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