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Columns : The Pet Pages - Kim Aranha Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

The Priviledge of Pet Ownership
By Kim Aranha
Nov 19, 2008 - 8:27:40 PM

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Stretched out, Chief takes it easy.

So much has been written on this subject that I truly wonder if should even consider tackling it!

I have often had the fleeting thoughts of how lucky I am to own so many pets and of such diverse nature and then the phone rings, or the microwave beeps, or somebody needs me (probably one of the dogs!) that I am never quite able to totally finish the thought. So I thought that, perhaps, if I set out to write about it I just might be able to put down those scurrying thoughts in an orderly fashion and be able to savour the true joys of pet ownership.

There are days, invariably when the house is totally empty, and I can hear myself padding around in my bare feel followed faithfully by Buddy and Chief who practically NEVER let me out of their sight if I am walking around the house, just in case I do something interesting, which would probably involve FOOD!

My dogs are probably the most gratifying of my pets. Not because they are better, or superior, but because we can have more dialogue. It is far more difficult to have dialogue through a pane of glass and several gallons of water! Though I do believe that I can communicate with the goldfish in the kitchen. I do not believe that I have any communications with the tank full of tropical fish in my son’s bedroom. They barely look at me and are really only interested when the food is introduced into their tank in the evening. On the other hand the goldfish look out of their rather large tank in the kitchen and appear to take in everything that I do in there. They swim lazily around watching me as I rummage through the utensil drawer looking desperately for the spatula; they drift up to the surface dreamily as I chop the onions, and they play tag when the meatloaf is slipped into the oven triumphantly! Yes I do believe that the entire time I am in there with them they are observing me through their glass. I talk to them and go over frequently to be a bit closer. I remember when Goldie was sick I would stand in front of his tank, he was huddled (well, if a fish could huddle he would have been!), and I would talk to him and stroke the glass, he would look out at me, I like to think I willed him back to life. Every time I look over at the goldfish tank and see Goldie, Courage and Patience swimming around, I am reminded of those long weeks when he was sick, we had almost lost all hope, some people suggested that I put him out of his misery, I just couldn’t, and I feel happy that he pulled through. I like to think that I played a pivotal role in his recovery.

The birds and I have a pretty strong link too. They live in my den, where I am writing this now. All four are “rescue birds” to the extent that they were the sickly looking ones in the pet shop, the one sitting at the back of the cage or down in the corner on the bottom. Blueberry was in a very small cage, outdoors, by the side of the road, covered in dust and breathing in exhaust fumes. I drove past him and saw how he was turned away from the cars and trying to avoid the fumes and the dust. I kept driving, I didn’t want any more birds (or anything for that matter!), I drove perhaps a mile, with this miserable little bird on my mind, and could take it no longer, I turned the car around and bought him, and the miserable little cage he was in. He adjusted very quickly to his new home and friends and is now a very happy little bird, with three friends living in a large cage where they can fly around. In a perfect world they would not be in a cage but there’s not much choice here. I can’t send them back to Australia (where they probably did not come from having almost certainly been born in captivity), I cannot release them here, they would surely starve, not knowing how to forage, or would fall prey to cats or other birds. So they will live out their lives with me. When I am in my study at my desk, they sing, and prattle away amongst themselves, when I am on the phone they chirp and sing as loudly as possible. They remind me of small children who, the moment their Mother is on the phone vie for immediate attention (ever been THERE?). When the dogs come in, they become rather quiet, but quickly remember that the dogs will do them no harm, and start chirping again. Because they live in a group they cannot be tamed, you need a single bird for that. I never wanted a single bird because I think it would be lonely, so they chirp, eat, fly and keep me company when ever I am at work at my desk.

The fresh water pond turtles too have a way or communicating with me, I believe. The most obvious is that they know when it is food time and come to the surface to greet me. When I pick them up they stretch out their necks and love to have their heads stroked. If a stranger picks them up they retract into their shell at first. There is nothing more restful than sitting by the edge of the turtle pond and watching these marvelous creatures swim with their  “homes” on their backs and interact with each other punctuated with the gentle “plop, plop” of them pocking their heads out of the water to check things out before diving down once again.

Chief and Buddy's favourite place, a cosy command post.

My Mother passed away recently and left me to deal with a number of cats. Four were hers, and the rest are “strays” that require feeding too. Yesterday I was down at the house and was so rewarded with their greeting and then the gentle thanks after their meal. Some of the cats are too skittish to be touched and I am planning to gather them up to be neutered and then see if I can find homes for them in groups of thee or four at farms or stables. It really felt good to see them all lined up eating out of their bowls.

The best is always kept for last! Having gone over the immense pleasure I get from my other pets, I can now revel in the wonderful companionship and pleasure I get from our dogs, Abigail (Abba), Chief and Buddy. Our beloved Spats passed away early September shortly after is 13th birthday. I travel a lot and when I come home I am greeted with such excitement and delight that in spite of being tired after twelve or fifteens hours of travel, I feel refreshed.  Sometimes at night, when my sons are away and they are sleeping with us, I will feel a wet nose poking at me as if they are just making sure that I am really there. They love the boys and when they go away the dogs become glued to me and their favourite spot is to lie on my eldest son’s bed, with the door open they can see me if I leave my study. They cuddle up to his pillows and each other and sleep peacefully knowing that they are loved and safe from all the horrors of the world.  

I return to where this article began, padding around the house checking on my pets, followed by my faithful canine friends. The house is empty at present, it is not yet 7:00 am, my husband is out walking with a friend, the boys are away, the birds are serenading me, Abba is asleep on my couch and the “Puppies”? My wonderful, “salt and pepper” Chief and Buddy?..... Asleep, snuggled deep down in my son’s bed, one ear metaphorically cocked so that if I so much as move they are alerted, if I do move they will be off that bed in a flash and behind me every step of my way. The will sit with me as I have breakfast, they will watch the morning news with me, occasionally looking up if they hear a woof or meow on the screen, Buddy will sit on the bath tub step whilst I have my bath, keeping me company faithfully, they will walk me to the door when I go out to do my daily errands. As I close the door behind me, their ears will droop, their tails will go down, and they will walk away from the door, miserable, that is until they see that my housekeeper is there and they then proceed to follow her around the house “foot to foot” until I come home.

Yesterday I met a lady in a business who told me she hates animals. We talked at length as I tried to get her to understand the wonderful connection between animals and humans. I tried to explain to her how pets make our lives complete, how after a long and rough day you could come home to unconditional love, and enjoy being in silent communication with your devoted pal. I honestly think she thought I was nuts, as I left the business she assured me that she would always hate animals… I guess I lost that round!

As Roger Caras, American wildlife photographer, writer, and wildlife preservationist once said, “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole”.  I thank God every time I have those precious moments quietly enjoying the privilege of taking care of my pets, and I thank them for adding so much more to my life and giving it an additional dimension that no human could.

About the author: Kim Aranha grew up in the Berry Islands with her first dog, a beloved potcake named “Friendly” (who was anything but!). First educated at home, and then in boarding school in Switzerland, Kim moved to Rome, Italy in 1974 to pursue a career in the dramatic arts and ended up working as an interpreter. She moved back to The Bahamas in 1980, and now lives in Nassau with her husband Paul, and their two teenaged sons. Kim has 3 dogs, 3 goldfish fish a tank of frshwater exotic fish, 11 turtles 2 babies, 6 adolescents. 3 adults), 1 Asian box turtle and 4 Budgerigars. Her idea of relaxing is being home to take care of all her pets. Kim is President of the board of the Bahamas Humane Society. Kim can be contacted at berryislandgirl@gmail.com

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