew to five times her size, he deferred to her. The dog and both cats romped and played and were great friends, but Calico was always the boss.
So cats weren’t the problem; people were. We cat people had unknowingly brought home a pup with at least three kinds of herd dog in his mongrel pedigree. A herd dog with nothing to herd will find something. Bilbo had natural talent at herding chickens. We didn’t have chickens, but a neighbor a few blocks away did. More than once we found a hen in our yard, harassed and exhausted but unhurt.
He was a dog of strong opinions, too. If he liked someone, he really liked them; if he disliked them, woe be unto them. His likes and dislikes lined up with mine for the most part; I’m still not sure who influenced whom.
While Bilbo was still a puppy, we bought a dog-training book and began to teach him basic commands and a few tricks. He quickly learned to sit, roll over, and shake hands. He would sometimes consent to stay. He would never come when called. I don’t think we even tried to make him stay off the furniture. Because my sister slept in the top bunk and I in the bottom, Bilbo slept on my bed, though I preferred cats. He liked to ride in cars, and loved to ride in our battered old pickup. If we really needed him to come, we’d open the truck door, shout, “Go for a ride?” and he’d leap right in. He was smart about so many things, but he fell for that trick every time.
Sadly, our too-smart dog was more advanced than amateur dog trainers could handle. He was meant to be a working dog, not a spoiled pet. Between the herding and the hostility toward a select few, it got to where we couldn’t let him out of the yard lest he kill a chicken or bite a person. We didn’t have adequate fencing to keep him in, so he had to be tied up. No one was happy, and it was apparently too late for rehab.
Bilbo was put down in his prime because of his owners’ incompetence. Forty years later, I still feel guilty even though it wasn’t my fault. I never wanted a dog but I loved the only one I ever had. I will never have another.

Advertisements

Our furry friends #3

Standard

Angelika Rust is next in line to tell us about the furries of her past. Austrian by birth, she lives in Germany as a translator and mother of two human and three non-human kids.

Angelika donated three short stories and a piece of flash fiction to Paws & Claws, featuring different kinds of birds, a mongrel dog, and a suicidal snail.

*****

I grew up with pets. Loads of them. They’ll tell you it’s important for a kid to have pets, as it will teach things like responsibility and compassion. I’d say, though, that the main lesson I got was that death is a natural occurrence, something that just happens. It also told me that adults take it harder.
By the time I moved into my first apartment, my brother and I between us had buried four hamsters, two rabbits, and one guinea-pig. I was never particularly sad. It’s dead? Oh, pity, here’s a new one. That’s my mother for you. The older siblings had had their share of pets before we even started, so I had heard the stories about the hamster who got slammed by the door and the one who fell into the goulash pot (this one survived, and no, it was long before the advent of social media and digital photography, so we don’t own a picture of it sitting on a ladle and steaming gently) long before I had my own furry friends. I suppose my siblings told those stories to toughen us up.
I still vividly remember the day my first hamster died at the wise old age of two years. My mother had always warned us that’s the average life expectancy for a hamster, so I wasn’t surprised. My brother and I were home alone, and since I still wanted to be a veterinarian one day, I tried to save it. I carted it out into the sun – everybody knows sunshine is good for you – and tried to stuff raspberries into its snout, because to my eye, it clearly needed vitamins. The hamster responded my cramping up (I suppose it had suffered some sort of stroke) and moving its front half in a circular motion around its stiff, immobile hind legs. It was interesting to watch, but I was sort of relieved when it stopped.
I also remember the time when one of my mother’s friends went on a holiday and left her canaries in our care. That might have been a mistake. We thought, aww, the poor birdies, all day in the cage, and let them fly around the apartment. They seized the chance to fly headlong into the window. The closed window. Both dropped like a stone. I opined to leave them alone until my mother came home. There was a bit of an unnatural angle to the neck of one of them, so I considered him past saving anyway. My brother was convinced he might yet save the other. He put it on the kitchen counter and, like you do with unconscious people, tried to cool its head. By pouring a glass of water over it. To this day, I’m quite sure the bird would have lived, had it not drowned.
Growing older killed the scientific interest as empathy evolved. I’ve since buried three dogs, and four cats, and I cried a river over each.
It didn’t teach me to not have pets. Current status is one dog, two cats, and each of them feels closer to me than any previous animal ever did. Which means I’ll probably cry an ocean when they’re gone. Luckily, they’re all quite young yet.

Our Furry Friends #2

Standard

Today it’s Sue Moorhouse telling us about her pet experiences. Sue lives in the north of England and was a teacher of dyslexic students. She says she’d probably be a better writer if she didn’t use the dog, the garden, and almost any other excuse, to avoid getting on with it.

quote-sue-moorhouseSue donated two stories to Paws & Claws. One is about frogs, among other things, the other is…oh, let’s just say the word ‘turkey’ might feature. Nevertheless, Sue’s personal story is that of a hamster.

*****

Picture me, age thirty something, walking home from the vet carrying a small box of deceased, elderly hamster and trying not to cry.
Chewbacca, the hamster, was a humanophile, adapting her nocturnal instincts so she could be up and about when the children came home from school. She’d keep me company while I typed, climbing up my leg to sit on the keyboard and get in the way.
Not liking caged animals, we initially allowed Chewie the freedom of a box-room at night. For weeks it was fine, every morning she would be home again tucked up in her hamster house asleep. Then she disappeared. We moved the furniture, prised up a floorboard and called. Chewie pattered up, ready to climb into a hand and be lifted out.
After that, her outings were supervised. She liked to potter round the side of the room while we watched tv, much to the annoyance of the dog which had to be shut out. She had a passion for chocolate – not recommended as a good pet food. The posh chocolate lived on top of a high bookcase which only adults could reach. Chewie regularly abseiled up between the wall and the bookcase, drawn by the scent. When she reached the top she would step off into space if no-one was there to catch her. Any crumbs of chocolate were stuffed into her cheek pouches and hidden at the back of the radiator, oozing out when the heating came on.
She was a rodent of personality.

Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a hamster to tear.

*****