On Pets

As part of The Bloggening, every week each participant writes a themed post. The theme is determined by a rotation (for example, I set last week’s theme as ‘Birthdays’). This week’s theme, ‘Pets’, was picked by Ishanamaya over at Delightfully Twisted.

Animals have always been a part of my life. I’ve had quite a few pets (I think my parents tolerated my/my sister’s fascination since we both wanted to be vets/biologists growing up). A few fish (none of which lasted long – I sucked at cleaning the tank – except one Goldfish that grew MASSIVE). A gecko (who caught hypothermia during a particularly brutal New England winter) and the few crickets he refused to eat for some reason (If they lasted the 24 hour “cage match”, I would release them in the backyard). My sister and I grew up in a relatively rural part of the state, and there was actually a small horse ranch across the street from us. While my sister was the one who really bonded with the horses, I appreciated their size, strength, and willful natures. Thankfully quite a few wild apples grew in the area.

And then there was Sam, our Basset Hound.

What is probably the only photo of Sam, while he was a puppy, framed by me and my sister. Mom was shocked the first time she saw it on Facebook.

*Long pause* Sorry, teared up for a second there.

As you can tell from the picture, we had Sam from a puppy. We we’re barely any older ourselves, so he was almost another sibling. My Dad had a few dogs in his life (including a setter named Shawn from before I was born that he still can’t really talk about), and felt it was important. Sam was amazing. Playful and loving as a puppy. Wise, caring, and headstrong as an adult. Seriously, when he caught a scent, it was all I could do to hold onto the leash for dear life. Growing up, he was my best and most loyal friend (though considering I was a kid, he probably saw it as torture), and caring for him was one of the few chores I accepted gladly. We’d take long walks through the park, exploring the trails that wove to and from the main road. Occasionally during the summer we’d go walking in the lake. Sam loved water, and I loved Sam, so I tolerated that wet-dog smell and toweling him down as best I could.

I can’t believe how wily he was. There’d be a loaf of bread in a plastic bag all the way in the back of the kitchen counter (which was 4 feet high, and Sam was 3-4 ft long) and we’d come home to torn plastic and crumbs. Seriously physics, explain that!

Bassets are amazing. A sense of smell second to only the Bloodhound. Those soulful eyes. The perfect temperament (especially for children). Honestly, Dachshunds are some cheap-ass, poorly tempered rip-off and how you could confuse the two… for shame, sir, for shame. When I eventually get another dog, it’ll probably be a Basset.

After we moved to the city, Sam grew pretty popular. We were one of the few families in our tight-knit community with any pets (Orthodox Jews are weird), let alone one so personable. It was good to show the little kids that they didn’t have to fear dogs out of ignorance.

Towards the end, Sam grew more lethargic and developed a few symptoms of old age. Truth be told though, we were luck that he never developed the problems so common to his breed (we managed his weight pretty well). The house we were in at the time had a lot of staircases, which posed some problem for him, but when I needed it he somehow always made it to my room.

Sam passed the summer I graduated high school (average Basset lifespan is 11-14 years). This was right after my parents’ divorce and my mom and sister moving to Florida. I still vividly remember finding him at the foot of the stairs (his favorite spot, which would be particularly troublesome in the dark of night), lying there as if he was peacefully asleep. A few years before my neighbors (and best friend of the time) lost their dog due to a reckless driver, and I remember how devastated we all were. And yet this was so much worse. Worse than losing my grandparents (may they forgive me for saying it). Just so utterly heartbreaking. To be honest, I think it’s a large part of why I didn’t go home much during college breaks (or since for that matter). I even had to stop reading PvP, though when Scott lost Kirby back in 2009 I sent a heartfelt condolence.

It wasn’t until senior year that I was really able to start entertaining the idea of another pet. Kate, a roommate at the time subletting one of our rooms, moved in with her cat. Coming from a dog-oriented family and region, I’d never really spent much time with cats. Fats made sure that changed, never failing to make himself at home where you were bound to come across him. While Kate and Fats only lived in our apartment for 6 months, there was a definite hole when they left. I started entertaining the idea of getting a pet soon after, and given my schedule an adult cat made more sense than a dog. Almost by fate, days later I came across a post on LiveJournal (judge not lest ye be judged) calling for someone to take a pair of cats. The poster had recently moved into an apartment that wasn’t a good environment for the cats and was hoping for some help. She herself was about to move out it was so bad, but her new apartment didn’t permit pets.

With my roommates’ approval, I jumped at the opportunity, and that weekend a pair of friends and I drove to her apartment to pick them up. I swear, the place was a crack house. Honestly, if I could have rescued the girl too, I would have. And that’s how Sake and Wasabi, brother Russian Blues, entered my life.

They were so much smaller back then!

First off, despite being a bit of a Japanophile, I did not name them! Just a coincidence, I swear. While Sake was pretty personable from the start, Wasabi had a pretty bad experience at the crack house and was still recovering from resulting surgery. It took a few months for him to feel comfortable around me, and almost a year and a half for the others (though honestly, he can still be pretty skittish at times). It’s a bit of a shock at how fast they started growing (I don’t think they were being fed properly before), and Sake’s now sporting a champion beer-gut (when it first started to develop I was so panicked that I took him to the vet. Turns out it’s just a side effect of neutering).

Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be without them (well, aside from being “that 20-something single guy with 2 cats”). Writing this post has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, and the fuzzy pair haven’t left me alone the whole time. Wasabi, who has over time grown far more dependent on my affection (Sake decided to take a liking to one of my other roommates), has literally lied on top of my hands/keyboard 4 times. I’m not saying that he’s trying to stop me typing, just that he’s sensing distress and craving the attention, which gravitates him to my hands/face (people shouldn’t try to anthropomorphise outside of fiction. Seriously, clothing for pets pisses me off like you wouldn’t believe).

I know that eventually this too shall pass. But while I’ll never forget my pets and the lessons they’ve taught me, there will be others. Both for me, and eventually I hope, for my children.

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One response to “On Pets

  1. I remember your panic at the developing beergut… Good times.

    Also.. awwwww little Will!
    Ironically, when you shave you still look the same… baby face.

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