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|
Sweet post Val. Harley was certainly worth the wait!ReplyDelete
I imagine my lab mix and jack russell terror saying, "There she goes again. Spending entirely too much time with that big dog!"
I bet they do think that!Delete
This was sweet! And cats can be quite hilarious, I've somehow always owned 'dog like' ones. Such funny, funny creatures.ReplyDelete
I believe that my big cat inspired my reformed cat-hating friend to buy a cat. Now she tries to convince me to get another cat. Unfortunately, cats and birds do not mix!Delete
I really do enjoy your memoirs! As you know all too well, I would love to have a "pet" like Harley. However, the Boston's are known to be fairy hypo allergenic, pretty darn smart too, just sayin'...he only has one layer of fur, and unless he gets excited he really doesn't shed too bad. (less than Harley) he he.ReplyDelete
Fred definitely has less hair than Harley. Harley is shedding like a beast right now. Thankfully he doesn't make me sneeze...much.Delete
While some may get defensive or offended by this I think of my big gelding as another dog for me. I have dogs and they behave the same as horses when in groups, they live comunal lives as dogs do, they have good relationships with humans much the same as dogs. When I have a bad day I can lay in my horses mane and feel better, but I could do that with any of my dogs too. I guess what I'm trying to say is I understand how you feel.ReplyDelete
I think the qualities that make animals good companions and trainable are shared by dogs and horses. I believe that dogs and horses have some ability to empathize, not in the same way as humans, but they can certainly read emotion and mood from our body language. Both live in a hierarchical social structure with a leader, which allows humans to fill that role. At least one hopes that is how it works out. ;)Delete
Of course, they have their own unique characteristics, too!
That's soooo funny! My parent's weren't pet people either, so I got a guinea pig. *giggle* I taught him to come when called and jump a teeny tiny fence for cheerios. I loved that furry little porker to pieces.ReplyDelete
Isn't there a "hypoallergenic" breed of dog? Labradoodle, maybe? Can't remember, but I'm pretty sure there is a dander-less dog breed floating around out there somewhere.
So cute about your guinea pig! I have heard that they are very smart little animals.Delete
There are "hypoallergenic" dogs and the quotation marks are very fitting, because in reality, a truly hypoallergenic dog does not exist. Same for cats. Most people with allergies, myself included, respond to the saliva and/or coat oil. As long as the dog or cat licks their coat or has an oily coat (swimming dogs are very oily), the animal is not hypoallergenic. My in-laws bought a Bison Frise, which is a dog breed that does not shed, but I still cannot pet him without washing my hands. I seem to be even more allergic to dogs than I am cats. If a dog licks my hand, I get raised hives on my skin. Thankfully, horses do not lick their coats and the body oils, sweat, and saliva do not seem to bother me. Dust is still a problem, but I refuse to live in a bubble, so I just bring some tissues. ;)
Your parents got you a gerbil...mine got me a hamster...lolReplyDelete
Haha! Hamster...gerbil...dog...what's the difference?Delete
Ahhhh it is so refreshing to hear a post about just loving on your horse. No perfect conformation this, correct movement that, I am mad at my horse cause he is not perfect mumbo jumbo that I hear ALL the time. Steady is too a family pet along with our 3 other fuzzy ponies. Horses are first my love and my friends and getting to ride and train them is just a priviledge I am allowed. Thanks for the reminder!ReplyDelete
Well stated, Amy.Delete
Sometimes I have an extra carrot and I think, "I shouldn't give him this carrot, because I do not want to spoil him. He should have to work. And then I remember that he is my pet, too. Giving him carrots makes him happy. Watching him enjoy carrots makes me happy. There doesn't always have to be a trick or exercise or objective involved. Sometimes just loving your animal is enough!
Did your parents know you were allergic? I'm allergic to both dogs and horses but, over time, I have quit sneezing. Shedding season still bothers me though. My family has always had dogs and I've had horses most of my life. I consider my current four horses to be "just big dogs."ReplyDelete
That's a good question and that would have been a good reason to try to get me an alternative pet. I do not think they knew I was allergic, because we did not realize I was allergic to cats until we had my big guy. I did become tolerant to my cats over the years and sneezed less. I could snuggle them without much problem, but they were not allowed to sleep on my bed or pillow. I remained very allergic to "foreign" cats and did not actually learn of my allergy to dogs until I was a young adult. I have to be really careful now. Just a little lick from a friendly pouch leaves an itchy mark on my skin. I am an animal lover, so I feel bad when I cannot greet a welcoming animal. Sometimes I just pet them anyway and deal with it. :)Delete
They are really big dogs, aren't they?