It is sort of odd to think about now, but when I was a kid, I was scared of animals. I couldn’t rightly tell you why, exactly, but then that seemed to be a perfectly normal fear for kids to be having, so perhaps an explanation isn’t required. But indeed, the most vivid recollection of this fear to this day stands out clear:
We had gone to the TVO headquarters. TVO being the local province’s channel - not that I knew that at the time, and actually, I was never actually sure what it was until writing this and realizing I may have to sound as if I knew something about it, which I don’t really, not that this is a government funded educational network, all I knew in my time with the channel was that it was where we found most of our favourite kids shows. The Polkadot Door, The Elephant Show…etc. Anyways, at this exhibition at the TVO headquarters, we had the chance to see and touch a live beaver. And for the life of me, I wasn’t able to make myself do it. I was freaked out. My younger siblings were fine, they stretched out their tiny tiny hands and gave it a pat or two. Me on the other hand, hysterics. NO WAY was I touching that thing.
The thing is, I loved animals…in theory. But we just never had the experience of dealing with them hands on. My cousin in New York had a cat, Queenie, and I did like her, except…well, she was one of those poncy type cats, who had airs and believed she was rightly named. Moreover, while I used to try to entice her (at a safe distance, always) with scraps of processed cheese left in a trail experimentally to see if she would actually follow it (but no her fatness and laziness greatly overcame her greed, I came to conclude), she actually came within very close proximity – a new thing for both of us – and I found myself gazing at her green eyes and persuading myself that this was the time for me to overcome my hesitation of touching an animal.
She left me with four claw marks, each so perfectly placed along the side of each four fingers of the hand that had reached out to pet her.
So much for my animal love.
To try and trace the fear, I could also share the few cloudy memories of having visited my grandparents out in the countryside, where they had a number of dogs. Whiskey and Brandy were two hugely ferocious and scary dogs – the type that were large, menacing, didn’t shut up with their barking, and perpetually drooled while baring their fangs at you. For some reason an uncle found it immensely amusing to taunt me by pushing me closer and closer toward the dog’s reach, for the dog was leashed on a chain that could only go so far. I recall that memory being graced with my tears.
On the other hand, I still for some reason, loved animals…in theory. I can’t explain it, I just always feel this secret bond with them. I see them – bird, squirrel, dog, cat, whatever - and something within me kind of awakens, I feel as if I am continuing an ongoing conversation.
Aside from Whiskey and Brandy (and yes, my grandfather liked his drink), there was this whitish, husky-type dog (and for the record, this has always been my favourite type of dog). It was leashed apart from the other dogs, I don’t know why, but it was to the other side of the house, and under a great tree that stretched upward along the side of the second-story balcony. That is where I spent many hours, looking down at the dog whom I decided to call “Princess” – and I persuaded myself that we, Princess and I, were great friends, and that with special whistles and other noises, we were communicating. In fact, I also wrote special notes with drawings on tiny scraps of paper, and floated them down to Princess.
It was many years before I ever thought to ask what happened to Princess, but for some reason noone could recall a dog named Princess, and I tried to describe the childhood memory, about that dog that was tied to the tree on that side of the house – only to be told, OH THAT DOG, that dog was a male.
It was a number of years later that we visited our relatives in New York to discover that my favourite cousin had gotten himself a pair of ferrets. This isn’t your usual pet, and indeed most people – you included I would not be surprised to say – would react with disbelief or even disgust at the idea of harbouring a rodent-like animal such as this as a pet.
And yeeaah, the first couple of visits I was all askance too. Then I fell in love with Booboo.
Booboo was the bigger of the two. All he did was sleep, eat and lay about. That’s it. A gentle bundle of fur that totally totally won my heart over. Booboo was essentially mine. The other one, Nippy, lived up to her name: she nipped everyone she could with her tiny little incisors, and was a skinny, ratty, feisty and fast little thing. Booboo was my love. I could relate with Booboo because – not that I was fat or whatever – but simply that gentle, quiet, laidback easygoing nature that totally reflected mine. When I think of Booboo, I remember laying back on the sofa with Booboo on my chest, watching Balto. Some of my best memories were those summers spent with Booboo. I even created a soapstone sculture for an art exhibit of Booboo – years after the sad news that both ferrets were gone.
After Booboo, I was totally cured of my fear of animals. I was cured of loving animals only in theory. I would visit the pet shop that was in the same building as my workplace every chance I could.
Then came Milly. My 1-year old baby kitten. I can’t even begin to describe the magic that comes with having her in my life. So I won’t even try. Instead I’m going to end this and have a good cuddle with her.