Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Pets.

I was thinking about Ollie when I woke up today, and that led my mind to remembering pets I have had during my life. I began to list them in chronological order, thinking back to when I was very young. Not just those pets I have had in my own home, but those of my Mum, which I became responsible for as I helped her visit Vets, or took them to be put to sleep.

My earliest pet memory is of a family dog, a black Labrador unimaginatively named ‘Blackie’. I recall little of him being around, or taking him for walks, but I clearly remember that we had to find him a home, when we were re-housed in a nice new maisonette where dogs were not allowed. My Dad found a great place for him though. He was adopted by The Royal Air Force, to be used for something I wasn’t told about. I like to think he had a good career as a sniffer dog, on an airbase in the countryside.

For the next seven years, we were pet-free. This bothered my Mum a great deal, as she badly missed having a pet dog. When it was announced that we were moving to the edge of Kent, buying our own house just outside the London suburbs, she was overjoyed. It meant she could get another dog. Along came Sandy, a friendly Beagle cross who was full of fun, and enjoyed playing with his toys, especially a double-ended ‘puller’. My Mum loved to take him for walks along the nearby lanes, picking blackberries to make her jam, as he trotted along next to her. He proved to be very loyal, and was very much part of the family, until he died from a swollen liver. In that house, my Dad decided to also keep rabbits. Not for food, but for show. He bought long-haired angoras, real pedigree rabbits, and built impressive hutches for them both. They needed daily grooming to deal with all that fur, and that was my job after school. He also built an extensive aviary, stocking it with an assortment of finches, canaries, and other small birds. Most evenings, he would walk around in that aviary, contemplating his life.

After my parents split up, I moved with my Mum into a family business, an off-licence back in South West London. She got a kitten, a multi-coloured ball of fluff she named Louise, for some strange reason. Soon after, she decided we needed a dog. Something to keep us company in the long hours of the shop-opening, and perhaps to deter robbers or burglars too. We bought a pedigree pup, a long-haired German Shepherd, with huge feet. Mum named him ‘Skipper’, and he soon grew into a very formidable dog indeed. He loved us, and was good with family. But he wasn’t too interested in strangers, or other dogs. Walked daily on Clapham Common, well-fed and looked after, he was admired by everyone around.

When I got married, we were both too busy to have pets, and it would not have been fair to leave them for so long. But I did win a goldfish at a funfair, and decided to keep it. It was so small, I named it ‘Tiny Tim’, and bought it a large bowl plants, and gravel. Because of its size, I thought it was very young, and might live a long time. But sadly, it didn’t see out the summer, and was found floating in his bowl one evening. He received a decent burial in the back garden. A few years later, the urge to get a pet came over me again, so I bought a Guinea Pig, a long-haired Pedigree Sheltie. He was a lovely golden beige colour, with beautifully soft fur. I had just seen the film ‘The Tin Drum’ at the cinema, so named him ‘Oskar'(with a ‘K’) after the lead character. My uncle built me a stylish hutch, for him to live outside in. We lived at number 8, and I even got him his own door number, ‘8A’. For harsh weather, we got an old tropical fish tank, stored in the dining room. He came inside in that during the winter. I cared for little Oskar lovingly. I would comb him, and stroke him, enjoying the ‘chirruping’ noise he made when he heard me arriving. As well as his dry food, I picked dandelion leaves for him, which he really enjoyed. He lived for over five years. The local vet told me he had never known a guinea pig to live that long. He was buried in the garden too, and I was genuinely sad when he died.

When I split up from my first wife, I was destined to have no pets for decades. But my Mum made up for it, with a succession of dogs and cats. Most times, she had two dogs and a cat living with her in the small one-bed flat she had moved to. When they were ill, I would drive over and take them to the Vet. When they were dying, I took them to be put to sleep. Walking back to the car with an empty collar and lead. This happened so regularly, I decided that I would never have a pet again. Losing them is just too upsetting.

But then I moved to Norfolk, saw baby Ollie, and couldn’t resist him. He has been my companion since 2012; my constant shadow, and a source of comfort and joy. I can only hope he outlives me.

