Saturday, 8 February 2014

Best Pet

I am empty, like the water pitcher sitting on the counter behind me, void of anything useful to write. While this blog has become a compulsion, or almost a compulsion, it is a hard task-master, sitting here empty, as empty as I, awaiting something to come from my fingertips.

In moments like these, I reach for a card, one of the 52 cards which Kate gave me for Christmas in 2012. On each card, some decorated, some not, Kate has asked me a question or proposed a blog topic. I've used a great many of these cards, precious gifts that they have been, to answer her questions, some obliquely and some directly. I am comforted in knowing that at least once a week I have had a topic given to me, although some arrived finding me unable to answer their call.

The box is dwindling; I have not used them all. I used them unwisely at first, reading them and not necessarily writing about them, hoarding them in bundles until I had too many, discarding them because I simply did not know how important they would become to me, not just for their content, but for their intent. I regret that. I now know that each of them was a light, a beacon of hope for me. I wish I had each and every one of them back, so I could re-read them, so I could write about what she asked, so I could savour the feel of crisp card stock, admire the small decorations, enjoy the patterns on the outside and messages on the inside.

Today Kate asks me to write about the "best pet I ever had". I've had a few pets over time, or lived in households with family pets. As a kid, back on the "farm", such as it was, back in Stave Falls, we had cats, both feral and household, we had farm animals, including the requisite cows and horses and ducks and chickens and pigs, and we had Sheba, our faithful Collie-Shepherd cross. Yet none of these was my pet. The horse was ostensibly mine, at least it was my responsibility to break and train the horse. It was my first real animal, yet it was not what I would call a pet.

I wandered about for the couple of years between leaving home and returning to go back to college; I ended up living with my Dad in the fall of 1974 and heading off to Abbotsford and Chilliwack for night school classes in January, 1975. We had no pets at that time. In fact my next animal responsibility was both a dog and a cat I acquired while living in a mobile home on Clayburn Road in Abbotsford in 1976. It was a short engagement with the cat disappearing one day and the dog going to a home up the road, as far as I can recall.

Between then and recently there were guinea pigs, a few birds and one notorious cat who ended up in the home of a friend fairly shortly after it used my body as a climbing post, scratching me from head to foot in my kitchen one day. After that, there was a pet void for almost 20 years; children with allergies precluded pets with hair.

Then, a few years back, we got Sophie, a Schnauzer-Poodle cross, referred to as a Schnoodle. I will confess that we spoiled Sophie pretty much from the moment she came to us as a puppy. She was in charge and there was no doubt about it. Neither my wife nor I could make the commitment to taking Sophie to obedience training; she felt I should do it and I felt she should do it. Neither of us really wanted to do it; perhaps we liked having Sophie in charge. Sadly, on the day of my daughter's wedding, Sophie, every the greedy eater, got into something, perhaps grapes, that caused her kidneys to shut down. She died a few days later.

After Sophie came Remy, a dog Meaghan and I picked up after she spotted an advertisement online. Another Schnoodle, or at ostensibly so, he lived with a family in Burnaby and they had just had a baby. The dog and the baby were problematic, so we took Remy and he came to live with us in the fall of 2009. He is, or was, in my case, a great dog.

The previous family had taken the time and care to train him properly, something that would likely never have happened had we raised him from puppyhood. He was always happy to see me, and recently when I got to see him on a return visit to Abbotsford, he was still happy to see me. He was obedient, but not to a fault, still able to create enough mischief to give himself a personality. He barks too much, leaps up too much, has trouble sitting still at times, and was almost always the happiest one in the house during those last years of my marriage. Whether by time or personality, he stands out as my "best pet".

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