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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)

TITLE: Emotional Rollercoaster
By Joy Bach


Have you ever gathered around the toilet and had a funeral for a fish? If not, then you have not experienced life. Each daughter expressed their thoughts, a short prayer was offered and then we flushed…amid many tears.

Pets bring an abundance of joy, but then the loss is hard to bear.

We moved so often and so far across the country, it was hard to keep a pet.

In Texas, a wooden dog house was purchased. The children painted it red. The life of that dog was short and the grief was unbearable when he expired due to an illness.

In Oklahoma, five year old Dawn walked to the corner and back while I stayed in our yard with the younger two. Upon returning home, she held up her hand to show me her new pet. A black hairy tarantula. She wasn’t allowed to keep it.

In Maryland, we had a black Cocker Spaniel named “Little Black Sambo”, which was left behind when we moved back to Oklahoma.

For Christmas one year, two parakeets joined our family…Holly and Ivy. On occasion we would let them out to fly freely around the room...landing on the girl’s heads and depositing at will. Not such a good idea.

When my husband left us in Nebraska, I thought a dog would help the children through the trauma. A white poodle named “Tiffany” became a member of our family. Even though she was designed to be the children’s pet, she became valuable to me too as she sat by my side night after night as I grieved the loss of my marriage and faced an uncertain future.

One day Dawn, took Tiffany for a walk. I was busy in the kitchen when I heard her coming down the street, her wails preceding her. Tiffany had jumped out of her arms to chase a rabbit. Just as she ran across the street, a car came by. Dawn was absolutely traumatized.

A single mom, with three children to calm down, I sought help from a neighbor. I asked if he could help me retrieve the dog and bury it.

You have to wonder about some people in the world. In front of the children he said, “Oh my goodness. There’s no need to bury it. Just wrap it in a newspaper and throw it in the trash”.

The wails grew louder.

I sought help elsewhere.

Lyn had more than one pet. Some of them she seemed to keep in her pockets, but others in her room. The most memorable one was “Jimmy”, a water newt. Life became a little jittery when he would escape. But she loved him.

In Idaho, we acquired a darling “peekapoo” that was given to us by a lady in the church. A few weeks later, her son came to our door and took it back. He explained she gave it away as punishment to him. Now my children carried the pain.

After moving again, the girls adopted the squirrels that lived in the trees. Leaving peanuts on the little front stoop, they would watch from behind the screen door as the squirrels would climb the steps, pick up a peanut…and make quick work of opening the shell and popping the peanut in their mouth. Eventually, the squirrels became so tame they ate out of their hands.

Dawn had a cat named “Sativa” that had a unique way to get to the basement from the main floor. She slid down the metal vent for the heating system. That screeching sound could be heard by the neighbors. It was especially enjoyable in the middle of the night.

The last pet we had before the children all left the nest was a Cocker Spaniel named “Toby”. We had a delightful time with Toby. I had remarried. My husband, John, decided Toby needed a trim. He took Toby to the groomer.

The groomer faced an impossible task, because Toby’s fur was totally matted with cockle burs. So she shaved him.

When John went to retrieve him, Toby would not look at him. Tail between his legs, he headed for the back yard and hid. He acted like he felt naked and embarrassed. And one thing was clear. Toby did not like John at all…for weeks. That man just couldn’t be trusted.

Pets are expensive and sometimes destructive. It’s like having another child around. But the wag of a dog’s tail and the look of trust in its eyes make it all worthwhile.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie Wistrom05/23/08
I agree with your title. WOW. Your poor kids. Do any have pets of their own after all that trauma?
You delivered this well and being a dog lover, I really enjoyed your last paragraph.

Keep writing!
Marilyn Schnepp 05/24/08
Your Title, along with your first paragraph, tells it all in a nutshell. It's witty, but sad; loving but heartbreaking, and definitely has its "ups and downs"...but your last paragraph tells it like it is. Nothing like that loyal, delightful "tail wagging" of unconditional love! Nicely done and very well written. Kudos!
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/24/08
This is a very interesting history of your family pets, revealing, too, a delightful family. Your conclusion is exactly right.