Growing up, we had a lot of pets. A REALLY lot of pets. My parents thought that pets would be a great way to teach us responsibility. For a while all NINE of us had our own pets. And it was a bit of a zoo (literally).
We started off with a cat named Meow Meow (an aloof Siamese who didn't love me and Shawni as much as we loved her) and a dog named Barney who seemed to like us about as much as we liked her - a lot.
Here's me and Barney:
Here's a random puppy we took in one summer until we found its owners:
When I was eight, my family visited Geneva, Switzerland on a quick European whirlwind tour at the end of the three years we lived in England. I fell in love with the name Geneva and decided that if I ever got the cat I dreamed of, I'd name it Geneva. So when I received a cute little grey tiger fluff-ball of a cat for my 9th birthday, I named it Geneva - even though it was a male cat. Poor Geneva got called a "she" his whole life. But he didn't seem to mind.
Geneva was my best friend and constant companion for years - put up with all the times we dressed him up in doll clothes, always came around to comfort me when I was sad, always ran to the kitchen when anyone shook the catfood container (or a cereal box or whatever sounded like that). He died of old age after I got home from my mission to Bulgaria when I was 22. I still miss that cat.
Here's me and Geneva and Shawni:
When I was 10, Geneva was joined by Caine, the sweetest little Beagle-mix mutt ever. My 4th grade teacher, Mr Waldhouse, found Caine lost and scared between a bunch of cars in a traffic jam, picked her up and brought her home. The next day he asked the class whether anyone wanted a dog. I raised my hand because my parents had promised Shawni a dog since I had Geneva. He had me go down to the office and call my parents to ask their permission to get a dog. Amazingly, they said sure. And Shawni and I walked home from school that day with an exciting new dog. Somehow we came up with the name Caine, thinking it was unusual and cute, and Shawni decided her middle name would be "White Socks" since she had white feet. Oddly, no one mentioned right away that we were picking a name of a villain in the Bible for this cute little dog. Later on, when the name was firmly attached, that we learned our name choice maybe wasn't the best. And Caine got called "he" most of her life. Somehow we ended up with a girl name for a boy cat and a boy name for a girl dog. Oh well!
Caine and Geneva were best friends. They'd always jump over each other and chase each other around playfully and sometimes even curled up together. Caine was a seriously great dog, so loving and obedient, short haired, clean, and cute as can be.
Here's Caine and Geneva with me and Jonah:
Caine had a litter of puppies one time and that was SO exciting and fun. She had some very interesting-looking pups. We never figured out what sort of dog the father was. But we were able to find good homes for all of them.
Here's Talmadge with one of Caine's puppies:
After about 5 years, Caine disappeared one day. We never found out what happened to her. We thought maybe she was stolen because she was so cute. We never saw her again. And we're still sad about that.
For years, Josh had tons of gerbils and named them all things like Fasty and Slowy and Browny and Blacky based on their various characteristics. His longest-lasting gerbil was one with a very short tale because someone accidentally shut his tale in a drawer and cut it off. But he led a long life with that short tale and was a favorite. I think he was called Shorty. Sorry, no pics of the gerbils could be found.
We had a few different bunnies over the years. Noah had our longest-lasting bunny named "Cosette." Cosette would wander the backyard and was a great playmate. But one day Cosette disappeared and Noah was pretty distraught. He felt much better when we convinced him that Cosette had gone off to join the wild bunnies - sort of like in the Velveteen Rabbit.
For a while, we had chickens. Josh was in charge of them. Dad built them a chicken coop using some old doors and windows and it worked pretty well. They provided great eggs and they were very stinky. That's all I really remember about them.
When I was about 12, my dad got us a horse named Banner then a couple years later, another horse named King. We kept the horses up at our cabin and loved riding them up the canyon there. Banner was a really awesome horse - great with kids, totally obedient, fun to ride. When I was 16 though, he took me on a really really wild ride down a very sharp incline and jumped over a stream at the end. I still wonder how in the world I stayed on that horse!