Let me know about your cherished pets, in the comments.

80 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

  1. A wonderful post Pete, I have my own complicated history when it comes to dogs but I was quite fond of a mate’s one in pre-school, I got over my fear a little with dogs on grade 7 camp when a dog following the kids got a painful limp. I approached and petted him now he was less mobile and looking sad but I still have my issues particularly with big dogs off lead. However Karen’s best friend has acquired a rescue dog named Sammy and I’ve become quite close to him. The closest I came to a pet was living with a flatmate who was away half the time. She had two cats, one grey furred 7 year old with big fur and overweight became effectively my cat for a few months. His name was Smoky. On his last night in the house I let him sleep on my bed which was a big deal since the cats only ever saw the front of my closed door. If I could afford him I would’ve kept him but I was a poor uni student and I’d just seen how expensive a pet could be when he needed surgery. Heck I couldn’t afford the cat food.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your pet memories, Lloyd. You are right to be wary of any dog off a lead, especially when there is no owner nearby. Although I am very used to dogs, I have had many encounters with bad-tempered or snappy dogs, including some who have attacked Ollie. After a while, you develop a sense of whether or not another dog approaching us is likely to be unfriendly, and do a u-turn! 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely 🙂

    I’m a big fan of guinea pigs myself. I’ll always remember the day my Dad came up the driveway holding a big cardboard box, we could hear scratching inside and then he revealed two cute little guinea pigs. We called them Starflash and, less creatively, Blackie, like your first dog.

    Ollie seems like such an adorable pet, I’m sure he will have a very long and happy life! Seems like he gets lots of fun, adventurous walks and is taken care of.

    Currently, at our house in New Zealand, we foster cats and kittens from a local rescue centre, whilst their ‘forever home’ is being located. At the moment we have two lovely little overgrown kittens named ‘Horse’ and ‘Bea’, a brother and sister. They came to us in an incredibly sad state, their previous owners had clearly been deranged psychopaths. The rescue team had found Bea with her little ears nailed to a plank of wood. Awful.

    Naturally, when they came to us they did not want anything to do with us, and were extremely skittish. Now, several months later, they’re very happy here. Horse won’t leave my side, Bea is affectionate but still a little untrustworthy. I’m sure their time to move into their ‘forever home’ is sadly just around the corner, though!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a series of short lived pets as a small child that I don’t remember that clearly… apart from n=my cat, Matewis, who was not really very social and abandoned us to live in a storm drain with some strays.

    The first pet I remember having a really strong connection with was the dog we got when I was ten. We had a burglary when we were home and my mum wanted something small and barky that would alert us if it happened again. We thought we were getting a Maltese but as he got older and failed to grow signature shaggy hair we discovered that the family we got him from’s neighbour’s Jack Russell may have been involved. Anyway, we named him Biffi and he was a real character. He had no fear of larger dogs and was well known for escaping from our garden and chasing them. He followed my mum around like a shadow and went everywhere with her. He particularly liked to sit in the front of the car and bark at pedestrians when she stopped at the traffic lights. He lived to be 14 years old before essentially dying of old age. I had already left South Africa then but it was still really sad.

    When I was nineteen I decided I wanted a kitten and adopted one from a boy in my brother’s class at school. He was horrendously poorly taken care of before I got him and probably a bit young to be taken from his mother but I think Freely got a lucky break with me. He grew to be an absolutely massive white tom with ginger markings and slept on my bed with me every night. When he was about 2 he developed a kidney problem. After some very expensive vet bills recovered but had to be on special (also very expensive) food. He had a real fondness for other cats and regularly invited them around to partake in said expensive food. He used to sit on the driveway and wait up for me on nights out until I came home. I had to leave him with my mum when I moved to the UK but apparently he sat on the driveway and waited for me every night for 2 months, which still breaks my heart. Unfortunately when he was nine years old his kidney problems resurfaced, much worse and my mum had to have him put to sleep. I was heartbroken and I still miss him.

