Talking about pets is strange for me because I grew up on a chicken farm and my first (not meaningful pet) was a chicken. When she ended up as dinner one Sunday, I was really too young to feel any remorse.
I also remember a cute white bunny we had for a while. (S)he lived in an open pen in our back yard and either hawks, eagles, or coyotes invited him/her for dinner one night.
Our chicken farm was a family thing. My parents, along with me and one uncle, lived there and we all worked at making a living. I also had an aunt living in Los Angeles and working for the FBI, and came back every three or four weeks to visit. She owned a collie named Ginger who stayed at the house. Looking at the pictures, I think Ginger wasn’t a pure collie, but she was a sweetheart. She was soft and fluffy and, when I stumbled and fell on top of her, she’d just lick my cheek.
Here’s a picture of Ginger and me in a wheelbarrow in January, 1948. That’s my Grandpa in the background.
Then there was the cat. I don’t remember her name, but she was big. Even when I was five or six she was big enough to scare me. If I came anywhere near her she’d hiss and take a swipe at me with her claws. She never chased me, but she let it be known that I wasn’t welcome in her space. Hmm, maybe some clue about why cats and I aren’t best friends today.
To introduce my first meaningful pet, I’ll tell you why we got him. My parents, as long as I can remember, talked about a cocker spaniel named Katy they owned back in Pennsylvania before I was born. A hunting dog, she regularly did something that irritated them every time they went hunting.
My parents went pheasant and grouse hunting and Katy was great at flushing the birds out of hiding. The only problem was she wouldn’t let them fly. I’m not a hunter and don’t know hunting laws, but I understood from their tales that you couldn’t shoot a bird on the ground -- it had to be flying. The problem was that Katy would flush them; chase them; and, when they took to wing, would grab their tail feathers and pull them back to the ground; thus, not letting them be legal targets.
Maybe that’s why, when my parents bought a house in 1953, they bought me a dog: a cocker spaniel. I don’t remember who named him, but Sparky was my dog.
Sparky was not a puppy and I don’t have any idea how old he was, but he was so much fun. He knew our property was his boundary and we never had to worry about him wandering around the neighborhood. He did, however, have a couple of things that weren’t exactly what we expected.
First, he wasn’t house broken and we never managed to handle that. Every day there would be a pile or puddle somewhere in the house -- sometimes more than one of each. That resulted in my mother confining him to the back yard.
Hmm, safe, huh? Nope, because he liked to bark. He’d bark at anything. A car drove past the house - Sparky would bark. If he heard something in the middle of the night, he’d bark. He’d bark when I went out to feed him. Sparky just had this thing about barking -- he loved to do it and the neighbors complained all the time about it.
I don’t know what the breaking point was, but I remember my parents telling me that we had to get rid of him. I think they’d already planned it because that same day a man came down to take Sparky with him. I didn’t like the idea, but I saw how the man loved on Sparky and, as he put him in his truck, he rolled down the window enough so Sparky could stick his head out and they drove off.
Years later, my dad told me that the man had a ranch and that Sparky had loads of room to run around and bark all he wanted.