Seldom have I met a family with multiple children that did not eventually wind up with multiple pets as well. And so it went with our three kids.
What started with a few fish became, over the years, three cats, two dogs, three hamsters and a lizard, which resulted in a virtual family circus.
The girls had cats for the most part, though Heather did briefly have a hamster. Matt started out with hamsters, but they always got sick, and each time we lost one it was traumatic for him.
So at about 10 years old Matt decided he wanted an African spotted lizard. It was about 10 inches long and the ugliest thing ever on four legs. I was terrified of it. The lizard only ate live crickets, which we had to buy and keep in a cage. Consequently, Matt’s bedroom sounded like a forest at sundown twenty-four hours a day. Worst of all, the lizard would occasionally get out of its cage.
One day Heather came running downstairs yelling “Mom, my stuffed animals are moving!” The family converged on her room and sure enough her pile of furry stuffed friends was indeed in motion. That’s when I retreated while John helped Matt dig through the pile and corral his wandering lizard.
One day I stayed home sick and spent nearly all day asleep on the couch. In mid afternoon something tickled my shoulder so I turned my head and came nose to nose with Matt’s lizard. I nearly had a heart attack. One quick swipe of my hand sent the lizard flying, then it skittered under the sofa. I locked myself in my bedroom until Matt got home, found his pet, and returned it safely to its cage.
Needless to say, I’d had enough of amphibian antics. Matt promised to get rid of the lizard if he could have a dog. I had resisted getting another pet but this seemed like a good bargain so one day in April I came home with an Easter basket occupied by a Black Labrador Retriever puppy with a big pink ribbon around her neck. The kids were instantly in love.
Matt named her Bonnie Midnight. Like every puppy she was a cute and totally uncoordinated bundle of energy — a constant source of laughter. We soon learned that she wanted to be outside all the time, day and night, so we bought a doghouse and Bonnie happily took up residence in the back yard.
One night when she was about half grown and John was out of town on business, Bonnie started barking fiercely at 2 a.m. I ventured outside to find she had an opossum cornered in the fence. She would not give it up. Eventually, I had to call and get an animal control officer to come out. He was not amused.
True to her breed, Bonnie was an expert retriever. Though no one taught her to, Bonnie would stalk and point at any critter that ventured into our yard. If she got out of the yard, which happened often, Bonnie would scour the neighborhood for “treasures” and retrieve them.
We kept a box in the garage full of our neighbors’ belongings — ball caps, tennis shoes, even a baby blanket. Matt got used to returning them on a daily basis, if he could find out who Bonnie had stolen them from.
One day, just before Christmas, Bonnie came trotting home with our neighbor’s evergreen wreath around her neck and proudly presented me with her holiday gift. I wanted to be angry, but she was just too cute.