Family Pets


Larry Kay is founder and president of Animal Wow a great company that promotes Judeo-Christian family values of love and responsibility in its work to help children become safe and successful with pets. Animal Wow has also won many awards from parenting groups, in children’s media, and in the pet industry.

I myself love pets and I pointed out to Larry Kay last week that most of the time the family pet really belongs to the responsible adult who looks after it.  My children always say,

“How come Watson,” our Schnoodle, “follows Mum everywhere and not us?”

I fed him, made sure he had water, walked him, cleaned up after him, groomed him, trained him and took him to the vet.  The children played with him, enjoyed his company and left him when they went off to college without a backward glance or worry that he would be neglected or mistreated.

Being English I come from a long line of pet lovers.  My mother had a dog who was in her life when she met my father.  He was a Fox Terrier and ended up being good with children.

When we returned to England, from Germany, Chummy was not on the manifesto.  My parents said he wouldn’t survive the quarantine, whatever that meant, I was only six.

Our next dog was a vicious little Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

Famous animal lover, author and veterinarian, Desmond Morris would say,

“With so many lovely dogs out there waiting for a good home why put up with a mean one?”

For reasons that escaped me then, we did!  For five years anyway, until we got our posting to the Lebanon.  The dog, once again, was not on the manifesto.  My parents had to leave him with my grandmother who found him to be a control freak whom she didn’t see eye to eye with.

After a year he conveniently met his death when he was hit by a car while squatting to pee in the gutter outside her London house!

Dogs number three and four were Jack Russells of doubtful behaviour depending on mood.

The first Jack was Judy, she had a hole in her heart and my folks spent more money on her than I had seen in my lifetime.  She died after about 5 years and my parents mourned while I tried to convince them to come and visit me and their grandchildren in America now that they had no ties.

Perishing that thought they immediately refilled their empty nest with Jodi, another female Russell who ended up outliving my father and eventually dying in her sleep in her basket without my mother noticing…for an hour or two.

As a Mum who had come from a dog loving home I vowed that no pet of mine would eclipse the presence of my children.  It may be tempting sometimes because dogs are very obedient and don’t talk back and always are ready for a meal.  For the most part my children took priority over the dog, the hamster, the tadpoles and fish, the birds, the raccoons, the squirrels and cats…and the snakes…of course!!

The primary caregiver of all these animals through the decades, was me!

I tell a lie, I have to admit there was one exception to that rule.  Can you guess?

Yes, the snakes!

I wanted to make pets of the mice that were live feed for the Ball Pythons.  If a mouse survived the night in the snake cage it was released.  Did I just say released?  Not in or near our house but it was let go somewhere.  My herpetologist son said it deserved its freedom.  I am sure the owls loved us! When we transitioned to frozen pabulum I never knew what I was going to find in our freezer when I went out for a loaf of bread or a bit of ice cream!

College time came around and my snake lover went to A&M.  I cunningly “talked up” the snakes and the kudos I’d received from my sons for allowing them in my bathtub to shed and my house to dwell, and managed to find them a good home with another homeschooling family in our church with two boys. To date they are still alive and we get news of them every once in a while.

This preamble brings me to a story about my oldest son who has been in a flat by himself for two years now.  He decided, on his own with only a little help from several of his married, but as yet childless, friends who have multiple dogs, to acquire a warm blooded, furry companion after listening to their stories of canine fidelity.

My handsome Texan and I looked at each other and our eyes shone with knowledge born of experience.  We bit our tongues.

He spent a weekend looking for a dog at the pounds, shelters and animal marts in the local area.  All he knew was that he was looking for a medium sized mutt with no grooming necessary.  He found Dexter, a 7 month old black Lab/Chow mix, paid for him and arranged for delivery the following day, Sunday.  He took me out to buy doggie paraphernalia and spent several weeks’ grocery money on a leash, treats, biscuits, bones, chews and food.

He had been the proud owner of a mutt for two hours before doubt set in… and the phone calls began,

“You’re supposed to be on my side,” he complained, “I want positive comments not negative,” he whistled down the phone when I suggested Dexter may only be crate trained and may well think peeing in the flat, on lovely carpet, was perfectly all right.  Not having a clue about crates and how they work I recommended he speak to someone familiar with the process.

He didn’t want to talk to anyone else but me.  So I told a story about my experience,

“Every time I get a new dog I get this sinking feeling of, ‘oh no what have I done?’ Adapting to an animal that is totally  dependent on you takes time.  Don’t worry, with time he’ll eventually worm his way into your heart.”

Unless of course he poops on your bed, I thought!

I compared having a dog was somewhat akin to having a new baby.

“Ah!” he said, “having a new baby is not something I would expect to do on my own.”

And I thought, true but not always the case…

After a fraught night where he had to get up a couple of times to clean up and take the dog out, he brought Dexter over to me at 730 in the morning so that he wouldn’t have to leave him all alone in the flat while he went to work.

I nearly asked him,

“Do you still wonder why the dog always followed me around???”  but I held my peace.

Dexter was the perfect guest, he peed and pooped outside several times, learned how to sit for a biscuit, ate a chew, drank water, got spooked by a loud noise and retreated outside under a bush for several hours until I leashed him and brought him inside with the lure of a piece of barbecued pork!  He snoozed while I worked and snored his way gently through the afternoon.

Unbeknownst to me my son was making other arrangements while Dexter and I bonded.

As soon as he picked him up from the McNeny Doggie-Care he was rushed back from whence he came barely 24 hours ago.

My son called me the next morning after an uninterrupted night’s sleep and said,

“You know what Mum?  I don’t feel nearly as lonely now that I don’t have the dog, if you know what I mean?”

I told him I did; there is a great deal of loneliness in raising anything single-handedly.

Think before you adopt even the most beguiling of creatures.

Love and responsibility can be taught graciously with the help of a family pet as I well know!

Do you have any pet stories?

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