Sunday, December 9, 2012

Animals, dear animals...

Animals play such important roles in our lives.  My own animals have shaped the person I have become today..

 I think back on that small little dog - Scampi - on the farm, when I was only 7 years old, who soaked up my tears into his fur and taught me the joy of embracing sunshine, the fields and all the millions of little creatures around me.  'Adventure' was his game and in those days he taught me the same.

Then there was 'Gypsy', a little dog who suddenly appeared in my mother's sewing room one day.  "Can I keep her, Mommy?".  I remember my plea. We had no idea where she came from - the farm was 8km from any civilization, surrounded by fences and thick bush. We tried to find her owners, but it was to no avail.  Gypsy stayed for a number of years.  Her weakness was sweet wrappers.  She had expensive taste, but her previous owners remained unknown. Gypsy taught me that there was mystery behind any large brown eyes, and that I should never under-estimate canine potential.  She was easy to teach and occupied my bed at night; where we shared stories from a book dusted in torchlight under my sheets.  

The menagerie of farm/wild animals which crossed my path in those days gave me a unique insight into the amazing creation in which we live - African bull frogs, African rock pythons, scrub hairs, tortoises, barn owls, pigs, cats, chickens, monkeys, crows....the list of my childhood pets is endless.  

Left: Barn owl
Upper R: African rock python
Lower R: African bull frog

(Above images off the internet)

Each creature, uniquely adapted to its environment, is an incarnate lesson of the universe.  Even the pond-skimmers allowed me an extremely personal spiritual experience one day.

In later life, my animals helped me along the path of empathy and compassion.  My first animal, in the "Big city", was a little budgie, named "Twit".  I was a student at the time and missed farm-life immensely.  I couldn't be without an animal, so I bought that little blue budgie to keep me company.  My room at university was very small and very lonely.  Each day, after lectures, when I opened the door, I'd greet the little bird:  "Hello Twit!".  After 3 weeks of regular greeting he echoed my greeting back to me.  From that day onward, each time I opened the door, I was greeted with "Hello Twit!".  I saw his potential.  After 18 months, Twit had a vocabulary of 36 words.  

"Hello Twit!"
"Shut up, you stupid idiot!"
"I like Kentucky Fried Budgie"
"Kiss me, quick!"
"Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie, kissed the girls..."
"I love you!"
"Pretty Boy!"
etc (I can't remember the rest...)

Wow, but that was a mouthfull!  Had it been modern times, that little bird would have been a youtube sensation.  His lesson too - never underestimate the potential of any creature.

Next was our cat - the first animal in our married life.  "Tinny" was an alley cat, purchased from a small pet shop in the heart of Hillbrow, one of the most densely populated areas of our city.  She arrived as a small kitten and took great delight in scampering up my curtains. She mastered the skill of being elusive - a great credit to cats in general.  In 24 hours of her being settled into our home, I realised I was allergic to Tinny.  My allergy was a sad affliction; I could live with her, but I couldn't touch her.  Any attempt at tactile contact would render me covered in horrible welts.  She taught me the trick of loving an animal from a distance.  She also taught me never to stereotype anything: A-typically, Tinny couldn't purr (another mystery).  She lived in our household for 16 years, appointing "The Boss" to be her personal slave during that time. She also brought us many mice, during the night, delivered onto our beds...a special feline gift.  I loved that kitty!

Maltese Terriers were next on my list.  They allowed pampering, cuddling and were excellent little watch dogs.  They preceded my understanding of the importance of 'Dog Training'.  None of my Maltese terriers were ever socialised.  I loved their feistiness and their characters.  In retrospect, it was my ignorance which fuelled their need to terrorise any intruder. 
(Above: Two of the chickens, perched on my kitchen table - about 2004 - which were incubated by Robz in her personally designed 'low-cost-incubator)

Animals were also very much part of my own children's nurturing - hamsters in particular.  They helped me to eventually teach my children how to grieve - each was worthy of a little "send off" and there are many flowering bushes in our garden today which were planted as a tribute to those little creatures.

