My father grew up on a farm in the Midwest. He taught Agriculture Education for many, many years. As a result of his farm upbringing and choosing a career dealing with livestock, he strongly believed that animals needed to serve a purpose and that they belonged outdoors. As a child, I, on the other hand, strongly believed that animals belonged with me.
My parents allowed me to get a couple small goldfish and keep them in a bowl in my room. The fish were named Iesha and Mayonshay and I cared for them deeply. After Iesha died unexpectedly, I decided that I needed to take measures for Mayonshay's eternal salvation. I had a tiny little Bible that I was given at church and took to reading that to Mayonshay on a regular basis. When I became concerned that she could not hear the word of God through the bowl, I decided that she needed to be baptized. I had learned in Sunday School that anyone could perform an emergency baptism if need be, and after what had happened to Iesha, I wasn't going to mess around. She was taken away from us too soon. Since Mayonshay was already submerged, it was not difficult to bless the water, turning it into an quality living environment and holy water at the same time. With her fish soul secured, I felt relief, and Mayonshay lived another 12 years. Nonetheless, I wanted a furry companion to love and to cuddle. The goldfish they had allowed me just was not cutting it.
My neighbor, Wanda, had a toy Manchester terrier who answered to the name of Busted. Everett, Wanda's husband had stepped on Busted as a puppy, breaking her front legs and giving Busted Wilford her name. She walked around with permanently bent and disfigured front legs. Her unbroken hind legs raised her rear straight into the air. It was no wonder Busted got pregnant so often, walking around in that awkward position. It appeared that she was practically asking for it.
From Busted's rendezvous with a Pomeranian, came my future dog, Prince, his sister, Princess, and brother, Fluffy. Yes, I named all of these fine canines. It was unfortunate for Fluffy that he was stuck with such a name since he was not in the slightest bit fluffy and he was a boy, but by this time my incredibly creative juices had run dry. My parents finally gave into my pleading and told my brother and I that we could have one of Wanda's dogs. She was giving these little gems away for free! There was one condition, we had to choose a male dog because my parents didn't want puppies and my father certainly did not want to pay any more vet bills than necessary. Spending money on animals who were "pets" was not something you apparently did on the farm either. He thought he could get out of getting a dog fixed if we got a male. Prince was a tiny, grisly little guy, but I loved him immediately.
Pomeranian + Toy Manchester (without broken legs)
Prince was forced to live outside in a pen in our backyard, through the hot Midwest summers and the freezing cold winters. I put Prince in my backpack and took him everywhere, to the library with me, to my friends homes, even to the high school where Dad worked. Prince was a fiercely loyal companion. I know this because my brother had one friend in particular that I did not care for and I used my tiny dog as a weapon. I would carry him under my arm and when Jason would come around I would whip Prince out and he would become a microscopic killing machine, gnashing his tiny teeth, daring Jason to annoy me. Speak softly and carry a small dog. That has been my motto since.
Somewhere along the line, Prince got a "girlfriend." He knew no other dogs his size, so he took to having a relationship with his sleep rug. Prince was proud of his rug and liked to bring it around when we had guests over. We had a large picture window in our kitchen looking out over the backyard and when we would sit down for dinner with our company, Prince would wildly hump and thrust around on his rug. The entire family felt shame. We tried to hang the rug on the clothes line, but that was torture for the little Romeo, who cried and carried on until we finally gave him the rug back and closed the curtains. When Prince took to actually humping our company's shoes and children, father decided it was time to fork out the money and get him fixed. As revenge for the wasted money, as this did not actually deter Prince's relationship with the rug, my father taped the entire surgery and played it annually in his Ag classes, including the years that my brother and I took the course. I couldn't watch my poor, unconscious little dog laying splayed out on the surgery table, tongue hanging from the corner of his mouth, having his man parts removed, while my classmates giggled and snorted. Prince had sort of gained a reputation as "Rat Dog" in our small community and the video was great fun for my evil, heartless peers.
