I used to beg for a dog when I was little. Of course, I really wanted a horse, but I knew that a horse was not something that could just "happen" overnight. Dogs seemed like a good second choice. Dogs were happy. Dogs were playful and could learn tricks. Dogs liked to go for walks. The only problem was that I was a little girl and I lived with my parents. My parents are not really dog people, so they did what any resourceful parent would do when faced with the demands of a dog-wanting daughter.
They got me a gerbil.
My gerbil was black and was named after a toy poodle, which I met while on family vacation. I was easily swayed by the dark eyes and long tail. I loved my gerbil, even if he did keep me up at night, scratching in his plastic sky-house. My parents tell me that I used to yell at him to be quiet in the middle of the night. He was good at ignoring me and kept right on scratching. I built obstacle courses for my gerbil to explore out of blocks and tissue boxes. I wanted him to have an enriching gerbil-life. Although comical, cute pets, gerbils are not long-lived, so began a long line of gerbil companions whose names all began with "P". The only trouble was that gerbils are so tiny, that I felt like I had to touch my pet so gently that I could just barely scratch my gerbil behind his ear and feed him sunflower seeds by hand. Oh, and gerbils do not go on walks. I still wanted a dog.
Eventually, having a gerbil and the occasional goldfish won from the state fair was not enough. I started to lament for a dog again. My mom bought brightly-colored neon fish to swim around with the goldfish. The "Neats", as we called them, were beautiful with their shimmering blue stripes, but, alas, they did not have fur and could not snuggle. I begged for a dog. I wanted a pet to teach tricks and take for walks and snuggle with in front of the TV. So, naturally, my parents broke down and I came home with a large gray and white kitten. This was their last resort. This kitten grew up to be the most "dog-like" cat I could have imagined. He would go for walks in the woods, ride on the sled in the snow, and even let me give him baths, although he did not wear a happy face for that one. I loved him dearly and he was joined by a second cat several years later. Both had lots of warm, soft, wonderful fur that rumbled as they purred. My cats loved to nap with me while I watched television. My big gray and white cat could catch pieces of ham in his mouth like a terrier. They were not dogs, but they were just about perfect.
Except there was one small technicality. My cats' fur made me sneeze. A parent of a friend mentioned something about giving up her cats, because her husband was allergic. People do that? I asserted to my parents that under no circumstances were my cats to be given away. Sneezing wasn't that bad (I sneezed A LOT!) in my mind and I was willing to live with allergies if it meant having my furry, purring pets. Thankfully, my parents never challenged the idea. My dog substitutes grew into much more. I became a devoted cat owner for fifteen years. What this really means is that I was owned by two cats for fifteen years. Cats are like that.
After marrying my human love, I moved out and moved in with my husband, whose family always had birds. Naturally, we bought a bird. I learned to read the many feather expressions of our little white parakeet. She was such a darling, little creature and so incredibly smart. I was delighted the first time that she flew to me and sat on my shoulder as I walked around the living room. I was surprised how interactive parakeets, and later a cockatiel, could be as pets. They are tiny pets with big personalities. We have four birds at the moment and they never let you forget that they are there!
The only problem with my avian companions is that I cannot really pet them. I can sort of pet the cockatiel, but only if he feels like having his neck scratched. The parakeets are only observed from a distance, even though we have been able to train most of them to perch on our fingers. They object to any petting, which is a shame because their feathers look so soft and silky. I want to touch them! Luckily, I have a solution, and he has lots and lots of soft, warm fur...
|Riding this pet is not frowned upon.|
Harley is not just my trail horse, my dressage partner, and my beautiful animal. He is my "pet". I may have never gotten that dog, but now I have something much better. I can run my hands down Harley's long neck all I want. He has soft, fluffy fur around his tummy and chest from his winter coat. The texture could put a lamb to shame. Velvet fur covers his muzzle. Even his mane and tail are soft and silky once I have detangled them. He is somewhat secretive about his favorite itchy spots, but I know where to find them. Brush his forehead rigorously with a hard brush and he will lay into the brush. Use a gentler stroke along the facial bones under his eyes and he will happily tilt his head so that you can get just the right spot. If he slobbered from the bit, he also appreciates a good brushing under his chin and jowls. Harley loves baths in the summer. He stands nicely for running braids and will do just about anything for carrots. I can hug his big face and whisper into his ear. His liquidy brown eyes look right into me. Harley takes his second job seriously. He is a good pet.
One of my favorite children's books is The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble. The Native American themed book refers to horses as "Sacred Dogs". I may never officially join the ranks of dog ownership, since my allergy to cats extends to dogs, but I seem to have acquired my dog after all. I will take my Sacred Dog over the real thing. Besides, I am certain that a horse was what I was hoping for from the beginning.
|My Sacred Dog|