    I’ve not had any pets since although Mr O is SUPER keen. I am concerned with us living in a rented house that we might have trouble if we are forced to move so it’s a topic of endless debate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely stories of Biff and Freely, Abbi. I think Little O might love to have a pet around, though as soon as he is old enough to take care of it, he is unlikely to want the chore. 🙂 But I agree that it is sensible to wait until you are not in rented accommodation.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  4. What lovely memories, even with the sad moments. We’ve never been a family with many pets. My parents were living with my grandparents when I was born (we lived with them until I was a teenager) and they had an old dog but it died when I was a toddler and I don’t remember it at all, although it seems he was very protective of me and my crib and didn’t let anybody come near me. We always lived in small apartments when I grew up and my parents always thought it was too unfair to have a dog in such a confined space (and both my parents kept strange working hours anyway). We did have four or five budgies, and my father always loved to have the cage open, so they would fly everywhere. The first one was very friendly and amusing but did not live long and the rest were shier. After that I’ve mostly enjoyed friends and neighbours’ pets and I have done some petsitting as well. I suspect there might be some pets in my future… Thanks, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Olga. You have reminded me that we also had a blue budgie at one time. I had forgotten him, as I was so young then. His name was Billy, and he would attack his mirror, believing it to be another bird, I think. I recall the sandpaper tray that slid out for changing, and the millet poking through the bars of his cage. But I don’t like to see birds in cages now, so would never think of having one. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  5. All four of us kids had pets as kids and many different animals as adults. The one incident I remember most clearly is my little sister’s hamster which died suddenly. I thought she was taking it awfully well until I found its little body in the freezer. She solemnly told me that one day they would know how to bring him back to life and so she was just waiting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Pete – Queenie, a mongrel rat dog that hung around our yard when I was a kid – Mom started feeding her and we took her in. As an adult there was Maurice the chocolate poodle who was really a man in a dog suit. Then came Millie the wire haired dachshund. She was the sweetest. And finally Trixie the cat who passed around 7 years ago. She didn’t like anyone but me.

    🙂

    Besties

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A wonderful story, Pete! I only remember cats in our household. Cats only with their unique “lifestyle”. ***lol***
    They come and leave whenever they want to do. Only our last cat – we called him “Peter von der Bühlermühle” acted himself like a housekeeper. He had the character of a dog, checked every person want to enter the house and disliked only small dogs of his own shape. And he was a pigeon hunter too. Three years ago he left us, and we dont know what happend with him. ;-( Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cats do tend to imagine that you live in their house, which is why I don’t have one. But your last cat had an aristocratic name, so I suggest that went to his head, and made him behave so imperiously. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My first dog bite was a pointer called Skipper, so naturally I don’t consider him to be a pet, but he lived in the house. My first dog would be Gail, another pointer, who used to carry our guinea pig, Pippin, around like a puppy. We also had a Josh wo I remember more because my Gran always used to sign “oh, oh, Joshua, sweet as a lemon pie you are” whenever she came to visit.
    Jet, Fez, Laddie, Shane, the list goes on in my childhood before a long spell without any, as Jersey doesn’t have many pet friendly landlords! That changed with Jackie, who is now close to 10, along with Zara and Dennis, and of course Boris and Sylvester the two tom cats who occasionally visit for food.
    Life would be tough without them and they are all loved by the kids, turning tears to laughter and bringing a smile whenever they are near.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Rex and I were born on the same day. He was a black Lab, and went hunting and fishing with my father. To my mother’s dismay, Rex taught me to walk when I was nine month old. There are pictures of the dog walking up to me, opening his soft mouth, and gently holding my arm as he walked me from piece of furniture to piece of furniture. Really! No wonder the dogs in my adult and married life were Labs.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post 🙂 Sounds like you have happy memories of the animals you and your family owned 🙂 Me and my family do not currently own any pets. We owned a dog and a few cats in the past, but they are now sadly gone. The dog was a fox terrier and the cats were all tabbies. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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  11. I can’t imagine you having a guinea pig as a pet, Pete. My sister kept a few when she was in her teens but I never found them particularly sociable pets. I’ve now remembered an incident when I and one of the woemn I shared a house with took one of my sister’s guinea pigs and let it live free in the house. Not a good idea. There were always cats and/or dogs in our household but the first pet that was mine
    was a lamb, which I loved very much. We used to sit together sharing a lollipop – I’d have a lick then the lamb would. Of course, it grew into a sheep and my mum was worried because she knocked my wee sister over so dad took it back to the farm. Whenever we drove up, she would come charging up to the fence to see me. I guess one day she wasn’t there.
    Fleet was a whippet who was a stray and dad took him in when he was told he’d probably be put to sleep as no one had claimed him. He was the most good-natured dog I’ve ever known. Oh, so many memories – maybe I should write a blog post about him!
    The other day I embarrassed myself when I saw a woman walking a Shar-pei. I reached out to pat it, squealing, ‘Oh, it’s an Ollie dog.’ She looked at me a bit oddly and said, ‘Shar-pei, actually.’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Coming from Central London, I can’t imagine having a lamb as a pet, that must have been a joy for a child. You should write a post about Fleet. I’m sure your followers would love to read that. And I would love to think that all Shar-peis might one day be known as ‘Ollie Dogs’. 🙂
      It may be hard to imagine me owning a guinea pig in my late 20s, but I spent a lot of time combing and stroking Oskar, and he calmed me down after stressful days at work. Almost 40 years later, I still think about him all the time.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My first pet was a chipmunk type animal. It fell from the roof of our house into the fire place (luckily in the summer!) upon checking it out we realised it wasn’t native to Germany and our local vet couldn’t trace down his owners so he lived with us for 10 years. 🙂