Here's Shawni and Ann (our Nanny from England who lived with us for a while) on Banner (the black and white apolusa) and some other horse we must have borrowed from someone.
We had a turtle named Bubba, another cat named Pearl who had a bunch of kittens we kept for a while. We had numerous snakes, gerbils, hampsters and lizards. One snake (the snakes were usually Josh's) escaped from his cage and I found him in my bed. That was freaky. One time Bubba the turtle crawled away when the kids were playing with him out of his cage and got lost and we found him 2 weeks later, seemingly perfectly fine. Poor Bubba lived for years in the sink in what we called the "pink bathroom." There were two pink porcelain sinks in there and one seemed sufficient for our needs so we gave Bubba the other one. It was super easy to put in fresh water and clean his "cage" that way!
Our last pet was Able (yes, she was a female and yes, we had to have an Able to make up for naming our other dog Caine). When Jonah was 9, he was attacked by a dog and had to have surgery to repair his arm and leg from the wounds he received. To help him not be scared of dogs after this sad incident, my parents decided to get him a puppy. Jonah picked out a cute little chocolate labrador retriever and Able became our longest-lasting and dearly beloved dog.
My kids got to know and love Able. The twins were especially enamoured with Able. And she was fabulous about putting up with all the kids who adored her at Bear Lake.
Here are Oliver and Eliza with Able at Bear Lake:
Able finally had to be put down as her arthritis took over and she had some tumors. We all miss her.
Able was the last Eyrealm pet.
Somehow, after a rich history of growing up with pets, none of my parents' children have opted to have dogs or cats. A few of us have had various gerbils, fish, lizzards, hampsters and snakes. But not one of us have dogs, cats, bunnies, horses or the like.
My dad thinks we're a bit mean to deprive our children of the rich experiences we had with pets growing up. But perhaps we all saw the mess and stress that pets can add and didn't feel right about adding to the already messy and stressful lives we lead. I don't feel like I can take care of one more living thing in my life right now.
Plus I think expectations have changed when it comes to having pets. It used to be that you could just bring a dog that your teacher found in a traffic jam home from school with you and it wasn't a big deal. You'd buy a collar and feed the dog scraps and a little dog food. The dog would run around when the kids were running around and didn't need to be taken on walks. No one cared much about leashes. No one picked up their dog's poop. Our animals never went to a trainer to be trained or a groomer to be cared for or to the vet for check-ups or shots. When we went out of town, we'd bring the dog with us or there was always someone in the neighborhood willing to take the dog in for a few days. And the cats could just be outside while we were gone with a neighbor putting out food and water for them. There was no "doggie day care" or pet hotels or anything like that. Pets were beloved animals and we were always taught to treat them kindly and respectfully, but they weren't a big deal to care for.
In today's world, I'm sure the normal and generally kind treatment our pets received would be viewed as sadly insufficient. Nowadays, there are a lot more restrictions and expectations when it comes to pets. So it's a bigger deal to have a pet than it used to be.
My kids would love love love love a dog or cat. But I just really don't want to deal with the fur, the smell, the walks, the litter boxes, the health issues they might have - let alone the behavior issues the dog or cat might have. Animals can come with difficult behavior issues or hard personalities and traits and if you get a dog or cat that can involve a whole lot of needs you may not be prepared to deal with. And if you get a dog or cat that isn't working out, what do you do? It's hard to give away a dog or cat that just isn't working out.
So we've decided to stick with reptiles. Lizards and snakes are fun, quiet, clean and easy. The kids catch a snake or lizard every so often and we have a nice terrarium we keep it in until we need to go on a trip or the kids loose interest or the animal "seems want to go back to nature." Then we simply let the creature go and say goodbye.
So while I really do love dogs and cats, they just aren't right for our family right now. And my kids have lots of dog and cat friends thanks to our neighbors. I think having friends with pets is really the perfect way to have pets!