Life as a Series of Pets

In the fleeting twenty eight years that I have been on the face of this Earth, I have owned, — or, should I say, “cared for” well over fifteen or twenty different pets. From adopted strays to wild birds, each, for the most part, was always fully embraced and treated as part of the family, — with the small exception, of course, of their having to do their business on pieces of newspaper and in rectangular boxes filled with little rocks instead of the more private bathroom. Now this may come as a shock to you, but as much as I loved my pets, what I learned about them over the years is that they don’t last very long. It’s sad but it’s true. Sure, if you’re lucky your pet will live out its entire life virtually unscathed and end up simply dying of natural causes. That isn’t totally unheard of. But if you’re me, on the other hand, your luck ran out a long time ago. Almost every single one of my pets died a hideous, agonizing death way before its time, and I guess I’m only lucky in the senses that I, at least, lived to tell about it.

The first real pet that I remember having was a green and yellow parakeet named Miquette. I think that’s French for “I’m a stupid ten-dollar feather wad that doesn’t really do anything.” I guess it was an okay pet, or a low maintenance one to be more precise. He’d just sit there on his little swing, singing his heart out to disco songs blaring on the kitchen radio. And other times he’d go say hello to his friend on the perch just below, and marvel at how much of a copy cat he was. It was only a mirror, of course, but we didn’t have the heart to tell him. He found out soon enough, and after that he just wasn’t the same anymore. I didn’t think it could ever happen to a bird, but the little guy got seriously depressed. He stopped singing and wouldn’t eat anymore, and it got to the point where he became so low maintenance we thought he was broken. And then my mom came up with the idea that we should go out and get him a real companion. So we got another parakeet, shoved him in the same cage, and named this one “Charlo.” I think that’s French for “just like Miquette, only blue.” Anyways, that seemed to do the trick. In no time, the kitchen was alive again with chirping parakeet renditions of “Hot Stuff” and “Boogie-Oogie-Oogie,” this time in stereo.

Now about a month or two later, Charlo managed to get out of the cage one afternoon and flew out the damn window. (Doh!) I guess my mom meant well when she ran outside and called out to the bird, trying to get him to come back. But there was no way that bird was ever coming back. I knew it, she knew it, and Miquette knew it. So we just said to hell with that idea. Miquette sunk right back into a depression, but this time we just let him ride it out. Besides, it was nice to have some peace and quiet or a change.

Anyways, to make a long story short, Miquette died. Not from depression, mind you. No, it was nothing like that. See, what happened was that me, my mom and my sister went away to Canada one weekend, and when we got back, — a day earlier than my dad expected, — the door to Miquette’s cage was wide open and he wasn’t in it. At about the moment I realized this, I heard my mom yelling and cursing at my dad, saying “Get that damn slut out of this house!” (which explained the mysterious car that was parked in front when we pulled in) and while my mom was throwing all of my dad’s clothing out onto the lawn in the back yard, I was in the basement standing over the remains of my very first pet, Miquette, who had been reduced to a small pile of feathers, a green and yellow feather wad that didn’t do anything at all.

Here’s what I guess happened: While my mom and sister and I were up in Canada, my dad invited some woman over to the house who decided she wanted to play with my bird, and Miquette, noticing that his cage door had been left wide open, decided to make a break for it. Unfortunate for him, however, my new pet cat, Frisky, was watching the entire time. When Miquette flew out of his cage, Frisky followed him, eventually caught him, and then ate him, — all while my dad was doing God knows what in the other room. At the time I told myself that I would never forgive my dad for what he did. But I was young, and I got over it quick. And to be quite honest, Frisky was actually a much cooler pet.

Frisky was a cat that we adopted from the Humaine Society. I’m not exactly sure as to what kind of a cat it was, but it was definitely the most hyper animal I’d ever seen. I guess I was mostly to blame for that. I used to play with Frisky all the time, .. too much, I suppose. When he’d get too wound up we’d have to lock him in a room in the basement for hours just to get him to calm down. But when he learned how to actually turn the door knob with his paws and open the door by himself, we decided he would make a better outdoor cat. Yeah, he was that hyper. He was the kind of cat who would cling to your arm with all four sets of claws and his teeth and wouldn’t let go until you pulled on his tail with the other hand. And then he’d attack that arm. You couldn’t win.

As Frisky got older, he seemed to get a little mellower. I think us getting him de-clawed might’ve had something to do with it. I used to let him sleep with me, but then he took on this weird habit of trying to sit on my face in the middle of the night. I don’t know what was up with that, but I started closing my door at night so he couldn’t get in. And it was probably a good idea anyway, because I’d just gotten a goldfish in my room.

