It is lambing time at the farm and I was reminded of the many pets that shared Michael's and my life. The first that came to mind was Amster the Hamster which was given to Michael to care for over summer vacation in fourth grade. Amster came in a cage with a wheel , shavings, food and water tray. He looked like Gus Gus, a pear shaped creature with brown little teeth, large distended tummy and a lethargic attitude towards life. I don't remember him ever running in the wheel, more often he was reclined at the bottom slowly swinging back and forth. Someone left the door ajar and little Amster moved on.
At Easter time we went to the neighborhood Woolworth's where they sold baby chicks that were dyed in pastel colors pink, blue, and green. Once you selected the one you liked they were placed on the moving check out counter and shoved into a paper bag which was stapled shut. You could hear them fluttering against the bag. I have no recollection what became of them once we got home.
Grandpa Max took us to the circus one summer and bought us two chameleons that came with little collars and leashes which were attached to safety pins so they could be worn on your shirt.
The moron who conceived of this fashion statement was no friend of Petta. They would scamper around for a while and then hang at the end of the leash until their luminous green color changed to sickly gray.
When Michael was fourteen our house keeper bought him a very fine German Shepherd named Rex Von Sargent Hessian The Third. This was an outstanding dog with one slight weakness. He was never really trained and as he tipped in at one hundred plus pounds of frisky pup he would pull you with the might of a freight train on a walk. He also had a fancy for digging up the neighbors freshly planted rose bushes or go on a romp down to the beach and run hellbent along the surf barking incessantly. This prompted a call to the police department who picked him up and locked him in a cell until my mother could come down and pay the fine. This happened so often that we actually had a charge account at the station and they would just add on the cost of his tearing up the mattresses or eating a box of toilet paper which he did when he became bored. Rex was well known and loved by most of the police and fire department and became a sort of mascot to the men in service. It should be noted that all the dogs adored our mother. Case in point was Mama taking Rexie, Michael and myself out for frozen custard. Rex loved vanilla in a sugar cone. We are on our way back when a policeman pulls us over for some infraction. Rex always likes to lay on Mama's lap. The officer approaches the car with summons in hand intent on passing it through the window. As the window lowered Rex lunged towards the stranger's hand and just about nailed him. The officer explodes in anger and every time he approaches the car Rexie greets him with a full complement of ivory. Finally he shoves the ticket under the windshield wiper and screams," get a muzzle for that dog. It wasn't long after that incident that Rexie was in the back seat of my father's car sleeping contentedly and upon arriving home my Dad said," let's go Rexie". Rex replied with a deep growl and he received a very strong correction.
About three weeks later the crate arrived from the K-9 Corp and Rex was enlisted.
Our next additions came from a crazy aunt on my mother's side. She sent us two Myna birds in a ornate Indian cage. As luck would have they got out and Michael and I had the rare experience of complete identification with our mother's phobia. She was deathly afraid of birds and said this was because when she was a little girl bats some how got tangled in her hair. Sounds like the old crap a roo to me but, whatever? Those little fuckers were flying all over, banging into walls, flapping their little wings as hard as they could. Mama hightailed it, her hands covering her head as she made a run for the stairs. Directly behind her were Michael and I heads also covered in order to protect our self from their needle sharp beaks which were intent on spearing our brains. This newly acquired fear of birds was so well implanted that Michael would not enter a room unless he was assured that the bird was locked in a cage and could not get out. Even when he walked amongst pigeons his eyes grew wide and the color drained from his face.
Enter Corky Corkscrew our Boston Bull Pup. Corky was brindle in color and looked like the stub of a cigar butt. Full of love and affection he was a natural addition to the pack. Through no fault of his own his physical form created some side effects that amused and disgusted others. His face was pushed in and in order to breath he schnorkeled and snored like a asthmatic old man. Secondly he was the most gaseous dog I have ever know. He let out silent bombs that could wilt flowers and vacate a room. He was oblivious to all this and simply assumed that the humans were nuts. He finally bonded with a German couple who worked for us and they renamed him "Der Fluffer." Many a night the three would be on the sofa sharing a pint of ice cream, Fluffer in the center being fed by both of them. Eventually they took him and he lived a fat, happy life.
The last family dog was Pepper a Miniature Schnauzer of show dog quality. He claimed my Mother as his property and lived for her company. They both had their hair done each week and he was glued to her side. At night he would cuddle deep into her hip and this bothered my Father. After he was kicked off the bed he would trot into the living room which had very expensive floor to ceiling drapes and urinate on each one. Once relieved of his anger he would happily return to my mothers side basking in the comfort of my Fathers snores. The drapes became a shorter and shorter almost like cafe curtains. Pepper not fully satisfied with marking his territory would after my Father went to work climb up on his pillows and extend himself fully, then draw his underside over the top of the pillow. Pepper remained king of his dominion for some fourteen years.
Lastly Michael and his wife Susan got a pup named Harry. This was a puppy that never lost it's puppy smell. It looked a little like a fox and had an interesting relationship with Michael. My brother spoke to harry just like any other person and Harry would cock his head and appear to be on the verge of speech. Being unable to master English he compensated by smiling and baring his teeth and yodeling which provided my brother with hours of amusement. Harry was the father of Harry 2 and lived to a good old age with just a small speech impediment.
Please excuse me for drifting a bit, but Spring is in the air.