I’ve got a problem with pets. It’s not that I don’t like them—I love animals, and we’ve had pets in the past.
But all my memories of pets are linked to the pain of loss.
It began when I was four. Following a major family crisis, my mother, siblings, and I were staying with my cousins. I used to spend hours playing with the rabbits they kept in the backyard.
One afternoon, I got home from kindergarten to find the rabbit hutch empty and an unusual-looking stew being served for dinner.
Nobody had told me that the adorable rabbits I thought were pets were actually being raised for the table. I had my personal bunny boiler trauma way before Fatal Attraction came out.
A couple of years later, my mother got us a lovely dog, whom we named Tippy. I’m not sure what breed Tippy was, but she was small with a long, silky, motley coat of black, golden brown, and white. Mama took Tippy to the vet to get her spayed. But something went wrong after the operation, and Tippy died just days later.
Mama’s close friend saw how gutted we were and loaned us her dog. Dankudi was a short-haired white mutt with crooked ears. We loved that puppy and had so many great times with him.
Then Mama got a job overseas, and we had to move. Dankudi went back to his home, but Mama’s friend told us that for months after we left, he would keep running to our old house to look for us. My heart broke when I thought about poor little Dankudi not being able to understand where his friends had gone.
Years after that, when I was a teenager, we had another dog.
Duchess was a German Shepherd and Great Dane cross. She was beautiful, regal, and smart and ran as fast as a greyhound. She had a good, long life, but in the end, she got cancer and had to be put down.
We also loved and lost two sassy cats, Sheba and Tashbaan. Sheba was handsome enough to be a pinup model, and, boy, did he know it. But Tashbaan was always getting clobbered by the neighbourhood bully, a vicious white tomcat who once chased Tashbaan all the way into our living room.
After that, I was done with pets. Losing them hurt too much.
I decided that a few years of love and companionship weren’t worth the sorrow of saying goodbye.
Now, with four children, the inevitable question has come up: “Mum, can we get a pet?” So far, the answer has been no.
But pets have been finding their way into my stories lately. I wrote a women’s fiction novella where a Cavalier King Charles spaniel changes the heroine’s life. And in my novel, Through the Blaze, my hero’s dog has a special role in his recovery.
In the book I’m working on now, a cat sidled into the story and, as cats always do, she has laid claim to the comfiest spot.
Perhaps writing about pets is my way of experiencing the joys of having an animal friend vicariously. And maybe the door I thought I’d closed has opened just a crack, and there could be a family pet in our future.
Do you have a pet? Could you share about the animals who have enriched your life?