Monday, July 23, 2012


Painting by Paul Schexnayder' for cover
of Sophie's Sojourn in Persia

Last week, I published a satirical piece about the use of the common fork (and knife) that was a revision of one of my old newspaper columns entitled “Cherchez la femme.” I received such favorable responses to the blog that I’ve been inspired to revise and publish another of the columns in “A Words Worth.” When this publication appears, I hope I’m not accused of allowing my children, when they were young and foolish, to abuse animals. Any perceived bad treatment of their pets was purely accidental and isn’t something I sanctioned. I don’t want the SPCA on my doorstep!
When my daughters were in their pre-teens, we “went through” several pets in our household. Our cat, Roya, had the distinction of being the longest-lived, and she was four years old when she disappeared –probably with a Cajun alley cat.
However, our first household pet was a hamster. The haggard white rat ran up and down in a cage in a corner of my daughter’s bedroom and finally learned to unlock the gates of his prison. He would then roam freely throughout the house at night. The bedroom in this particular house boasted wallpaper with clusters of flowers embossed on it, and our pet hamster’s appetite for the flowers on the wallpaper was insatiable. Whose bedroom adjoined chewing territory? You guessed it – mama’s and papa’s room. One night the hamster made a foray into the bathroom and, somehow, became entangled in the drier. No, we didn’t turn on the drier without loading, and the next day my daughters found him in the works before we roasted a white rat. However, we think this nameless creature died of pneumonia. Elizabeth, my youngest, was four years old during his residency, and she decided to bathe him back to white rat status – in the toilet. Even after we dried him carefully in a towel and gave him extra portions of hamster food, the nameless creature died a few days later. The white rat was followed by a newly-married gerbil couple who, because of their prolonged honeymoon, became exhausted and, mercifully, crossed the “Great Divide” within a few weeks. Yes, they died dirty. Elizabeth had learned her lesson.
Along came a small black dog, again nameless, who ran up to our back door one day, then ran away from our back door the following day with a female companion, barking Mehitabel the alley cat’s theme song: “Toujours gais, buddy, toujours gais” all the way down the block.
In previous blogs, you’ve read about Pet #4, Roya, the Persian cat who traveled from Iran to the U.S. housed in a crudely-built crate in the cargo area of a jet. She believed she was the Farah Diba reincarnated and draped herself on tabletops with the air of an exotic queen. Roya thought that the oriental carpets we had transported from Iran were made primarily for cat snoozes. She gave us quite a shock after we left Iran because when she got to America, she ran around all night, perhaps because she wasn’t allowed outdoors in Iran. She shed all her former repressions and became a real lady of the night, finally disappearing into the darkness with a Tom that had howled at our window long enough to entice her away forever.
The last additions to our pet population during my daughters’ pre-teen years were two goldfish – again, no names. One afternoon I was lying on Elizabeth’s bed, nursing a headache, when I heard this slight nibble, nibble noise. I thought the hamster had resurrected. The nibbling persisted for perhaps a half hour before I gave up the headache and asked Elizabeth if she had mice in her room. “No,” she explained. “It’s my goldfish breathing.” She was right. I’ve since read that many fish produce noises with their air bladders or teeth. I didn’t examine these little swimmers for teeth evidence, but the way they carried on, I’d say they either possessed expanded air bladders or well-developed chompers. I’m sorry to report that those innocent creatures may have gone down the drain during one of Elizabeth’s “Mama, I’m changing the water” episodes. I’ve read that some goldfish live to be 50 years old. Others live to be 15 years old, while most goldfish that reside in a bowl indoors survive for five years. I should have known that they were destined for a short life span when I bought them for my enthusiastic pet lovers (?).
I really like dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, goldfish, even some insects; e.g., cicadas. And I have a pet theory that people who dislike little creatures have a mean streak. However, when we were raising and disposing of pets, I often thought that perhaps my offspring could have practiced caring for all creatures great and small on an animal as noiseless and aesthetic as a butterfly flying with abandonment – beyond our boundaries!

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