Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pet Talk

me and baby crocodile

I was riding my bike yesterday and saw a squashed hedgehog on the road and, as these associations often go, the first thing I thought of (okay second thought, after ‘agh shame’) was that I haven’t had a pet in absolute ages. Since I moved here anyway.

Let me explain.

The thought pattern went thus:
Dead hedgehog lead me to think of my pet baby hedgehog that I smuggled in to Zambia from boarding school in Malawi. On the plane, in a biscuit tin full of tissue. When asked by the customs lady what was in the tin I told her I had a cold and this was all my snotty tissue – opened it up to show her, tipping the baby hedgehog under the tissues as I did so. She shood me on pronto. Anyway THAT got me to thinking about my mom who said she had a hedgehog as a pet that used to walk around and around and around her room or garden all night until it’s feet bled. She says they don’t like being kept captive. So she let hers go and I never got a chance to test the theory as mine died before it grew up.

And THAT got me thinking about the pet dassies (rock hyraxes) that my mother had, before I was born. She had two of them and one day, when she was asleep the one dassie kept running up to her, jumping on the bed and running to the door. And again and again. Jump up on the bed, onto her face, and run to the door. Eventually my mother got up and followed the dassie, who took her into the bathroom where the other one had fallen into the toilet! Isn’t that sweet? And clever? She managed to rescue it from an unpleasant death in the bog. Yuk.

THEN, coz if you’re still with me you’re following my thought pattern (what an insight, what an honour) I thought about all the pets I’d had over the years and how, since I couldn’t think of anything to blog about, maybe I should tell ya’ll about some of my pets. Too many to tell you about them ALL, but some highlights. In no particular order:

There was Mohawk the porcupine, who was very very very cute. We got him when he was a tiny tiny thing, could fit into the palm of your had, all soft quilled and shnoffly nosed. He grew up to be pretty massive, but when you tried to pick him up would flatten his quills so that you could pick him up easier (ish). Anytime we ate chocolate he would stamp his little feet and get really grumpy. He gnawed a hole in my parents door and slept under their bed.

Nido was not a favourite of mine. He was a monkey and a horror. Used to bite my sister and I on the back of the neck ALL the time. And throw spectacular tantrums. Jump onto the dining table and throw glasses about the place and curl his little hands into fists and pound the table. He was a MENACE. He used to prize your eyes open when you tried to sleep and your mouth when you were eating something. Literally get his little grubby fingers into your mouth and steal your food. The only time he was ever cute was in the evening when he’d get all sweet and coo-ey and cuddly and get into your jacket or shirt. But that usually didn’t last long coz he would then poo and THAT is not a pleasant thing.

Noah was an elephant and too sweet for words. But too long and sad a story to tell here.

The warthogs, Widdle and Miss Piggy – a decade apart – were very sweet. Miss Piggy got attacked by a lion once, on the building site where my uncle was building his house. The lion leaped out the bush and latched onto her neck but because she had grown rather fat over the years, he couldn’t get a good enough grip. Then the labourers chased the lion off wielding spades and wheelbarrows (can you believe it??). And Miss Piggy survived. And so did the labourers!

Umm, what else. My mother is into falconry and when I was about 11 we both had a Lizard Buzzard each. That was cool. Not VERY trainable, but we made all the kit and they got used to chasing a lure and flying onto your welding-gloved-arm when you called them with a whistle.

While we’re on birds – ah too many of those to count. Most ending in heartbreak at the jaws of Fang (Bird and Squirrel Devourer of Extra Tooth fame.) Some, reared from tiny pink featherless aliens, lived to soar and be set free. Although a few of those tried to come back home to roost and got chomped by Fang. It was a constant battle, that.

There were a few other cats, Generator, C-fa (C for Cat (obviously pronounced see for cat), who I wanted, in my innocence, to call K-fa since I was learning the phonetic alphabet at the time. Needless to say this was not allowed!) - she used to go for walks like a dog. One cat, I forget which, gave birth on my tummy one night while I was asleep. Now THAT was gross.