I can never honour Maxdog enough - my canine soulmate who spent 10 years of his life with me!  Often  I become choked up at the most unexpected momenst. Max's presence remains as strong as ever.

And now there's TOBY...
Toby, my beautiful, sweet Hooligan 'Toby', has taught me that there is always a path ahead - new furry-friends to acquaint myself with.  In his short life, his devotion has allowed me to thrive again.  His first year alone is worthy of a book. When I observe him, in full flight over our swimming pool, I marvel at his athleticism and enthusiasm - a total transformation from that small vulnerable puppy.  Potential realised, he's a magnificent dog now. 

(Right: Toby at 2 weeks of age)
(Below: Toby today - 2 and a half years old)

Dearest Tammy - the epitome of nurturing!  To me she represents everything that is soft and beautiful - patience, peace, joy, self control, compassion, comfort, gentleness....the fruits of the spirit. What a beautiful role-model to all of us!

My recent introduction to Guineapigs also unveils so much that I am yet to learn.  They are the ultimate small animal pet and widely misunderstood, (I think). Although they eat and sleep most of the time, they are incredibly responsive to humans.  

Twix, in particular, has taught me so much about myself - that I am prepared to turn over every leaf possible to ensure the comfort and well-being of the animals in my home.  They are fully-fledged family members and deserve the best!

Yep, animals are most definitely one of the greatest blessings of my life.  I am deeply grateful to those special furry friends who have crossed my path, to those whom I am still to meet and to the many creatures whom I will never know but who add value to this incredible world of ours.

Have a wonderful, happy weekend,
with love,


  1. This post took me back to my youth and to remembering the animals that meant so much to me as a child. Unlike you, I lived in the city and had a mother who kept such a clean home - animals weren't allowed inside (at least not in my youth). My one and only dog was Rusty who lived outside. When he died I was inconsolable and cried for weeks. I don't think either of my parents ever understood how deep my love was for that dog and how deep the grief ran through my heart and soul.

  2. What I would have given as a child to have been around so many animals. My only suburban Nottingham childhood pet, Arthur the guinea pig lived for eight years, and I always think of him when I see pictures of Twix, although there is no physical similarity (Arthur was smooth haired and black and white, with somewhat badger-like markings). Today's photo of Twix is particularly adorable - his expression is so alert and intelligent!
    Cheers, Gail.

  3. Its so amazing how animals enrich our lives and make us better people. I think people who dont have pets as "weird" LOL Hugs, Valerie Joey and Kealani

  4. What a range of anmimals you have had. Your post has made me remember all my pets over the years - four cats and I'm not sure how many mice and goldfish and two budgies who never learnt to talk! I always wanted a rabbit (my favourite animal as a child, but had to make do with visiting them at the zoo). After leaving home (and my Birman cat with my parents, who told me it was unfair to take him flatting here), I had to wait until my partner and I returned from our "big OE" and bought a house to get our first Golden Retriver in 1994. Since then I can't imagine not having a dog or two beside me.

  5. Caryl, I enjoyed this post and reading about the animals that have touched and changed your life. It also made me think of the ones we had growing up that had a special place in my life too--There were not that many, but I know that there has never been a time in my life where an animal wasn't part of it, or I didn't feel compassion for one that was homeless.

  6. I have enjoyed catching up on all your posts just now. I love hearing about all the animals in your life and wish I could have had as many as you while growing up. I think I have made up for it since then.


  7. I am here, and i hear you. I am soaking in all your special storys- each one precious.
    I am enjoying your honesty- and and feel the love you have and had for all these furrys.

  8. Thank you for sharing your new blog. I enjoyed hearing about all your animal loves. Can't believe Toby is 2 1/2. And thought of your Max a lot when we lost our Tucker a few weeks ago.


  9. Welcome back my friend!