Now if you think a parakeet is a dull pet, then you’ve obviously never had a pet goldfish. But I guess that’s what you get for ninetynine cents. Jeez, — his damn food was more expensive than he was! I mean, I don’t know why I was so insistent about getting a pet fish in the first place. I’d already tried it a couple of times with fish I’d caught myself and taken home in a bucket. The first time the fish must have lasted a good ten minutes in the chlorine swimming pool I threw it in. But no, I didn’t give up. This time I dug my own pond. I dug a big hole in my dad’s garden, lined it with hefty bags and filled it with water. It seemed like a great idea at the time. But when that catfish turned from black to bleach-white in less than five minutes, I decided I’d be better off going the domestic route. And so I got Charlie.

Shortly after going to bed one night, I was awakened by a splashing sound and then a plop. I immediately got up out of bed and turned the light back on, and there, on the floor and lying dead still, was Charlie. “Hey!” I said, “What are you doing, stupid?” and then I bent down, picked him up and threw him back into the tank. And he just went on swimming around like nothing had happened. I was a little weary after going back to sleep after that, and sure enough, when I got up the following morning Charlie was gone. I was almost certain he’d jumped out of the tank again, but I looked under my bed and under my bureau and I couldn’t find him anywhere. I think either the little bugger ran away or got abducted my aliens. That’s if Frisky didn’t get him. I’m telling you, — that cat figured out doorknobs. Strangest damned thing.

Anyways, getting back to Frisky, — that cat seriously died. He got run over by a car right in front of me as I was leaving to go fishing one afternoon, and it had to be one of the grossest things I’d ever seen. The car ran over the cat’s neck, and a big blob of catsup-looking stuff came out of his mouth. His head got smooshed into the pavement and the rest of his body was flopping around like a fish out of water. And you know, if I hadn’t jumped out into the middle of the road and started hollering like a retard, I don’t think the driver would’ve stopped. When he was halfway down the block, he stopped and came back in reverse, and all he said to me was “Ahhh, … I’m sorry guy. Well, .. see ya!” and then he just hopped back in his car and drove away. Jerk. My dad didn’t seem too phased by it either, come to think of it. He came out with a damn snow shovel and scraped the cat of the pavement with it. Yeah, good old dad. He was never big on sentimentality. That might sound a little harsh, but you’d know what I mean if you had to put your dead pet cat in a ten-gallon hefty bag and put him out to the street on garbage day. What? You think I’m kidding?

I got another cat after that, and luckily he turned out to be a lot more civilized. His name was Bebe, and I think it was the only pet I ever had that died of natural causes. Not that he didn’t have his fair share of suffering while he was with us. I remember once, while practicing my casting with a fishing pole in the back yard, I accidentally hooked Bebe in the rear end with a big fishing lure. The poor cat must have run around the house at least three times trying to shake it off. Finally, I had to call my neighbor over, and he was kind enough to perform a crude surgical procedure using a pair of rusty needle-nose pliers. Needless to say, Bebe wouldn’t let me pet him for a week after that.

Not long after that first incident, Bebe had his second run in with a sharp, pointed metal object. He bit into a big sewing needle, and it went through his gums and poked out through his eyeball. He looked so pitiful with that big, swollen bloody eye of his. I would’ve called my neighbor over again, but this was obviously a job better left to a professional. He recovered quickly after we brought him from the vet, and lived with us for years after that. But those years finally caught up with him, and in the end, liver disease is what got him. I wish I could say that he was at least given a decent burial, unlike Frisky, his predecessor. But the truth is we had the vet put him to sleep, and I don’t know what they did with him after that. My guess is that they put him in a hefty bag and threw him in a dumpster with all the rest of the sleepers. But who knows.

I had a pet baby squirrel once. My cat had chased him into a woodpile in my neighbor’s yard, and me and my sister rescued and adopted him. We named him Kiwi, and contrary to what most people might assume about wild animals, this one was actually a very warm and affectionate pet. He seemed to like being held, and a lot of the time he’d climb up on my arm and onto my shoulder or on top of my head. Yeah, he was a pretty neat pet alright. It was almost like having a really big hamster or a gerbil or something. He cried a lot, but that might have been because we kept him in a little bird cage most of the time. I don’t think he liked that too much, so one day I decided to set him free. I took the cage over to my neighbor’s yard, took him out and put him in the grass, and then turned and started to leave, — but the animal freaked. He immediately started wailing, and the next thing I knew, he had jumped onto my leg and climbed up onto my shoulder. It was like he thought I was his momma or something and that he was being abandoned again. Well of course I couldn’t just leave him after that, so I put him back in the cage and went home, and tried to figure out what I was going to do with him. Well a couple of days later, my mom backed over Kiwi while pulling out of the driveway, putting an end to my contemplating a solution,… and, uh, Kiwi of course. Yep. Good
going mom. Let’s just kill the poor defenseless baby squirrel. Gee, why didn’t I think of that?

