The kids are in school (we have five at the moment, because my husband’s niece is staying with us for the school year), my husband’s at work, and miraculously I’m alone in the house right now.
Unless, of course, you count the two turtles, three mice, two dogs, one praying mantis, and the frog who are still here, keeping me company.
And, oh yes–one more. We have a new addition to our household. (Apologies to my allergic siblings. I suggest you not read further.) More on that later. First a brief history of my life with and without pets.
I’m crazy about pets. Possibly literally crazy, I’m thinking as I look at that list of current household residents Some of it comes from the kids, of course–they’re always asking for more pets and I get swept up in the moment and think how great it will be and the next moment I’m discovering that snakes poop a lot more than you’d think and shedding skin is a lot harder than it looks. (The snake is, sadly, dead now. That’s the thing about pets, or at least pets in our household: they frequently die. Which I figure teaches my kids to accept the inevitability of death in a sad but not tragic way.)
My parents didn’t like pets. They tried a couple of times–probably because their five kids begged for one–but it never took. My dad actively dislikes dogs and cats and my mother was indifferent to them and already had more than enough on her plate. My sisters have bad allergies, so that alone ruled out most mammals. So no pets growing up but I was always reading books about noble dogs and horses and my heart yearned for something a little more dynamic than my old stuffed teddy bear to cuddle up with at night.
The first pet I ever had wasn’t mine, it was my college roommate’s and it was an unhappy little cat who resented being shut up in a dorm room and was always slipping out the door and racing down the hallway or hding under my bed and scratching me like crazy when I tried to get him out to return him to his rightful owner. He did not endear himself to me or the rest of the roommates, and we insisted he be found another home. I assumed, from that experience (and from all the Disney animated movies I had seen as a kid) that cats make lousy pets.
It wasn’t until I met, fell in love with, and moved in with my now husband that I learned I was completely wrong about that. His family had pretty much always had a cat (a wiener dog too, for a while) and he was quite emphatically a cat person. I was working at home and he was working endless hours and I needed a companion but he was adamant that a dog would tie us down too much. So one day we drove out to a cat rescue where hundreds of cats wandered through rooms and courtyards. We were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. After a couple of horus of petting and picking up cats and having no idea which one was the best one, I sank into a chair, exhausted. A big orange cat leapt into my lap and nuzzled my face. “This one,” I said.
That was Lion, the Greatest Pet Known to Mankind. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. He was everything good in an animal, kind, loyal, loving, brave, strong, cuddly . . . He was as devoted as a dog, but kept himself clean and tidy. He was a ferocious mouse killer but could curl up on top of you for hours, kneading your flesh and purring away blissfully. He was, in short, cat perfection.
He was so great that we felt adding another cat would provide him company and only add to our bliss. So we adopted a kitten. The thing about kittens is they’re cute. The other thing about them is it’s really hard to know whether they’re bitey because they’re playful kittens or because they’re the kind of cat that’s always going to be bitey. Ender turned out to be the bitey scratchy kind of cat. We knew Lion, and Ender was no Lion.
To be continued . . . And continued . . . And continued . . .