And lots of squirrels. Vertigo, Sebastian.

The civet, Rayban, was also VERY sweet, a little smelly at times, when he marked his territory. Cuddly and playful. And once he had grown up he was pretty nocturnal so we didn’t see him much.

We tried a dog once, but it got taken by a leopard.

The genets stuck around for ages after they’d grown up. They’d sleep in the rafters in the day and come every evening for a snack. We had two of them and when they were all grown up then we were brought another one - a baby - who I, home from school, adopted and called Livingstone. He was a cutie. But the other two obviously didn’t want him in their territory and killed him one night. I was distraught. He used to sleep in my armpit at night and one day I woke up to blood on the bed. I went looking for him but my mother sussed out what was going on and rushed in and steered me out the room, obviously seeing his body under the bookshelf. Jay, not known for his tact kept saying, “Whatever you do, DON’T look under the bookshelf!” So of course I did. But what was another wee dead animal heartbreak in my short life? I’d seen so many – the cat literally whipped one of my mice off my shoulder once. Anyway, I was particularly upset at the genet’s death, for some reason, so my ma took me to the island across from us and we climbed a big mchenja tree and sat there for hours and hours, mourning the little fellow. Wasn’t that a nice thing to do?

The bushbuck, Rigby, was big enough for the cat not to kill and he stuck around for a long time after he grew up. We could recognise him from his squiffy leg. One of my sister’s massive History text books fell off her shelf and landed on his leg, breaking it. So he was in a plaster cast for a while, but seemed to manage just fine.

People from far and wide would bring me the most hopeless little creatures. Tiny, bald unidentifiable blobs (I THINK it’s a bird/mouse/squirrel). And I would lovingly wake up every two hours, make special milk formula – different for each different critter – get attached and get my heart broken, month in month out. Lots survived. Lots didn’t. And finally I knew I was cured when someone came to me (I was out of my teens now) with a brood of day-old wrinkly, pink, blind mice that they’d found in the storeroom. And I just couldn’t. I had reached saturation point.

So its time for a new pet, I think. I have my dear cat Clever Bollocks, but she stayed in Zambia and is happy there. I have also had quite a few pet lice of late, but I don’t really want THEM thank you very much. my sis and widdle

But soon, soon I’m going to get one of Janelle’s kittens (maybe I’ll try and sneak two away, heh heh)

Oh, and we also had a couple of owls, a chicken called Dixie. Bla bla bla. You bored yet?

A final note: I think my alarming hair needs to be acknowledged. In my defense mu mother was my hairdresser. She's an artist. 'Nuff said.


Dumdad said...

Crikey, that's a lot of pets. But you turned your back on the mice!!!!

I had a beloved pet mouse when I was a boy and even blogged about him:

My daughter loves all creatures (she even had a little snail farm a couple of years back) apart from spiders although the other day she collected some spiders from the garden to take to a friend who likes them.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post! Your childhood sounds wonderfully full of animals. I only had dogs, cats, hamsters and horses and am now feeling very hard done by. Although admittedly very few were taken by leopards in Hampshire.

I did hear a story last night though from a friend. He had a snake (boa constrictor) as a pet and used to let it out at night. After a while it stopped eating. He was worried. Then one night he woke up to find it in bed with him, just lying there, next to him, looking at him. He thought nothing of it, but mentioned the incident and the concern about the snake not eating to a friend who's a vet.

Her diagnosis? That the snake was starving itself prior to eating him.

Miranda said...

Heh heh, she sounds like me! Oooh, I'll dash off to visit your mouse-in-a-million blog. My mother also had a mouse that she took on her motorbike trip through Southern Africa. She peroxided a blond streak down his back and he lived in her that I write that it sounds pretty cruel, but it wasn't!

Miranda said...

Mud - OMG, that is a VERY funny and pretty freaky story!! Hahahaha. Fuuuck!!! Which reminds me that I left MY poor snakes off my list. Slim, one was called.