In Junior High, I decided that I needed a cat. I had always loved cats and spent hours at my grandparents' farm trying to lure the wild farm cats into a false sense of security so they would lead me to their young. I was incredibly cunning and would wear the cat ears from my Halloween costume (I was a cat three years running) and meow and clean myself with my own saliva, hoping that they would be fooled into thinking I was one of their own. My parents were not on board with the cat idea, probably because they were so ashamed of our rug humping "Rat dog" and the fact that dad had to do all the dog chores that I promised I would do. I would not be deterred from my dream of being a cat owner, no siree.
I invented "Hand Cat." Hand cat is made by forming your hand into the shape of a cat. Hand Cat can meow, purr, and hiss when it is mad. Hand cat can nuzzle and pester, just as well as a real live feline. The only difference between Hand Cat and a real cat is that Hand Cat can go everywhere. Hand Cat ate dinner with the family, went to the movies with the family and woke my parents up in the middle of the night just to say "Hello!"
Whee! I am Hand Cat! Mew!
My parents finally decided that a real cat could not possibly be as annoying as Hand Cat, NOTHING could possibly be as annoying as Hand Cat, so I was allowed a white kitten from my aunt and uncle's farm. Paisley Peanut was everything I had hoped for, however, she is the only cat I have ever experienced to have awful cat gas. Before you would pet her, you had to look deep into her eyes and pay attention to the non verbal signals that she gave with her tail and ears. She could turn into a berserk, deranged, menacing carnivore within seconds and you didn't want to be touching her when that happened. I spent the first year of her life covered head to toe in Bandaids because I was not the best at interpreting feline body language. My father spent the first year of her life, and all 12 afterwards, sweeping out the garage every five minutes, attempting to eradicate Paisley's cat hair. Hair which has separated from an animal makes him unstable. Fortunately, I did prevent the spaying of Paisley Peanut from being filmed for the enjoyment of generations of Ag students to come.
Lucee was my first pet that I could truly call my own. I was so lonely my first year of law school, having come from the World's Most Enjoyable Undergrad Experience to Hell on Earth. I asked my roommate if I could get a dog.
Me: Can I get a dog?
Roommate: Sure, of course, I would love a dog, but shoot, our apartment does not allow pets.
While walking around the complex, I noticed our neighbor had a dog. When I went to the apartment office and asked about the dog, I was told that the neighbor needed that dog. It was a companion animal and she had a doctor's note. I concluded in my sharpened legal learning mind, that dogs with doctors notes were allowed in the apartment. I didn't think that the apartment would believe that I had suddenly gone deaf and blind so I practiced being both deaf and blind, together and separately, around the apartment for a couple days. I finally accepted that I was not very convincing as deaf or blind. I went to my family physician and described in great detail the depression and anxiety I was experiencing due to my present circumstances and the tragedy of being accepted into law school. Though my blind and deaf routine was lacking, my depression routine must have been pretty darn spectacular because the doctor wrote me a prescription for a chihuahua. I found the perfect little dog in the paper, visited little Lulee and made arrangements to bring her home.
Roommate: I do not want a dog.
Me: What? You said I could have one!
Roommate: I said that when I didn't think you could get the apartment to agree to the thing.
Me: So, basically, what you are telling me, is that I went home to my tiny hometown, where now everyone surely knows that I am bat shit crazy and on the verge of a breakdown, and requested a prescription for a chihuahua, only to have you say that I cannot have my chihuahua? IS THAT WHAT YOU ARE TELLING ME!?
Roommate's reluctance to bring a chihuahua into our home was utterly incomprehensible to me, however, I decided to keep the peace and I did not get Lulee the chihuahua. I managed to give the apartment manager a plausible explanation as to how my disabling depression had suddenly cleared up and that I was not going to add a furry bundle of joy to my life at this moment. It was a blessing in disguise, because my second year in law school, I became the proud companion to Lucee Bella.
And that, my friends, is how you become a pet owner.