My Pets

Many readers will be aware of Ollie, my dog. He is the star of this blog, and my constant companion, since 2012.

But long before Ollie, I had many other pets. I think of them as typical ‘childhood pets’, though one was owned when I was much older.

When I was around 8 years old, I volunteered to take the class hamster home, and to look after it during the summer holidays. It was a lot smellier than I expected it to be, but I enjoyed watching it spin around in its wheel. Of course, my Mum ended up being the one who cleaned it out. I just enjoyed holding it, feeding it, and watching it scuttle around. But I had forgotten about our usual two-week holiday in Cornwall, so we had to enlist the help of my Mum’s sister to feed it and care for it while we were gone. After school started again, I took it back, but it died the following day. I didn’t know how short-lived they were, and was convinced that I had somehow hastened its demise by neglect.

My next pets were some goldfish in a bowl. It didn’t occur to me that it was rather cruel to keep two good-sized fish in a small bowl, and I soon became very bored with watching them constantly swimming in circles. My only interaction with them was to feed them, and so I overfed them, unintentionally. One day, they were both dead, floating on the top of the water, which was not much more than a cloudy soup of nutrition by that time. My Dad flushed them down the toilet.

Dad decided to get a ‘feature tank’ instead. I chose the tank ornaments, including a large clam shell, a pirates’ treasure chest, and an arch that they could swim through. My Dad bought plants to help aerate the water, and we had six fish of different sizes. But they constantly attacked each other, and took chunks out of each other’s tails and fins. Before long, three of them were found dead, and the rest lasted less than a year.

Everyone had a tortoise in those days. They often had their names painted on the shell, and some owners drilled a small hole in the shell too, to tether the poor thing to a long string, so it didn’t escape. I loved to feed our tortoise, and would also stroke its head when it popped out for food. It didn’t die in our care, but we had to move to a place with no garden, so it was given to a relative. It lived for a very long time after that, but once we moved again, I lost touch with it.

When I was 15, we moved to a house with a big garden. My Mum got a dog, and she also acquired two angora rabbits. They lived in hutches outside, and she would brush them carefully, saving the soft hair that came off. She later used this fur to knit things, and produced some incredibly soft knitwear. My job was to feed them, and clean them out. I adored being able to stroke them, as they were unbelievably soft. But the big male was very aggressive, and managed to injure all three of us at one time or another. They lived less than four years, and we never replaced them.

In 1978, I was 26 years old, and had just moved to Wimbledon. I didn’t want to be tied down with a dog, but thought it would be nice to have a pet. I got a long-haired guinea pig, called a ‘Sheltie’. I named him Oskar, and my uncle built me a pine hutch for him to live in, in the garden. During the winter, he came inside, and stayed in a huge old fish-tank, in the dining room. I looked after him really well, fed him all the best things, and brushed him every day. When we went on holiday, my sister-in-law looked after him. He lived for over five years, until one morning I found him dead in his fish-tank. He is buried in that south-London garden.

But there is no doubt that Ollie has been the best pet I have ever had.

61 thoughts on “My Pets

  1. We had all manner of pets when I was growing up… including fish, a tortoise, a snake, hamsters and chickens. Our most loved and long lasting where a jack Russell cross called Biffi who lived till he was 14 and my cat, Freely who sadly only made it to 9 because of his wonky kidneys.

    Little O now has 6 fish. We had to go through a lot of intensive questioning and planning with the staff at Pets at Home to be allowed to purchase said fish. We had to purify water and choose a tank and fish that added up to a set number of points. We also were told which fish would get on and then we had to buy them in stages over time. It is nice having something to take care of that is fairly low maintenance.

    I would love a cat or dog but in a rental property and with us travelling on occasion I am not sure this is the right time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Quite an array of pets there πŸ™‚ I love that last picture of Ollie. That look on his voice is worthy to that of a loyal dog, which Ollie most certainly is πŸ™‚ Anyway, keep up the great work as always πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I come from a family which always had an assortment of pets, and carried on the tradition with my own family. My most distressing pet story comes from a time I opened the freezer and found my young sister’s frozen hamster. He had died and she was convinced that they would invent a way to bring frozen creatures back to life some day!

