Category Archives: C&Q Writers on Animals

Our furry friends #3

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Our Furry Friends #1

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Since we’re about to publish Paws & Claws, an anthology with animal stories, we invited all our writers to talk about their own experiences with the fluffy, the furry, the feathery, in short with the pets that are gracing, or at one time graced, their homes with their presence.

quote-paula-sheneWe’re starting with Paula Shene, a former college administrator and business owner whose hours are now filled with caring for a disabled husband and tapping at the keys that take her away into a saner reality.

Paula donated two stories to Paws & Claws; one about a wolf pack, the other about the intricate relationship between a Persian and a Siamese. Surprisingly enough, Paula decided to tell us about a couple of birds.

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Birds of a Feather? Hardly.

When I wrote about two cats that graced my home, I did not mention they had company.  That had more to do with the nature of the animals and lack of interaction between the paws and claws.
Pierre was a blue colored Parakeet.  He was loving and energetic.  I do not remember how he entered our life, but as his mate was an adoption, I’m sure he had come to that route as well. When he was out of his cage, he was normally on my left arm or shoulder or hanging from my hair; his favorite pastime was disentangling my waist length hair.
When Maisy came into our life, she left behind a Mistress who developed Asthma and was unable to keep as the bird dander was too constricting for her bronchial tubes.
Maisy was not a happy bird, more of a harpy.  For the gob-smacked Pierre, Maisy was a fatal attraction. This blue bird of happiness was besotted, love-struck, and blinded to the danger of the green feathered damsel of destruction. At first, Maisy was quiet, pensive, perhaps mourning the loss of the only human she had known while kept as a single pampered parakeet.
I had, unwisely, housed them in a cage I made of fine knit screen around the base of one of our card tables, thinking the birds would be happier together in a large cage rather than two small cages.
The two birds lived together, seemingly, unaffected of the existence of the other, other than the longing looks from Pierre and the moody, sullen demeanor of Maisy. Several weeks into the quiet honeymoon adjustment, I heard screeches that rivaled in pitch and volume the corner firehouse siren. In horror, I watched as Pierre cowered in the corner while Maisy lambasted him with shrieks. Had she no feathers as a necklace I would have seen the cords of her neck stretching as she leaned into his face covering him with shrillness.
I removed him from the cage and he spent the afternoon wistfully watching Maisy.  I moved to put him back into his older cage but he wanted to return to the larger cage. Silence reigned for another week, when again I heard the call of the harpy.
I arrived in time to see Maisy kick Pierre off the perch. I reached in and removed him to find he had broken one of his legs. Having young children in the home, I easily found a straw, cut off a small portion and affixed it to the leg.
I took him to the veterinarian who charged me $14 to tell me I had done a great job with doctoring him, as he re-taped the straw to his leg. The veterinarian cautioned me to keep him calm for a few days and said he should be able to go without the straw splint in ten to fourteen days. When I removed the splint, Pierre flew to the cage and indicated he wanted to go home to Maisy.
For a month, they lived in relative harmony with Pierre wooing and Maisy ignoring. One morning I removed the covering and Pierre was lying on the floor, but this time it was not a simple fracture. He had no wounds, no blood. He had simply died of a broken heart.

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