Ten cats, one dog, twenty-one turtles, a rat, a rabbit, a snake, two cockatiels, four parakeets, about a million fish, and one cameleon. No, there was no ark involved, but there were children who were in need of pet(s). They, the pets, didn’t all live with me, at the same time, because that would have been just crazy. I always wanted a pet of some sort. I was lucky to have an aunt who always had dogs and cats, and for a while, that is where I got my fix. I didn’t have much luck with fish or turtles (who jumped out of their bowls to their death, which I believe must have had something to do with the plastic palm tree as the only form of stimulation). I was not the caretaker of the cockatiels as my son decided he had to have them, at age 14, but they did live and die under my roof. Cats arrived in my life when I was about 13 after much negotiating with my father. The first Charlie only lived for three years, but her successor, also Charlie, lived well into her late teens. When our family was going through some turmoil, my sons asked if we could have a dog. I always wanted a dog. The dog, Charley, who came from a shelter,along with his name, lived till 15 1/2. All the rest of the animals, including the reptiles, were creatures that stayed for a while until it was their time. Now, my FHB and I have Paka, which means cat in Swahili, and she is six. She arrived much to the indignation of our cat, Lucy, who lived to the ripe old age of twenty, and died almost nine months ago, on Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday.
I have always talked to my animal partners in life. They generally stare back, sometimes cocking their heads in some sort of empathy-like response. That always seems sufficient, even when I suspect that they comprehension of the serious nature of my discussions with them, is limited to their personal hope for something food oriented or at least some pats on their heads or stomachs. I did not often, or actually never, reached out to either the rat or chameleon as confidents because I didn’t feel much of a connection, despite knowing that Josh, the rat, was highly intelligent and had markings like a cow and I am very fond of cows. Humans often pretend to listen when you are attempting to convey something new, exciting, or something that involves directions (technological or geographic). You know when they are pretending, because they seem to glaze over or actually turn away and focus on something more stimulating than what you are discussing. They are often rude. My animals at least give me eye contact or rub up against me in some sort of comforting and connected fashion. Yes, I know the goal, once again, is food or pats, but at least we understand one another. I do find, that their child like ways, specific to cats, is that they will make significant attempts to get my attention, when I don’t pay attention. For Paka this is leaping across the room, at breakneck speed, with a mission of knocking something down or destroying something expensive . This gets me to shout at her, and we are engaged in an interaction. I insist that she stop her negative behavior as she sidles up to me and I relent, give her a treat for not shredding the rush on the dining room chairs and we then relax and enjoy a tummy rub. Her, not me. I am well trained.