I remember my second attempt at a pet.  My third grade class was going on a field trip.  We lived in Germany by then.  I have to admit that for all the misery spending my early childhood without a pet was causing, we did go on some pretty cool field trips – not your garden variety, stateside field trips.  This particular trip was to an open-air market in the town of Augsburg.  I asked my mother from some money for the trip.  As I left for school that day, she dropped some “foreign” currency into my hands in the form of jingling coins of unknown value.

At the market, I remember looking around for something that suited my fancy.  Nothing really appealed, usually the scallop shells filled with hard candy or other indigenous candies of the region did the trick.  That day, they held no appeal.  Finally, I spotted it.  I spotted the object of my fancy  – ducklings, tiny, fluffy, golden-yellow, ducklings.  I could picture one of them splashing happily away in our bathtub.  My quality of life would be enhanced immensely with the addition of a duckling.  So I approached the vendor to inquire about the cost.  I asked in English.  The response I got was in German.  (“Hmmm, an unanticipated language barrier”.)  There I stood just a few simple German phrases away from my very own duckling.  The desire to have a pet is a tremendous motivator so I broke out my best broken German and inquired again about the price.  Once I had least tried to speak in German the vendor was willing to communicate with me in English.   Détente achieved, we could move forward with the transaction.  I held out my hands displaying all of the coins my mother had given me before I left for school.  The woman let know, in perfect English, that I did not have enough money.   I had not yet developed the skill of driving a hard bargain, so I simply walked away.

I ended up with a miniature cactus that I gave to my mother to which she responded, “That’s sweet, but we can’t keep it.”  “Why?”  I asked. “Even, a cactus. I can’t even keep a cactus.”  I thought to myself. “Sure, its a living thing that requires some kind of attention.  But of all living things, what requires less attention than a cactus.”  I really was starting to believe she had it in for me.   I didn’t beg, whine, or promise to eat my broccoli or keep my room clean forever without any reminders, nor did I  promise to forfeit my allowance.   Truth is, I really didn’t care about the cactus.  It was lame.  It wasn’t a duckling, a kitten, a rabbit, or a puppy.  Still, I stood there in a rather dejected state. “We can’t keep the cactus because we are going home,”  my mother explained.  That was the typical way I found out about major events in my life.

The sound of “home” evoked strange emotions.  By then, I had few memories of “home.”   What I knew of home was largely from my parents’ conversations about what they missed about home when we were traveling by car  to cool places like Switzerland and Holland.  I distinctly remember them missing Burger King and Dairy Queen.  Their longing for these places set me up for tremendous disappointment once I got back to the states. (Not that I would refuse a Blizzard if you offered me one right now.) But after three years of no television, “home” started to sound pretty good.  In addition to TV, I knew my odds of getting a pet were greatly enhanced once I got there.  It wasn’t long after the field trip that my family and I returned to the land of television, fast food, and pets.

My First Pet

Pont a Mouson

I got a pet long after I wanted one.   I wasn’t allowed to have pet.  There were a variety of reasons, all of them good.  Now that I am old enough to appreciate the situation my family was in at time, I realize that.  You see, I was raised in a military family.  By the time I was seven we had moved seven times.  From ages five to seven we moved from Nancy to Pont-à-Mousson to Toul-Rosières (France) to Augsburg, Germany.

“We” included a set parents, three daughters, ages six, five, and four, and infant son.  Now, that I think about it, how much more trouble would it have been to throw a puppy into the mix?  But, my parents, thinking like parents DO, didn’t go that route.  Obviously, they weren’t entirely risk aversive, but somehow their taste for adventure excluded pets.

Unfortunately for me, I was born an animal lover.  I was the, “Can we keep it?  Can we keep it?  Can we keep it?  Can we keep it?   Why can’t we keep it?  Why can’t we keep it?  Why can’t we keep it?” child.  Needless to say, I was not the favorite.

I remember my first pet.  It was the only pet I could manage for myself at the time.  I was about six years old and determined to get one.   We were living in Pont-à-Mousson at the time, a town that suffered destruction in World War II, before being liberated by the US Third Army under the command of General Patton, supported by an active local resistance movement.  I was young so I could not fully appreciate the town’s history, plus I was distracted by my desire to have a pet.

