Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Furry Chaos Makes a Convert - Sort Of

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Furry Chaos Makes a Convert - Sort Of

Article excerpt

Gommy was ambivalent about animals. She'd never owned a pet. Her three children had never had pets. And if she'd had her way, when my mother and I moved in with her, I wouldn't have had a pet, either.

Pets are trouble. You have to feed them, water them, and walk them. Gommy (like "mommy" with a G) had cared for so many humans, I guess she didn't want to worry about the animal kingdom. Her house was filled with grandmother-type knickknacks and wall-to-wall carpeting. Pets didn't figure into her idea of a calm, clean home and an ordered life.

What Gommy didn't realize was that her first grandchild, me, was one of the biggest animal lovers on earth. I would not take "no" for an answer, but it took a while to work her up to a creature I could hug. A neighbor gave me my first pets: two goldfish. Gommy was not amused. But she allowed them to live out their short lives in their fishbowl by the oven in the kitchen. Not a particularly soothing location for fish, if you ask me. Next came a small turtle with orange spots on his neck. I named him Elmer. Elmer lived in the kitchen, too, but he was occasionally allowed to take supervised walks in the living room. He used to head straight for the magazine rack and do the Twist, scratching his shell under its metal edge. He had real personality, for a turtle. Still, every birthday, every Christmas, I dreamed of opening a big box to find a puppy inside. I wanted something large and furry that I could hug. I was an only child, and fish and turtles don't score high in hugability. I ranked my neighbors and friends by their pet ownership. One had a sheltie with a two-room doghouse. (The sheltie was so shy, I had to crawl inside the doghouse to visit him.) My favorite friend had a small brown mutt named Sandy. She knew how to share. She told me he was half mine. Next door were the Kriegers, with an orange fluff of a cat. When Topaz moved out, Susie the cockapoo moved in. Directly behind us were three small, yappy dogs. Across the street: dachshunds, show dogs, not allowed to touch. Two houses down: German shepherds, enormous, frightening to parents of small children, but actually quite harmless. …

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