Miranda said...

hahahaha. MAN, can you IMAGINE! Mud, I'm still laughing at your story. Imagine, it just lying there, eyeing you up. Thinking, mmmmm, can't wait for THIS meal!

Anonymous said...

Somehow I thought that might amuse you!

The snake thinking: "What a sucker. Everyday he offers me a dead mouse....when there is a MUCH more satisfying meal waiting just there!!"

Miranda said...

Exactly! If he had hands to rub together he certainly would be!

Reya Mellicker said...

::loud applause:: !!!

WOW, what a great post. Boring? Not a bit.

Love the pics, too, and love your great and generous heart.

Hope we'll sometime hear the story of Noah.

You (and your hair) were such a beautiful child, your mother, too. I can't think of a better way to mourn than going to an island and climbing a tree. Wow.

Angela said...

Miranda, I love your outfuit, too!
When your mom first visited us, long before you were born, she also found a mouse in our cellar which had broken a leg. She made a cast for it and carried it around, thus deeply winning my mother`s (and Vic`s) heart. And MINE. For ever.
Reya, you can read the story of Noah in her dad`s book The Trouble with Africa, if you like.

tam said...

Oy. those shorts!
wasn't there one you took to durban, too? on the bus?
A mouse, or squirrel? Geli I'm laughing at that image of Mom and a mouse with a cast. I hope it was a better cast than the splint she made for her own finger the other day!!

Lori ann said...

Miranda, such an incredible post,I LOVE it. I wish it were longer, really. Write a book already(ok?) Include the pics. I will buy it. I just bought your Dad's,thanks to Angela's recommendation(thanks Angela) There are only 2 left on Amazon, hurry Reya!
Really wonderful post.Thanks so much for sharing.
xx lori

Miranda said...

Reya, wow thanks! I was worried that it all sounded a little self-indulgent! Glad you enjoyed it!

Geli - that's very funny about mom and the mouse with the splint. Heh heh. I can picture it!

Tam - aish, the less said about the shorts - aLL the kit in fact - the better! Yes we did have a creature on the bus to Durban. Wasn't it the squirrel? Vertigo? That we smuggled through from Zambia to SA and then took it to Durban and left it with the Bwaves. And then it got eated by the big fat white rat called Pep? Yes. That's the story!

Lori - wow, thanks! And you bought my dad's book. Hope you enjoy it! There are plenty more stories in there!

Val said...

i had a pet mouse once long ago. i took him to the cricket pitch for a run. when he tried to run away i accidentally trod on him..... it was awful!!!!!!!!!!
you have an amazing roll call. it is always such an great thing to get to know different animals on an intimate (in the best sense) level. Altho it usually ends in tears it does not decry the absolute fun times to be had.
the monkey.......typical....
Love the names of your pets too xx
are you getting the tiger striped kitten??

Val said...

that python story is hilariously dreadful ... ha ha ... i think :-)

Miranda said...

I know, isn't the python story great! Not sure which kitten to get yet. I think they want to keep the tiger one. (Lots of arguments going on between the three kids about whether to get a boy or a girl. Oooh boy!) I'll probably go hang out there on the weekend and see which one's got the nicest character - I'm good at that!
And OMG that's TERRIBLE about your mouse! Did it scar you for life?? I slipped on and squashed my tiny baby duck once that I kept at my friend's village. It's obviously more common than I thought!!

Val said...

yup.. can never forget that feeling. poor you and the baby duck. lots of empathy there xx

Val said...

me again.. sorry..but had to add I think you and Tam look pretty cool in the photos - gear hair pets everything - just how i remember!

SafariB said...

Hey Miranda. Just came across this post via your baby post! Dont know how I missed it. Man, just love it! Great great post and put a huuuuge smile on my face.

and still laughing about the snake and (yes, sorry for that) about the duckling - that must have been awful!!!

B xx

Andrey said...

Hi Miranda!
Could you tell more about rock dassies as pets? Maybe your mother passed some important bits of information, like don't ever wash them, or they must have a source of warmth at night, or don't ever feed them with apples...Any piece of first hand knowledge would be greatly appreciated!