We lived in large stately home that looked like a mansion to me.  It was three stories.  Many rainy days my sisters and I amused ourselves by sliding down the winding banister from the third to the first floor.  The house was in a state of decay as one would expect in post-World War II France.  The gardens were overrun with weeds and bramble.  A garden pond, made of stone, was filled with stagnant water, deep green with algae.  My sisters and I would frequently debate the depth of the pond.  One day, to settle the issue once and for all, my older sister pushed a friend into the pond. We didn’t get an exact figure, but we knew for sure that the pond was over three feet in depth and perhaps bottomless.

In addition to the enchanted pond, the yard was infested with snakes.  My father made sure that the snakes were non-poisonous so he could force us to, “Go outside and play” guilt-free.  Sometimes I wonder if he wasn’t a little disappointed when he got the news that none of the hundreds of species of snakes lurking around our backyard posed no threat to his charming daughters.  The aura of the house was one that brought to life the Brothers’ Grimm fairy tales.  It was the perfect place for a childhood in all respects except one.  There were no pets.  So despite all the enchantment, ennui set in.

One rainy, pet-less day as I sat wishing I was dead because I wasn’t allowed to have a pet, I spotted a fly on one of our windows, the fly was buzzing around there seeking freedom from the captivity of our home.  Unbeknownst to the fly, a genius of an idea sprung into my mind.  I COULD have a pet.  It was possible even without my parents’ permission.

I ran upstairs and rummaged through my mother’s things.  I found a small perfume box amongst her belongings and took possession of it.  It was the perfect size for a fly kennel.  I dashed back to the window and found myself in luck.  The fly was still there.  I cupped my small, supple, six-year old hands over it.  The next thing I did was cruel and selfish, but I really didn’t see it as in any different than docking a puppy’s tail or clipping a Great Dane’s ears.  Consumed by my selfish desire to have a pet, I plucked the wings off the fly and put it into the perfume box.  I undoubtedly named it, but I don’t remember what.  I like to think I named it Buzz, a nice unisex name, because for the life of me I could not determine its gender.  I do remember showing my pet to my mother.  She told me it was disgusting and didn’t I know those things carried germs?   She was a nurse and so she had special knowledge about germs, not just the ordinary knowledge about germs that non-nurse mothers have.  As a child born to a nurse mother coupled with an OCD father, germs –the never ending fight to be rid of them and the battle to avoid them would plague my childhood.

My life, with and without dogs

This isn't Ollie, but a dead ringer for him (without the underbite)

This isn’t Ollie, but a dead ringer for him (without the underbite)

I know that I should blog to increase sales.  I have heard it and heard it.  I know it, but I haven’t been able to do it.  Hmmmm what’s going on?  I don’t consider myself a bad writer.  In a way, I make my living writing in my “real” job, the job that pays the bills.  So I had to ask myself why it has been so hard for me to write a blog about my new invention.   It really didn’t take a great deal of time before the light bulb went on.  You see, I invented a dog leash, and I don’t even have a dog.   When I am out selling these things, people look up at me beaming when they ask me about the kinds of dogs I have.  They are happily waiting to hear all about my furry, little, four-legged friends and how much I love them.  They are a little perplexed when I tell them I don’t have any.  I’m not against them or anything.   It’s simply that I don’t have one right at the moment.

I had a couple of dachshunds that died just shortly before I decided to embark (pun intended) on this new venture.  Truth be told, I actually inherited the first one and was forced to get a second as a companion for the first.  I am smiling to myself as I think of the day I picked out the long-haired, brindled dachshund puppy with a terrible underbite.  When I flipped him over he looked just like a rat.  I named him Ollie.

With the addition of Ollie, I had two and, thank goodness, because the first one, Dave, was extremely neurotic.  He was especially afraid of storms, which resulted in feats of great destruction whenever there was a bad one while he was alone and I was out earning the dough to bring home his bacon.  Ollie did the trick.  A companion was enough, not to stop the overwhelming anxiety a storm would bring on, but to stop the devastating destruction.  With the addition of Ollie we all lived hap .  .  .  .  ok, well really, we got on the best we could —  Ollie forever living in the shadow of his older brother, the most neurotic, strong-willed beast that ever inhabited this planet.

Thusly described, you would think the day of Dave’s passing would be a day of great rejoicing.   For all the pain and angst that little beast caused me, my husband and I sobbed our hearts our as Dave lay dying in my arms.  My life with and without dogs, to be continued . . . .