For all the pets we’ve loved before

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MIKE RAINONE/Hammertime

Throughout our lives, no matter how old we may be, all of us surely have many fond and funny memories of all the weird and wonderful pets that we have had around the house. As youngsters we used to collect all sorts of crawly creatures in a jar or shoebox, then brought them home and kept them under the bed, while secretly feeding them all sorts of leftovers.

How many special occasions did you take your worm, butterfly, grasshopper, frog, beetle, or whatever to show and tell at school, and just couldn’t wait for ‘pet day’ to show off our dog, rabbit, cat, hamster, turtle, and all sorts of other species of nature’s family that we proudly called our own? We always had some sort of a pet or two around our house for as long as I can remember, and as I share some of these great experiences, I know that all of you have had the same warm and fuzzy adventures over the years, and still do today.

• My first not-so-favourite memory was as a toddler in London, England, living under the absolute fear of my Aunt Muriel’s pampered and prissy Siamese cats. They would scratch and chase little old me around the house, and to this day me and those whiskered felines don’t get along. In 1949 when we moved to Ponoka, my dear mother insisted on a cat to get rid of her worst enemy (mice) in our first tiny little home in Riverside, but Penelope turned out to be lazy and dined only on cat food.

• One of my greatest joys of growing up was getting my first dog, which I called Bruce, and we would spend countless hours exploring the Battle River valley. Like so many others, it was my job to walk and brush my dog and clean up the poop. Our little family had many dogs in those early years, some strays that we didn’t get to keep for very long, but the ones I remember the most were Bruce, Gopher and Patches.

• I guess you might say that once we got into our teenage years pets were not always a priority, as we were usually out searching for bigger game. We all know that taking a pet along on a date is not a really good idea, because on many occasions the young lady paid more attention to the pet!

• Just after we got married I found out that my beloved wife had a pet gerbil, and after having several pairs of socks and other items of clothes nibbled to shreds, Bam Bam somehow found the back door open late one night. I guess dogs and cats chew shoes and climb curtains, but they have no place to hide, and you can track them down to administer pet discipline.

• I believe that the biggest adventure in having a pet comes when you are raising your own family. With our four kids and us, I will never forget the screams of joy when we brought a pair of cute little bunnies home for Easter. Good old dad built the outside pens and made them all warm and cozy, then two years later we had a backyard colony and the kids weren’t interested any more.

With two girls and two boys, the lads were interested in puppies, turtles, frogs and salamanders, while the lassies preferred kittens, birds and fish. During the peak of their childhood and the beginning of me turning grey, we had to transform our household and backyard into somewhat of a zoo to keep them all happy.

• Along the way we likely had just about every type of fish you could imagine, including two that were supposed to be guppies, turned out to be miniature sharks, and ate a lot of the others. There was also a pair of pretty but psychotic blue budgies, who didn’t get along, one died of loneliness or over nagging, and as there are no bird-shrinks we gave the other one back to the pet store. Then someone suggested a cage full of multi-colored finches, who did nothing but chirp and multiply, and would never shut up, even when you put a blanket over their cage.

• Now, after 50 fun years, I sadly find that we are now petless around our nest. But then again, after taking my three surviving fish back to the pet store the other day I spied the neatest little lizard — and the price tag was only $98 plus tax. The nice lady claimed that we could build a tropical garden in our lonely and empty fish tank and that this supposedly friendly scaly creature would eventually grow up to two feet long and live for many years. Needless to say my wife very firmly stated that one old monster around our condo would be quite enough, thank you. Whatever the case, please love, enjoy, and pamper your pets whatever they may be, then politely inform your children and grandchildren that you love having them over, but that you will not be babysitting their pets.

As you recover from the super 75th Ponoka Stampede, have a great sunny summer week, all of you!

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