Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pet Tales

Barkley gives me the look as he sees me pull the suitcase out. I've a short trip up north on business this week and I always pack a little extra in case weather changes my plans some. I'm going to hate to leave him, but he has fun with friends while I'm gone. I probably get too attached to my pets. But Barkley is family to me. Not a substitute for a relationship with another human being, but an outlet for the warmth I harbor in my soul, seeking a place for the waters of emotion to go when all else is damned up by duty. He's my confidant, he's my fashion critic (khakis and black shirt again? Well if you insist Barkley), he's the soft coated Kleenex if I cry.

He's given me renewed hope in the capacity of a heart, as his ability to love is boundless. He'll stay on alert, face aching with a grimacing growl, keeping that squirrel at bay while I'm at work. He's been the soft nuzzle of concern on my neck, whether it be a bad cold or a broken heart. I know that even when he's old, muzzle flecked with grey, woken by my movement into the family room where he snoozes on my leather couch, he'll move to my side as swift as strong as ever. Looking at me with brown eyes more humorous and honest than many humans, above the blunt black nose, content simply to be by my side because I'm there.

Dogs, will always be my favorites though certainly I've been around other pets, either by association or adoption.

There was the snake. Not mine, but belonging to a coworkers son who had built a herpitorium for his Boa as part of a high school project. They went on vacation and I was asked to (1) water the plants and take in the mail and (2) feed the snake. "Ok, where's the Purina snake chow", I said. Oh uh.


Apparently they like their food still alive, so I took the directions they gave me for a store that, in addition to regular pets, sold feeder rodents. I hated to do it, but I'd given my word. So off I go and bring home a couple mouse-like objects. I felt bad enough as it was. Catching mice in a little mousetrap was necessary in a country home but I was going to feed them live to a snake. I hate snakes. I felt worse and worse as I approached the house. The little carrier the store gave me to house them that was shaped and painted like a little house with the lettering "Thanks for giving me a home", did NOT help.

The snake got part of a Slim Jim, and the mice "accidentally" escaped in the barn.

Somewhere else along the way I inherited a parrot. The sister of a a pilot friend needed a home for the young bird after her divorce. It was just a little Cockatoo. They're like budgies on steroids right? How much trouble could he be? I named him "Beaker". He was a pretty personable little bird and easy for others to care for when I was off playing weekend warrior or attending grad school. They're smart, normally learning to talk. Not this bird. I had inherited mute bird. I tried all the tricks, repeating things over and over, rewards, repetition. Nothing ("No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!")

This bird was not "restin" he just would NOT talk. Not even a "hello".

Then one night I had a get together on my houseboat. Just a few pilot friends, who were as close as brothers though we didn't share the same last name. We grilled, sat out on the deck and had a couple beers. Beaker was in high form, sitting on folks shoulders, walking across the room (he could fly, he just chose NOT to), getting some treats fed to him.

Where I lived was a ways out of town, with a treacherous road so the guys brought sleeping bags as I said I wouldn't serve beer if anyone was going to attempt to drive home. Finally after much food and a few beers, I headed up to my little loft bedroom, pulling up the stairs and saying goodnight to the gang sleeping downstairs with the television. They were still up, surfing with the remote, amazed at the great cable I got and all the channels including, apparently, "naughtyvision", which I was sure they were going to study in great detail, once I was asleep.

I slept like a log, earplugs in and came downstairs in the morning to the sight of three of my best friends snoozing on the floor. Beaker was back in his cage, proudly proclaiming at the top of his little bird lungs "Nice Tits!"

My bird had learned his first (and only) words.

OK, cross off the pastor's wife as a bird sitter in the future.

Now, I just have Barkley, his form of communication with others mostly a version of Doggie Tourettes as the neighbor's mutt goes by - &*@(! you mongrel, you want a (#)@* piece of me?!"

But to me he communicates all I need to hear, trust, love and devotion. To Barkley, I'm not Dr. B, or Brigid or someones Mom or Daughter. I'm not a blogger, a title or a name. To Barkley, I'm just his chosen instrument to love and protect, imperfections and all.

And though he's partial to squeaky little animals, fortunately they're the plastic kind.

20 comments:

Mrs. S. said...

A good dog is definitely the best!

Note: If you ever have to snake-sit again. Pet stores will usually sell "feeder mice" for a reduced price and put them in a plain cardboard box.

Having worked in a pet store in high school, I think that the quiet birds are really nice birds! The customers would teach the smarter birds to wolf whistle - which gets kinda old after 8 hours. Count your blessings.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Someone shipped a parrot by air freight. The connection made for an eighteen hour delay so the bird was moved into the warm office. The bird was a fast learner. After eighteen hours around air freight handlers, he had an expanded and colorful vocabulary.

Keads said...

Barkley is a handsome dog and sounds like a wonderful companion.

Someday I will have one again in my life.

I like squeaky toys too...! What?

Rev. Paul said...

I'm glad you have Barkley as companion. My only dog was literally ripped out of my arms, when I was too young to understand, when we couldn't keep him for reasons that are no longer important. But to say it was traumatic would be grossly understated.

