I remember my maternal grandmother having two dogs, Towser the border collie followed by Towser the Alsatian. She also had two geese, Jock and Jenny and lastly a talking budgie, Joey, she wasn’t too inventive with names. We’ve had many animals as part of our household over the years and just a few years’ ago the last little guinea pig died. I know I had been saying ‘no more’, usually after the demise of each little furry, feathered or finned friend but this time, so far I have kept to my word.
I had been brought up with animals and that’s not including our farming family’s livestock, though that may have had some influence in the desire to have an animal of my very own. Personally, I’ve had mice, hamsters, budgies, fish and a dog, not all at the one time but over the years. My tendency to want a zoo was kept in check by my parents, my mother in particular, since deny it as I may, I now have to accept who cleaned out the budgie cage (not the mice or the hamsters, that was left for me). I was someone who thought caterpillars were cute, especially the hairy ones and persistently took earthworms in to show my mother.
The influence on my daughter may have been somewhat aided by family feeling towards animals in general. We walked and had picnics a lot, so a trip to the seaside, which isn’t far from us, meant welly boots and a bucket. She liked scrambling over the rocks watching the sea life in the rock pools, hence the wellies, the bucket was to allow closer examination of her finds later, when she had time to study them. Lots of shells, which were carefully researched and named, a crab claw, which I was assured at the time was ‘in good working order’ and anything live, would be returned from whence it came before we headed home.
Living in an upstairs flat at the time meant the choice of pet was limited as we felt it cruel and unsuitable to keep a cat or dog with such limited freedom to the outside world, so it began. There was Charlie, followed by Pepe, the first of the upstairs pets, they were budgies. Next to arrive was a goldfish, won at the local fair and which lived for a surprisingly long time. We must have been impressed with it, ‘it’ because we had no idea of it’s gender, was followed by a large tank of tropical fish. We liked the fish and had a large tank and two small ones, sadly we lost them due to power failure one bitterly cold weekend and the tank temperature dropped too low. For a while we made do with neighbours’ animals, doggy sitting and walking and for us it worked well.
Daughter went to university for a degree in biology of course, then ranger training college, finally getting a job in a theme park as historic and nature guide. That’s when the rabbit came in, a baby bunny to be put down because it was blind in one eye and not good for the children to see in Pet’s Corner. That was Muppet, he was gorgeous, jet black and fluffy, he was a house rabbit. We won’t forget him, we can’t, I still have half-chewed cables and furniture to remind me! We felt he was lonely, so got a guinea pig and that’s where the rabbit/guinea string of pets started. Since both of them didn’t depart this world with it’s companion, it meant they were being replaced because we didn’t want any of them to feel lonely. I can’t blame my daughter for her interest in animals, I even fostered a baby elephant for a few years though at least it did remain in a reserve in Kenya.
For a brief while, daughter became a falconer so we’ve also played nanny to a baby European Eagle Owl, amongst other raptors. He grew too big for the house, with a wing span of 4ft, he had to be rehoused in a proper place the moment he took to the wing. That’s all amongst the odd stray cats and an inherited dog we’ve had. Being a fair-weather gardener, of course I have to have a wormery – trouble is there were too many of them to name!