    After that I moved on to tropical fish. Each of the many had their own name but sadly most fish don’t live that long and it was too heart breaking. 😦

    Now we have four cats. Oliver the tuxedo. Nubia the black cat. Renegade the oriental and Freya the Peterbald.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (Sorry, your comment was in Spam)
      Thanks, Marc-Andre. A chipmunk sounds good. I always wanted to get a Chinchilla (so soft!) but they need a very large cage, and lots of care and attention. I decided it wasn’t fair to own one. Four cats is a lot, but I am sure you manage. They have great names too. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  13. My first pet was an adorable little pinkish pig. I got him when I was about 5-years-old and kept him until he got too big for me to handle. Dad sent him off to a farm because he was bigger than I was and Dad was worried that he might harm me somehow.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Theo. She loved all animals, and supported most of the charities that look after everything from rhinos, to abandoned donkeys. As well as having her own dogs, she also adopted dogs in shelters, those that could not be re-homed. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  14. Susie (cat), Candy (small poodle), Freeway (cat), Raffles (cross border collie/German Shepherd) Rosie (Mutt of unknown origin), Roger, (rabbit), T.C. (cat) Whisper (cat) E.D. (Cat), Peanut (Mums cat after she died), Einstein (Peanut’s brother), Sam, (Phil’s cat) Herky & Yoyo (twin ginger Toms,) and Storm & Skye who you know since following my blog. Loved them all and our garden is like Pet Cemetary 🙄. No more, my heart won’t take it!

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  15. I’ve had a long line of animals, dogs, cats, rescued birds, my kids had hamsters (which also lived to a ripe old age, due to luxurious care). At the moment I have a dachshund called Frankie, and a pig called, unimaginatively enough, Lady Piggy. She’s as intelligent as the dog!

