Friday morning, 5am.
‘Muummeee! The kitty’s here again and she’s hungry!’ Small footsteps pattered down the stairs, the front door was thrown open and oldest son ran joyfully into the garden.
The next minute, our two ancient dogs had suddenly rediscovered their youth and bolted like grease lightning down the stairs and through the door too – to see off said ‘kitty’ good and proper.
Oldest son was furious and hopped about the garden after them, shouting in that voice-carrying way only six-year-old boys at dawn can. ‘Naughty dogs! Don’t be mean to poor Kitty! Take that! And that!’ A couple of faded plastic balls from the ball pool, followed by a size 30 Croc, bounced off the backs of the impervious canines, who ignored his tantrum in favour of a flowerbed to wee in and breakfast – in that order.
At this point, DH and I had planned to roll over and go back to sleep – not reckoning on the persistence of oldest son…
OOOFFF! [DH as 24kgs of child lands on top of him]
‘Daddy – I want a cat. In fact, I want Kitty. Can she come and live with us?’
‘No. We have dogs.’
‘I hate the dogs! They’re so boring! Ella has a hamster – so why can’t I have Kitty?’
‘No. Go and play. NOW.’
‘I hate you – you bloody butt crumbs!’ and chucking the remaining Croc at us, he stormed off to his bedroom.
Now the whacky animal lovers among you will probably tut, and say ‘You’ve already got two dogs – what difference would one little cat make?’ But before you judge me too harshly, you really do need to know the full story.
You see, when I was a little girl, like most children, all I ever wanted was a puppy. But my parents, who’d produced rather a lot of kids (almost two hands-worth) couldn’t bear the thought of any more mess or chaos – so the best thing I got was a hamster.
Being the unspoiled member of a large family that I was, it delighted me, and the little grey thing was duly christened Twinkle – in honour of my favourite comic. Unfortunately, Twinkle, like most small animals left to the dubious ‘care’ of young children, didn’t fare so well. One day I thought she’d like to have a run about in the garden – but instead she caught a cold and wheezed to the finish line 24 hours later.
I was heartbroken – and buried her tearfully in a margarine container in the shrubbery.
Next up was Horatia (formerly known as Horace) until, fresh from the pet shop, she produced a huge litter of babies. Being typically ‘hamsterish’ she ate most of them, which put me off her somewhat. Then, one night, while running around in the kitchen, someone opened the fridge door to make a sandwich. Five seconds later they closed it – unfortunately right on Horatia.
That’s Karma for you…
Buster came in third – a long-haired, daring little dude who loved climbing curtains and up the backs of wardrobes. He was off-white in colour and permanently knotty (have you ever attempted to groom a long-haired hamster?) Buster finally bought it after jumping off the top of his favourite wardrobe. Before we could shout ‘Buster’s up!’ he’d sailed into the air and gone straight to the enormous hamster cage in the sky with a soft thud.
After that, there was Alex, who escaped from his cage and ended up falling into a bucket of soapy water – it was a grizzly death.
His demise was followed by Hunca Munca’s extraordinary expiration. She had somehow managed to reach the ripe old age of three (in our house, a miracle) but one day, obviously fed up of dodging the grim reaper, she got gangrene and all four of her paws fell off. To this day I can remember the smell…
There were other incidents too – some less gruesome – others more so. And, by the time I was 25 and ‘hamster sitting’ my youngest brother’s pet (Nut) while he was on holiday with the parents – I’d seriously had enough of small furry animals.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the toilet incident. Nut (the little bastard!) escaped from his cage, went into the downstairs bathroom and squeezed himself through a tiny hole into the molded ceramic bowl of the lavatory.
I finally located him at 3am – and realized (after trying to drill through the bowl to get him out) I had two options. Leave him in there and go on a long, long holiday, or call some crazy animal lover people I knew. I made the call – they came and switched off the water, removed the entire bog from the floor, and finally Nut was free…
Less than six weeks later, the stupid creature then broke his leg while monkey-hanging off the bars in his cage – and muggins here had to take him to the vet to purchase his ticket to the after-life.
That was it. I’d had enough! No more small furry animals!
But even then, I’ve wavered over the years. There was the ‘rabbit and guinea pig phase’ a tale that is best left untold. And before kids, DH and I had a rescue cat called Fatty. But the ungrateful little sod was addicted to chewing through electric cables. We lost phone chargers, toasters, lamps, DVD players and fridges because of that bloody cat.
And then there’s the child factor. Why only a couple of weeks ago, I took the kids on a playdate to friend’s house who has cats. Forget the huge pile of toys, the sprinkler and the paddling pool – the little horrors spent every spare moment tormenting the moggies, who needed counseling for trauma by the time we left some two hours later…
And so, on to the dogs. They are fat, old and smelly, they leave hair everywhere and we have to clean up the poo. The Labrador is also as blind as a bat and ends up playing bump ‘n’ go if we ever move the furniture around. But – and it’s a big BUT; they are also big enough to hold their own against our feral children, and can happily knock over a tormenting toddler when the situation requires them to.
Unlike hamsters – or cable chewing cats, they have even managed to rack up some decent mileage (no graveyard required in the garden yet) and they are too big to get stuck in the loo – although they do sometimes drink out of it.
But the best thing of all – the very best thing about the dogs, is that they keep the small furry creatures far, far away.
Mum and Dad – I hope you’re reading this – ain’t hindsight a wonderful thing…