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  4. What a wonderful post, with all those beautiful photographs. I have been moaning on twitter that we are not allowed to keep free ranging tortoises any longer. Also, I wrote a poem about the time I was given the class white mouse to take care of over Christmas.We put it in the garden shed and it wasn’t in it’s cage on Christmas morning so we spent all day emptying the shed to find it. Luckily we did – but it was a most peculiar Christmas day! My husband and I have had dogs all our married life and we often compare their characters, Whisky was devoted ( part collie) Scamp kept running away, Scruffy was big and stupid, Bandit ( part Labrador) was the best dog ever, except on long car journeys and Diesel is so cute everyone wants to pet him. When we lose one the house feels empty without one and it usually takes about a week to replace them ( mainly from dog shelters)
    None of them have been pedigrees. Best Wishes.Julie.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, you had quite a variety of pets growing up! And you saved the best for last with your sweet Ollie! I remember a few cats and dogs and maybe a parakeet or two growing up, which I enjoyed while we had them, but none seemed to last long enough to become a real favorite of mine. I was happy to find out when we got married that my husband loved cats and we’ve had many special ones during our (almost) 37 years of marriage. You’re familiar with our two current felines residents! πŸ™‚

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      1. Oh indeed, very normal! I’m very possibly abnormal, to some extent, only ever having had a couple of cats of my own, many years ago now. My mother had a poodle, but that wasn’t for me……. Living in rented property does limit one’s possibilities as well, of course.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s true. The main reason I didn’t have a dog from 1979-2012 was because I was working shifts. That doesn’t really work with dog-feeding and walking. Unless you have someone at home all the time to look after them. πŸ™‚
          Best wishes, Pete.


  6. Excellent read, Pete. The angora rabbits are beautiful. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know angora came from rabbits. I had an angora sweater once, but I never thought about it being fur. And until recently, I didn’t know rabbits could be so aggressive as to hurt you. I understand that they scratch and bite.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, the big white buck didn’t like being handled. If you didn’t get a good hold on him, he would bend his back legs, and rake you with his claws. One time, he ripped open my shirt and scratched my chest quite badly. He looked just like the one in that photo too. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The only pet that I have had was a bunch of goldfish. Unfortunately we bought a fish that had a deadly and very infectious disease which we didn’t know at the time. It infected all the other fishes in there and when we came home one day, they all floated to the surface 😒 Needless to say after that, we have never really been enthusiastic to keep fishes anymore.
    I have to say that Ollie certainly is amazing Pete. Definitely completely understand why he is your favorite! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lauren. We might well have considered a rescue dog, if not for the fact that Ollie was born in the house next door. Once we went in and saw the pups, it was obvious we would take one. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s a great photo of Ollie. We always had dogs or cats, sometimes both together, when I was growing up. Now, we have 1.5 cats. One belongs to us (or we belong to her to be accurate) and the .5 appears almost every day to help itself to the dry cat food.

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  9. I have had dogs around since I can remember the first was “soldier” a Cocker…..then Red a Boxer…..then Simon a Mutt…..then Corky a black Cocker…..Paco a black shepard……Nikita a Husky….Lodi a Dobie…..Jaz a Chow/Border mix….and now MoMo…….pets make the world a less scary place. love the Sheltie……Ollie is just damn adorable….chuq

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  10. Nothing like a dog as a good companion. Growing up on the farm we had many pets, even an antelope called Bambi. My kids had pets, cats, dogs and a budgie. But, although we always had cats even after the kids left home, we didn’t have a dog for 35 years. When we moved to Spain, and I got homesick for the grandchildren, Hubby decided it was time for a dog. We found Dot on Facebook, a rescue dog in Malaga (five hours from us). We hopped in the car, picked her up and have never been happier.

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