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    1. Hi, Marina.
      We thought of getting a mini-pig, but they are classed as ‘livestock’ here, and the regulations are very strict. If there was an outbreak of pig disease in nearby farms, our mini-pig would be taken away and killed! Dachshunds are nice little dogs, and make great pets.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  16. Bear forces me to walk which is a great thing. My mom likes animals more than people. We have always had cats and dogs. She volunteers for animals at the shelter. We siblings in the family, we say we hope to return as one of her pets. They get more attention and care.! 😉

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  17. We had a few cats and dogs growing up; I remember a poodle named Tina, and a black cat named Shade. They didn’t feel like they were ‘my’ pets, more like they belonged to the whole family. When I married my husband I was delighted to find out he was a cat person and we have had a steady stream of mostly long-lived cats. One of the most special was a beautiful Siamese named Annie, who lived with us over 20 years! Today, we are enjoying the company of the gentle Tiger, and the spunky Benji, who bring us lots of joy! 🙂

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  18. I have never not had a dog, grew up with setters, Cairns and West Highlands, and did have a guinea pig when I was first married. He squealed loudly when the refrigerator door opened because he figured a lettuce leaf was coming. He sadly met an untimely end when my (now ex-) husband asked his headmaster’s son to watch Bossie while we were away and the evil kid ‘forgot’. He was gone when we got home. I was furious. My 2 current rescue dogs, husky-mix Lily and terrier-mix Lulu are my constant companions, confidantes and cohorts. I will never understand though why dogs insist on accompanying one to the bathroom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your pet story. Sorry to hear that the boy neglected your guinea pig! Ollie loves to come into the bathroom with me too. He likes to lick the water from the rim of the bath. 🙂 Although he follows me everywhere, he is not allowed in the bedroom, and has to sleep on his own dog bed.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  19. Where’s my pet mata mata? Oh, I forgot. I don’t have one. Actually, I don’t have a pet of any kind. Although I did befriend pigeons last year—and one in particular that ate out of my hand—before the neighbors bought cats…

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  20. Pete, I am working with a group of 40+ people of all ages right now, and animals are a huge part of all of their lives, virtually without exception. Dogs, cats, a few more exotic as well, but animals have continued to be an important aspect of this new generation as well…there have been so many studies about the positive emotional impact that pets have for people of all ages…

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  21. Well the only pets that I have ever had were a bunch of goldfish. And unfortunately they all died when one of them became ill and infected the rest. Hmmm…this isn’t a really cheerful story😅😅 Sorry about that 😊😊 But yeah other than that, no pets. Again…sorry😅😅

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  22. Mine was a black standard poodle named Blackie….I have had Huskys, Akitas and a wealth of “mutts”…..my most memorable was a Dobermann named Lodi and my recent friend Jaz…I have loved them all just some were more so…..I guess it was just the time in life that made them so…..chuq

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    1. Ollie is the only dog that has truly been ‘mine’. He never leaves my side, and sits outside rooms when I close the door. At times I feel as if we will never be parted.
      You have had a lot of dogs, and they have left you with fond memories. They enrich our lives, that is undeniable.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. I can’t bear to think my pets will out live me, Pete, for the same reason that you feel the converse about Ollie. I’m the one who takes care of them. Oh my girls and my husband love them–perhaps, more than I do, but they don’t provide for them, take them to the vet, give them medicine or even bathe them.
    My dog Sphynx is my favorite pet. She was half dingo, half collie. She was incredibly smart; she knew so many commands and I never had to do repetitive training with her. I would command her a couple of times and she obeyed and remembered. She is the most loyal friend–beside Christ–that I’ve ever had. She was a beautiful looking dog. Broad chested. Muscled. Her fur was so practical–it would get wet, she’d shake and she’d be dry. It was practically water proof. She had large distinctive ears and she could hear the rustle of a mouse. Her sense of smell was so acute–she would smell the air and run right to us–my husband and I–after we had commanded her to stay and then gone to elaborate lengths to hide. She’s been gone 17 yrs. and I miss her still.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Such fond memories of lovely Sphinx, Pam. She left behind the legacy of your love for her.
      I know what you mean about caring for pets. As Julie has to work, she wouldn’t be able to give Ollie the same level of attention. But I still don’t want to walk out of the Vet’s holding his empty lead. 😦
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I have only ever had pets when I was a child, and had a number of Guinea pigs, several that lived t o more than 5 years…..one made 8 years! But my, much loved first on only made 18months…..

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