Penelope's Pets | By: Abbey Gray | | Category: Short Story - Reflections Bookmark and Share

Penelope's Pets

Penelope’s Pets


            I have always grown up around animals. So have my parents. Mom had two parakeets and a Chihuahua. Dad grew up on a farm so there were all kinds of animals. I can’t imagine my life without some kind of animal in it.

            When I was four I got the normal, everyday goldfish. Every child’s first pet. I would reach in the bowl and catch it saying I would hold it if it got tired of swimming. The fish actually got to be pretty long, but when we moved we had to give it to a friend.

            My kindergarten class had two guinea pigs, Champ and John Purdue. They had twins that year, a boy and a girl. The teacher let us name them. The girl’s name was Cuddles, (I had wanted to call her Clover) and the boy was John Purdue Junior. Over spring break the teacher asked if one person could take care of Champ and if another person could take care of the babies. I asked Mom right away if I could take care of the babies.

            When I was eight we moved to Florida. Mom and Dad had been real busy with unpacking, cleaning and dealing with the movers. Since I had stayed out of the way and didn’t cause too much trouble they took me to the South Florida Fair. I wanted to go in the rabbit barn. I have always like plain white rabbits. The lady in there let me hold one. I asked, “Daddy, can I have one?”

            He said okay. The one I was holding was a female and I named her Twitch. As Twitch got older her ears got darker and she had some black on her face. She didn’t like the normal food you would think every rabbit would like. One time I was watching television and eating dry Cheerios. Twitch hopped into the living room, jumped up in the chair beside me and started eating the Cheerios right out of the bowl. She also loved Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

            After a while Twitch started to get aggressive. She would lie next to Dad’s chair and he would reach down and pet her. When she got tired of it, she would bite him. Another time he was holding her without his shirt on and she took a little piece out of his chest. We decided to give Twitch to a girl who raised rabbits in exchange from one of her baby male bunnies. We thought maybe a boy rabbit would have a nicer temperament. The girl had three baby boy bunnies. I couldn’t decide which one I wanted. Since it was starting to rain, Mom said we would take the one the girl said was the sweetest.

            I didn’t know what to name him. Dad said to name him Roger, but since he was an Albino I named him Ivory. Later on Ivory became known as Rodent or Rabitska. Since we had a fenced in backyard we would let him hop around out there. One morning around 6:30am I got a call from the next door neighbor.

            “Penny, come and get your rabbit.” Ivory had dug under the fence.

            Ivory was also malocclusion which meant his back teeth were growing up in front of his top teeth. We ended up having to clip his bottom teeth and give him this awful brown paste to prevent hair balls.

            Eventually we gave Ivory away. I had decided I wanted a puppy. I had always wanted one, but Mom and Dad thought I was too young and wouldn’t take care of it. One Saturday when I was twelve we went to the animal shelter. If I was going to get a puppy then it was going to come from there. I had already decided I wanted a female puppy. The first one I looked at was a stray. All she wanted to do was pull and bite at the leash. The next dog was a black Lab named Shady. She was way too hyper. One the other side there was a little caramel colored puppy called a cock-a-poo; half Cocker Spaniel, half Poodle. Her name was Molly.  At first I really didn’t want to take her out, but finally I sighed, “Okay, let’s try Molly.”

            The first thing Molly did was stick her tail between her legs and sit down. I liked the fact she sat down right away. She was also very quiet and not jumping around. Mom thought Molly might have been abused by her former owner. When I picked her up and held her that did it.

            “I think Molly is the puppy I want.”

            We paid $50 for her. It was kind of funny. I had just finished reading a book about a puppy named Molly and I thought I would never name my puppy that. We decided to keep her name. Some people thought I should have named her Taffy Apple.

            When Molly first came home, she was pretty scruffy looking. We took her to the groomer. When we came back to pick her up, I said, “Where is she?” She looked so different I didn’t recognize her. I thought she looked to be more of a Cocker Spaniel than a Poodle in the beginning. She had the Cocker color and eyes. After she was groomed, I saw she had the Poodle nose. The lady there put little bows on all the girl dogs’ ears. Molly’s bows were purple and I thought they were so cute.