Not long after my mom squashed my pet baby squirrel to death, my kid sister talked us all into getting a pet rabbit. We named him Griffy, — not because we thought it was a cool name, mind you, but because it was the only other name we could think of that ended with an “ee” sound, thus sustaining the family tradition. My dad built a nice cage for him and put it in the back yard, .. and then he killed him. I know he didn’t do it on purpose, but a little common sense on his part would’ve spared us all the grief. What happened was that one mid-summer afternoon when it was almost a hundred degrees outside, my dad absentmindedly jet blasted Griffy with a water hose, — you know, — to cool him off. Well the animal let out a hideous screeching sound and died instantly. Whether it was from a heart attack or the sheer embarrassment of being associated with our family I’ll never know. But I can at least say that, unlike the others, this pet was given a decent burial. I sure wish my dad had told my sister about it, though. She was damn near traumatized when she dug him up while playing in the garden the following week. No bag or nothing.

It wasn’t until I moved out on my own that I was finally issued full responsibility for my pets, and I met the challenge head on. I failed miserably at it, of course, but by then I had already come to terms with the disposable characteristic of pets. My first was a stray cat that I adopted and named Bob. I found him on my fire escape one morning, pawing at the window. How he got there I have no idea. But I took him in and let him make himself at home, and in no time I was buying those little plastic yellow balls with catnip inside of them, and one of those curved spatulas used to scoop up turds.

Three days after we took him in, Bob had kittens. Nine of them there were, and if we didn’t already know for a fact that our landlord would’ve had a keniption fit over it, my roommate and I would’ve kept them too. Our landlord came over one day and we thought almost for sure we were busted. He wanted to see something in our bathroom, where our catbox was, and I don’t know where the guy’s head was, but he didn’t see it. The whole bathroom smelled like a damn catbox and kitty litter was making crunching sounds under his feet, but the guy never said a word. I still wonder to this day if maybe he thought that rank smell in the bathroom was from me and my roommate and was just too polite to say anything about it. Regardless, the guy never found out about it, and we got to keep Bob along with her nine adorable furry children who were also named Bob.

Bob, we soon learned, had a rather unusual problem. She was, — how should I say, — “leaky” in the worst way imaginable, and it wasn’t long before our whole damn apartment started to smell like a catbox. All it took was for her to get just a little excited, and the next thing we knew, we’d be down on all fours with a roll of paper towels and a can of spray Lysol, scrubbing the long figure eights on the carpet she just couldn’t hold in. Needless to say, we didn’t have too many girlfriends coming over to our apartment back then. There were a few at first, but no, they had to go and get Bob all excited. Yeah, that cat sure knew how to ruin a party.

Anyways, the long and short of the story is they all died, meaning Bob and the kittens. It wasn’t my fault, though. Being the compassionate souls that we were, my roommate and I took her to the vet, and we found out that she and all the kittens had Leukemia. So we had them all put to sleep. The end.

No, actually that isn’t the end. I got some pet fish after that, — a ten gallon aquarium with about half a dozen Glass fish, another half dozen of some other species that I can’t remember the name of, and a big snake-looking thing that I distinctly remember having named Ian. They all seemed to get along okay, considering the different size and appetite ratios. I thought that might be a problem, Ian having big sharp teeth and all. But he seemed to only like to eat things that he could swallow whole, and so a nice weekly ration of live guppies kept him pretty civilized, not to mention fat.

One night while I was all drunk at a nightclub, I accidentally broke the head off a small statue of Alexander the Great. No one saw this, and thinking quick, I snatched the head and stuck it in my coat pocket. I didn’t remember it until the following morning, and when I saw the head laying there on the coffee table, I came up with the idea that it would make a great ornament to put in the fish tank. The fish loved it, too. In fact, they loved it so much they started eating it.

About a week after, I noticed that the fish had eaten through the top of the head and that the inside of it was completely hollow. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then the fish had started to get sick. They were swimming kind of sideways, and long green algae-looking stuff had grown out of these ugly, bleeding wounds that were all over them. I swear, — it was like Night of the Living Dead, only under water. My guess was that whatever material the head was made out of was toxic to them in some way or another. But then I noticed these tiny little squirming things in the water that looked like Sea Monkeys, — millions of them, — and I later theorized that that these weird creatures had come out of the head and killed all my fish. Oh yeah, — they died alright, and when I went to scoop them out of the tank, thousands more of those little bugs came out of their mouths and eye sockets, and turned my entire aquarium into a squirming primordial soup of alien parasites. It was weird and disgusting, and I never got any more pet fish after that. Besides, my new pet alien parasites were a much more interesting conversation piece.

And so here ends the woeful tale of the many pets I have loved and lost in my lifetime. Today I have two very lively pet finches, neither of which I have bothered naming for obvious reasons. I love the sounds they make, and how they wake me in the morning with their excited chirpings that greet the rising sun. I sing to them, and give them baths, and even put them out on the patio once in a while so they can sing along with their other bird friends. But the female of the two has a big bloody wart on the side of it that I presume to be a tumor of some sort, and so I try no to let sentimentality get the best of me. I give her two months tops.