I've never had another, but you're the first person who's made me want to consider a dog again.

Thank you for that.

Shy Wolf said...

... and then there's the wild animal adopted into the household... like the extra large Garten snake The Kid just had to have... and which decided it didn't like being caged and somehow managed to escape someplace in the house.
Good thing- no mice in summer.

Sassy said...

We loooove our dog. He helped my hubby through recovery 4 yrs ago (anniv on Nov 15) from sudden death. Now that our children are not at home, our Buddy has filled a void as he lays at our feet & loves us unconditionally. He can never replace our kids but he comforts us.

He misses us when we leave and welcomes us back with love, a hearty waggin' & a bunch of kisses. He warms our hearts and is eager to please us with his obedience most of the time ;)

I love that Barkley is good for you and I happy he has you!

Mac from Michigan said...

Barkley is a keeper! There's a great video on YouTube, featuring a parrot who learned what babies do; cry loud and you well get attention. The parrot would mimic a crying then laughing baby.

Ya get the full range of emotions from the book? Yep, us too.

North said...

I just assumed this whole time that Barkley used Jedi mind tricks.

Hmmm. I need to send Barkley a box of toys, apparently. I'll get right on that.

Sassy said...

PS. I forgot to mention that when our boy was home he had a pet ball python. We got him the aquarium & goodies for his snake to hide and play. We also had to get mice, that was quite interesting to watch how the snake made it's kill and slid the darn vermit down it's gullet.

NOW, I do have to say that the when my DH got this snake after talking to me first I had only this to say: If EVER this snake gets out of his home, and into mine... this is what will happen. I WILL freak out, so I'll need a hotel to stay in.. a NICE one and only when the snake is found at put back in it's home ONLY then will I come back. That snake NEVER got out, my boy was careful and his father saw to it. LOVE MY MEN!

Answers? I don't know the questions. said...

First, Monty Python references are always welcome. Second, do you have any idea what that bird is worth now? I will volunteer to be his agent. I can make us gazillions!

Roscoe said...

We kept my sister's bird in a cage in the family room not far from the TV. Of all things that it could possibly learn sitting in that location, the bird picked up the old school "Star Trek" theme.

(Every day at 5PM. I had no life.)

When the time came to find our feathered Trekkie a new home, the couple who took him had an aviary with many birds to keep him company. It wasn't too long before just about all of his cage mates learned the first few bars of the song.

Hat Trick said...

That shot of Barkley is great! So incredibly expressive.

I don't have any exotic pet stories just a good one about a St. Bernard that developed a taste for sweet corn and started picking her own. A whole stalk at a time.

Six said...

If Angus ends up as half the dog Barkley is. If our bond is a fraction of the love you two have for each other. I will be thought a lucky man indeed.

Guffaw in AZ said...

I hear Beaker is doing stand-up in Vegas now...

CenTexTim said...

Your story about beaker reminded me of this one. Stop me if you've heard it before...

A lady goes to her priest one day and tells him, "Father, I have a problem. I have two female parrots, but they only know how to say one thing."

What do they say?" the priest inquired.

"They say 'Hi, we're prostitutes. Do you want to have some fun?'"

The priest thought for a moment. "You know," he said, "I may have a solution to your problem. I have two male parrots whom I have taught to pray and read the Bible. Bring your two female parrots over to my house, and we'll put them in the cage with Francis and Job. My parrots can teach your parrots to praise and worship and your parrots are sure to stop saying that phrase."

"Thank you," the woman responded, "this may very well be the solution."

The next day, she brought her female parrots to the priest's house. As he ushered her in, she saw that his two male parrots were inside their cage, holding rosary beads and praying. Impressed, she walked over and placed her parrots in with them. After a few minutes, the female parrots cried out in unison: "Hi, we're prostitutes. Do you want to have some fun?"

There was a stunned silence. Finally, one male parrot looked over at the other male parrot and exclaimed, "Put the beads away, Francis, our prayers have been answered!"

Brighid said...

Dogs are the best friends...they don't care if you have morning breath, ratty jammies, wear ol college sweatshirts, holy jeans, and cowshitty boots...
I have young Gus as my copilot now, but I still really miss Maxwell, the wonder cowdog...once in a life time dog.

LB @ Bullets And Biscuits said...

Ohhhh there's nothing like a good dog! When my dog, Cobie would come back from staying with friends while I was gone...it would take a week to get him back to normal from all the spoiling he got ;)

Ed Rasimus said...

I've got this picture of the Boa being up all night with heartburn after the Slim Jim. Does Nexium come in a boa dosage?

Joseph said...

Dogs do talk, if you know how to listen...not a substitute for a human, but they sure do beat being by yourself.

Cap'n Jan said...

You say... "I probably get too attached to my pets."

No you don't. From what I've read, you do it 'just right'.

The old saying "They give us their lives. We give them our spare time." Should not be far from our minds. We should endeavor to give them more than just spare time. Barkley is a lucky boy-dog.

I wish you Fair Winds and Following Seas, Brigid.

Cap'n Jan

P.S. Your blog is my favorite 'shooty' site.