            Every time Molly went to the bathroom outside, I would give her a treat. After she learned that she would take off running for the house and into the kitchen before I even had a chance to take her leash off.  I also taught her how to shake hands.  She would sit down and start pawing the air until I gave her a treat. She started doing this whenever there was something she wanted.

            Eventually Molly was sold.  The woman’s husband had a cock-a-poo as a child and wanted to get another one. I was so upset I hid under a blanket and cried my eyes out. What made me feel better was when we took Molly and her things over. The lady had a blanket laid out for Molly to sleep on and stuffed toy dog for her to play with. She also said I could see Molly anytime I wanted.

            Later on I found out Molly went to live on a farm. There was an old dog there that had been sick and his hair had been falling out. As soon as Molly arrived the dog got better and wanted to do everything Molly did. If she jumped up on the couch then he would try it too. It was the best thing that could have happened to her.

            I got Alex for my thirteenth birthday. Wal-Mart had parakeets and cockatiels. I have heard cockatiels can be taught how to talk. There were two of them. One was all gray and the other one was more yellow. I liked this one very much. When Mom and Dad walked in carrying a bird cage, my eyes got as round as half dollars. I couldn’t believe I had gotten another pet. The yellow cockatiel was going bonkers and climbing around on the side of the cage.

            He didn’t have a name for almost three days. Dad said to call him Roger, again. I learned later on that Dad’s best friend in school was named Roger. Mom said to call him Chico because our neighbor’s friend also had a cockatiel named Chico. I decided to call him Alexander after the little Klingon on Star Trek The Next Generation. Since Alex was climbing around the cage; he was a Cling-on. And he had the top knot for the forehead. People who have seen Star Trek and know where I am coming from think it’s pretty cute. I thought Alex was a boy, but if I was wrong Alex could be used for a girl just as well.

            Whenever one of us would put our hand in the cage, Alex would open his beak. Because of this; Dad started calling him Mr. Eagle. After a while Alex learned how to get out of his cage on his own. He trained himself to fly to my shoulder when I was sitting at the table. He would climb down to the doorway and after a few false flaps he would take off. When we saw this would we say, “Clear Prop!” like they do at the airport when planes get ready to take off.  Sometimes, I would pour a little bit of water on the table. Alex would either drink it or try and take a bath. I also fed him little pieces of potato chips from my lips.

            It is said that a cockatiel chooses one member of the family to be their “mate”. Alex chose me. I taught him to give me kisses and when he sat on my shoulder he would hide his head in my hair and sometimes rub his head against my neck. If I was wearing a necklace or hoop earrings, he would pull on them.

            One day while I was at school, Mom was cleaning out his cage and Grandma, who was visiting, had left the front door of the house open. Alex got out of his cage and flew out the door. They put his cage outside in case he came back. He never did.  I even called for him, but he was gone. Mom had said when he was squawking, he didn’t sound scared.

            I didn’t get my next pet until my sophomore year of college. My husband and I had been talking about getting a fish aquarium. We started out with a 29 gallon and eventually upgraded to a 55 gallon. We had an assortment of tropical fish: an algae eater, some platties, some mollies, an upside down catfish, two sharks, two angel fish and a male and female crab. We also got a male Beta, but he didn’t survive too long. The sharks and angel fish were said to be semi-aggressive. Since we had bought them when they were little they had grown up around the other fish.

Whenever we went to the pet store we asked the guy in the fish department if he had any fish he had had for a long time or wanted to get rid of. He usually gave us a discount and sometimes we got some free fish. One time he gave us three fish he said would probably die in a week. Three months later they were all still alive. My husband and I started calling the fish The Children. “I’ll feed The Children,” or “Have you fed The Children yet?”

            A couple of years after getting The Children, my husband decided he wanted a unique pet. He wanted a lizard. We decided to get a bearded dragon. They were not as big as iguanas.  We chose the runt of the litter because he was supposed to have the prettiest colors when he grew up. I decided to name him Puff The Bearded Dragon. Puff ate live crickets, lettuce and during the summer we would go out and catch him grasshoppers and Japanese beetles. Since crickets were kind of expensive we didn’t get them very often. When we did, Puff would only eat half of them and the other half would start chirping driving my husband and me crazy. My husband decided to make Puff a bigger cage. It turned out to be six feet long and two feet wide. I could have fit inside it. I called Puff’s Palace.

