When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed a pet; The reason? my Mam hates/ is terrified of all animals and as psychologists will confirm, this made me want one all the more. I decided I would like to be a vet when I grew up (I now can’t think of anything worse, especially since I heard the story of having to squeeze dog’s anal glands), although this ambition may be fulfilled by my super bright niece who has chosen a heap of sciencey subjects for her leaving in her bid for veterinary.
My first pet was a wild mouse who inhabited my childhood home and I named him Ernie. For some reason my Mam wasn’t too enamoured with him and one fateful day I witnessed Ernie’s guillotining (the scene closely resembled THAT Ned Stark scene as I clung to my Dad and wept).
I wore my Mam down at a school Christmas fair and she allowed me to keep the goldfish I’d spent £20 in 10ps trying to win. She didn’t however think to get a bowl but produced a fancy, glass dessert bowl to keep him in.. it was a little shallow but he seemed happy. Sometimes I’d fill the bath and let him have a good oul swim, even tipping him from a cup into the water so he’d know how it felt to go on a water slide… similar to Rainbow Rapids. One morning however, I stepped out of bed and squished my poor fishy between my toes, a very unpleasant sensation. To this day, I’m not sure if the shallow bowl was at fault or if I had instilled a sense of adventure in him that a goldfish should never have experienced.
I thought back to the days of Ernie and longed for a mouse, sure they were only a pound in the pet shop in Northside Shopping Centre. Once the weekly shopping was finished, my plea bargaining would begin but my Mam would not be swayed.
She eventually agreed on a Terrapin before the whole salmonella thing and we went to a pet shop on George’s Street or called George’s pets.. can’t remember. I have no idea how I persuaded her to do this as it seems completely out of character for her to back down but I was a tenacious little thing. We got in the shop and I ran past the terrapins to the Guinea Pigs and started playing with them. My Mam began to sense a trap and tried desperately to sell the terrapins to me. I had the pet shop owner on board and we ground her down. I cuddled the guinea pig and began to sob, begging my Mam to get it and she had no choice as all the customers in the shop stared at her expectantly. We got in the car and I held the cardboard box on my lap as if it contained precious jewels as my Mam tried to come to terms with what had happened and listed all the rules to having a pet… you clean it, feed it, never let me see it, it can stay in the bloody shed etc.
We got her home and I named her Frisky; I let her out of the box and she shot under the couch. My Mam’s cousin Edward had arrived and he and my Mam stood on chairs screaming as I tried to catch it. I thought about teeth and claws and so put on a preventative pair of rubber gloves. My Dad came home from work to this scene and calmly saved the day as he does.
Frisky lived a happy 3 months… I carried her in my backpack and made a tiny lead. The cold in the shed got her in the end but I was convinced she was hibernating and spent several hours trying to wake her up with a hairdryer. RIP little Frisky.
There were many times after this that I tried my luck with a cat but that is the most hated of all my Mam’s hated animals. Kids would often call to the door with an adorable litter of kittens and I would plead and beg but I had used that card up on Frisky. It was my younger sister Fiona that went big and bold in the procurement of a pet. I was helping my Dad out in work one day when we got a hysterical call from my Mam saying Fiona had brought a dog into the house and she was terrified. We raced home at lunchtime to see the tiniest of puppies whimpering in a corner as my Mam rocked back and forth in a chair. My Aunty Avril’s dog had had a litter and Fiona didn’t risk asking permission, the balls on that kid!
We (I) named him Cujo and never did a dog live up to a name like he did. He grew to be enormous and resembled a rottweiler but was a mongrel of some description. He would run and hurl himself against the conservatory when we had guests and his bark was terrifying. He had a touch of the stupids and once attacked my Dad as he tried to get over the back wall when he was locked out. Taking him for a walk was insane, I was literally dragged behind him as he tried to attack people and the neighbours would cross the road when they saw us coming. After a few years, when my Mam and Dad had me and Fiona safely across the Atlantic staying with cousins for the Summer they sent him to a farm in Ashbourne. NO, that is not a euphemism… they did, I promise!
So now, I’m in the position where my kids will ask for a pet and I’m just not that into it anymore, I think I have enough shite to clean and meals to make. I did get Conall two goldfish a few years back. I was afraid the younger ones would tip the bowl so I placed it on a high shelf in the playroom. After a week, I got a really bad smell and thought maybe a mouse carcass? (a strange conclusion, I know). Eventually I located the smell to the bowl.. I’d forgotten about the fish. Sadly, one didn’t make it but I managed to keep the other one alive for a record couple of months. My friend Susan bought hers at the same time and they are still alive and enormous… the moral is, don’t come live with me, choose Susan.
I then got a cat behind my husband’s back. He wasn’t impressed but came around when he saw how gorgeous Alan (Conall’s choice) was. I really tried this time… I fed him, bought him toys, pet him but one day he went outside and never came back. I can’t really blame him and I really hope he found a nice, little old lady to look after him.
As you all know, Conall got a guinea pig (and a trampoline) instead of a communion. Kimmy (Schmidt) the Guinea pig seems to be thriving. She’s living feral in the back and has gone against natural law and has befriended a cat; I think they’re looking for a Disney deal.
To all the animal lovers out there, I am truly sorry for all the loss I have inflicted on the animal world. In my defence, I did give up meat in 1992 for 3 months but realised I didn’t like vegetables very much; it all ended when I had to decide between an omelette and a steak in Oscar Taylors. I tried again in 1998 for approx 6 months when Linda McCartney died; I was lured back by American, crispy bacon. I think I’m more Ron Swanson than Doris Day.