Friday, April 22, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Pets

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History by Amy Coffin is a series of weekly blogging prompts (one for each week of 2011) that invite genealogists and others to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants. You do not have to be a blogger to participate. If you do not have a genealogy blog, write down your memories on your computer, or simply record them on paper and keep them with your files.
  • Week 17. Pets. Did you have any pets as a child? If so, what types and what were their names. Do you have pets now? Describe them as well. If you did not have pets, you can discuss those of neighbors or other family members.

The first pet I remember was a cat named Cigar.  I have very little memory of  her, as she died in 1972 when I was six years old. 

Next we got a pekingese/terrier cross and named her Angel.  Angel was my dog, growing up, and she was with us for a long time.  I'm not generally a fan of small breed dogs, but Angel was mine.  She liked to run, and could run faster than me until I grew enough that my legs got longer.  She generally roamed the neighborhood if she got out, but later she would respond and come when called. One day my parents came home to find Angel on the front steps with one eye hanging out.  We never knew how that happened, but we took her to the vet.  He removed the eye, and Angel lived the last several years of her life with only one eye. 

My then-fiance moved into her own place and got a dog from the Humane Society.  She named him Buckets, and he was an adorable big lug.  Everyone loved that dog, and they still talk about him.  Unfortunately, Buckets developed leukemia and died at about 3 years old.

After that, I left when I enlisted in the Navy.  Once my new wife and I got settled, we got an aquarium (I've had freshwater aquariums since I was in high school) and birds.  I got a cockatiel named Peepers from someone who was bringing him to the Humane Society to get rid of him.  I saw them bringing him in his cage, and asked if they were giving him up.  They said yes, and I said I was looking for a bird, so they handed me the cage.  Win-win!  Peepers lived with me for the next 15 years or more.  He was raised as a hand-fed baby, and therefore was tolerant of being held, or perching on my shoulder. 

We enjoyed the social nature of the hand fed babies, so got some lovebird babies and raised them by hand as well.  Fed a mix of soaked dog food-like pellets in a mush, from a syringe.  The babies bond to who feeds them from a very early age, so they become very attached pets if you go that route.  But be aware, many birds love a very long time, some as much as 75 years or more.  It's not uncommon to find exotic birds being willed to descendants if they outlive their owners.

In addition, we got several pairs of Zebra Finches.  They're quite entertaining, and much less work as they remain caged and all you do is maintain that environment.  They're small birds, and very prolific breeders.  We sold their babies back to the pet store, which gave us store credit enough to keep the pets all paid for in food and other stuff.

We also got a dog, Zook.  He was a mixed breed, I forget which.  He was a really fun dog most of the time, but he had a quirky nature and could become aggressive at times.  We eventually put him down after he bit our firstborn son.  We also got another dog, a husky/Shepherd mix we named Shadow.  We found Shadow at a mall pet store, and I fell in love with her immediately.  She was adorable, and looked very much the Husky with blue eyes. Shadow lived with us for a long time, and died at the respectable age of 15 of a chronic bowel obstruction.  I still miss her, she was my buddy.

After Shadow, I was not interested in getting another pet.  But my family had other ideas, and within a year or so we were visiting the Humane Society (sense a running theme here?) looking for a new friend to bring home.  We looked at a bunch of dogs (there's a cat allergy in the family, so no cats here...) and finally got down to two, sisters.  They were a Shepherd/Sheltie mix, one black, one Shepherd tan & black.  The black one was named Betty, and was extremely pregnant, and the other was Ruby.  Both were 8 months old, and the Humane Society folks told us there was a strong possibility that Betty was pregnant by her father or brother.  Well.  Betty was actually much more outgoing and affectionate, but Ruby was also nice.  How to choose?  Long story short, we took both, including the pregnant Betty, who we renamed Sapphire to go with her sister Ruby.  The condition was that we would not keep the coming litter, but would raise them until weaned, then return them to the Humane Society for adoption.  We reasoned that this would be a wonderful learning experience for the kids, and we just couldn't decide between the dogs.

Puppies are a bundle of fun, but also a bunch of work!  They're very messy.  I'm glad, in hindsight, that we decided to get both dogs and do the puppy thing, and the kids really enjoyed the process as well.  Sapphire delivered a littler of 11 pups, of which 9 were alive.  One of those later died at about 5 weeks old, so we ended up delivering 8 puppies back to the Humane Society.  We told family all about it, and three of the puppies ended up being adopted by family where we can still visit them.  They never forget their first people, and get very excited anytime we go to see them.

Sapphire developed the same chronic bowel obstruction that Shadow had, and passed away at age 5.  Ruby is still with us, and has grown into a wonderful companion, very affectionate and responsive.
Sapphire and puppies