            My mother-in-law was scared to death of him. She thought he looked like a snake. I thought he was cute. I used to tease my mother about Puff being her grandchild. Lizards are cold blooded and Mom is always cold. She didn’t like that very much.

            When we had decided to downsize, we decided to try and sell Puff. We advertised him on the Internet. A lot of people wanted him, but they didn’t want to pay. One of our neighbors said she had a friend who might take Puff. We never heard from that friend. Finally, I called the pet store. The guy I talked to said they weren’t allowed to buy back animals, but they would try and find him a good home. He was actually thinking of getting bearded dragon so he said he would talk Puff himself. I think the guy was surprised when he saw how big the cage was even after I told him the dimensions. He said Puff was just beautiful.

            We also had two parakeets for a short time. They were both blue and we named them Cloudy and Sky. They weren’t a friendly as Alex and didn’t want to sit on our fingers. They also squawked and chirped all the time even when we covered them up at night. We put them in the basement one time, but could still hear them. When I came home from college one day, they were gone. My husband said he was fed up with them so he let them go. We decided no more birds.

            My husband worked part time for a slaughter house. They butcher lots of animals including rabbits. My husband said if he saw a cute one he would let me save it. I told him that was the only way I would get another rabbit and I didn’t want a plain white one again. On Halloween, he came home with a wire cage. Inside was a rabbit with black ears, a black nose, gray feet, a gray tail and pink eyes. Since I got it on Halloween I wanted to name it after the holiday. I was thinking about naming it Igor or Casper. Then I thought about Spooky. The rabbit turned out to be a female and I ended up naming her Candy.

            Four days later someone had just dropped some rabbits off at the slaughter house and left. Two of them were big and brown and kind skuzzy looking. Then my husband showed me a little black rabbit with big eyes and small ears. We both really like this one so we saved it also. Luckily it was also a female so we could keep her and Candy in the same cage. It’s nice because they can keep each other company. Since I had named Candy I told my husband he could name the black one. He called her Cadbury. Cadbury has more personality and is more active than Candy. Candy just lies around. Candy passed away last year…we really don’t know how old she was when we got her. After Cadbury goes, no more rabbits.

            I almost had a horse at one point.  A lady my husband knew wanted to get rid of one of her horses. She raised Arabians and only wanted ones that were pure black. This one just happened to be born a bay. She said we could have it for free. It was a two year, thoroughbred Arabian filly. Her name was Vista. My mother has a pole barn on her land that was originally used as a horse stall so we kept her over there.

            For the first three days everything was fine. I got Vista out in the evenings and practiced walking her. However, she only wanted to do what she wanted to do. I would have to work with her and show her who was boss. She also wasn’t broken to ride yet. One evening, my husband started to walk her and she kicked out and reared up almost nailing him. Luckily he had reacted quickly and didn’t get hurt. But this made me very weary and I didn’t want a horse that I would be afraid of. The lady had said if we decided we didn’t want Vista then she would take Vista back no questions asked. Vista left the next day. She would have been too big for me to ride anyway. Arabians are very spirited horses and I would need the calmest most docile horse in the world.  I would prefer an older horse that has already been broken. My husband would like to get a miniature one. They are adorable, but I want something I can ride. I might look into getting another one down the road. A couple days ago I heard from my husband that the lady said one of her horses had kicked one of her helper’s in the head. I just wonder if it was Vista.

            During the summers I work at a vet’s office. When I first started working there, I was in charge of cleaning the cages, taking the animals outside, feeding them and sometimes giving them medication. For as long as I worked there I have never had an animal bite me. I also did laundry and dismantled the operating table in order to clean it. I cleaned all the instruments then wrapped them in a paper cloth and put them in the steamer to disinfect them. I got to work part time at the front desk, welcoming customers and scheduling appointments. One time when the vet was very short handed, I was able to assist him on a C-section on a cat.

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