Animals, a List

This past week the lit mag North of Oxford posted a list of the 10 most read poems from their magazine from January-July 2020. It was exciting to see my poem “Medusa’s #Metoo” make the list!

10 Most Read Poems

After writing about my kitty Toby in No Goodbye: A Cat Story I decided to write about my other childhood pets, as well as other animals I encountered in life. Sort of clearing my head about my upbringing with animals. So this isn’t a story, per se, like the one about Toby. It’s more of a list of animals.

The first memory that comes to mind that involves animals I actually already wrote about on this blog almost eight years ago. You can find it here: A Ride with Memory. It’s about my earliest scary memory, and I wasn’t even three-years-old yet. This story involves a horse.

When I was in kindergarten my grandmother babysat me every day before school and all afternoon until almost dinner time. My aunt and her springer spaniel Sandy lived with my grandparents. I was repeatedly warned not to touch Sandy. I needed to stay away from Sandy because Sandy was a biter. Actually, the only person Sandy had ever bitten was me, when I was a baby. She bit my eyelid off, and at the hospital, a doctor sewed it back on. I didn’t remember that trauma, and I still insisted on making a meat pie to celebrate Sandy’s birthday.

When I was five or six, the neighbor’s Dalmatian bit me in the leg, but it wasn’t too serious.

Before we got Toby the cat, we had a bowl with goldfish a couple of times, but they always died. I think I overfed them, and it polluted the water. I had small turtles, but they invariably walked away out of our yard and never came back. Once my father brought home baby ducks at Easter time. Not chicks, ducks. I don’t know what happened to them, but I was terrified of how fragile they were and that I could hurt them. We had chicks one year, too.

I am starting to see the thread here. My father bringing pets home for the family. I’m sure it irritated my mother. Then he brought home a big cage with two guinea pigs.  My mother made us keep them in the basement. I’ve written a little story about this for my never-finished memoir, but to sum up: the guinea pigs were unfixed male and female. My dad helped me through the crisis that ensued.

A few months later, he brought home a puppy. A man he worked with had found the puppy at a lake where someone had tried to drown the entire litter. I suspect Perky was the only one left alive, and my father brought her home to us. My mother named her Perky after the man who found her: Mr. Perkins.

Here’s a scrapbook page my mom made for me of some childhood pets. The photo in the upper right is an example of how I always loved feeding the animals. But I still remember being bitten by a llama at Deer Forest Park.  Perky is the dog with the collie-type coloring.

Yup, that’s me and the gardener in the center, bathing Perky. She was already getting old there. In the lower left she was playing on the beach at our lake cottage with a “local” puppy. My brother is almost eight years younger than me. At some point, Perky really became his dog because Perky could hang around him while he was playing outside. The gardener and I were out of town when Perky had to be “put to sleep,” and my father and brother went together to the vet and stayed with Perky. That was as it should be.

In 7th grade, the girls and I cut through a vacant lot and someone’s backyard to get home from school. We didn’t notice the white German Shepherd in the dog house. He lunged at us, incensed at our audacity. We ran like crazy, but he was on a chain (poor thing, no wonder he was crabby) and so we were safe. Or so I thought. I slowed down just a moment too soon. He could still reach me, s0 he took a chunk out of my ankle. After that, I was scared of German Shepherds until I became an adult.

When I was fifteen I bought myself a cage with two finches: a brilliant scarlet one and a beautiful green. Of course, the green one managed to get herself egg-bound and although I held her over the steam like the book said to do, she still couldn’t pass the egg and eventually died from the exertion. I kept finches for years, but they were all gone before my kids entered my life. Good thing, or my babies would have been eating birdseed off the floor. Finches are lovely to look at, but very messy because when they eat they hurl the hulls of the seeds across the room.

As an adult I’ve had dogs, cats, the finches, hermit crabs, and a rat. (She was the best pet). I’d like to have donkeys, but it’s looking doubtful that that is going to happen.

Lots of sad times with the animals. And some painful ones when I was bit (three dogs and one llama). But none of it deterred me from being an animal lover–from fish to horses, I love all the species I encountered.


In this pandemic I am so grateful to have my six cats. But last night Felix had to go to the ER. He had diarrhea, wouldn’t eat, and hadn’t peed in 38 hours. The vet said his bladder was small, so that was a mystery, but I was glad he wasn’t blocked. I hope he gets better fast and that it’s not something bad. Poor baby.

Here’s Kana to say HI and BYE!

Perry hasn’t said HI in awhile, so he wanted to hop in here, too. Cutie pie.


Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

56 responses to “Animals, a List

  1. Amy

    It’s amazing to me that you love animals as much as you do after being bitten all those times AND after having pets taken away from you so often. Perky was one lucky dog to be allowed to stay for the long haul. He reminds me of our dog Velvet, also a collie type mix that my parents got from the local animal shelter. Inspired by you years back, I once wrote a whole blog post about all my pets:

    When were you called Currentdescendat??

    • Lol at the very beginning. It was even misspelled.
      It’s amazing to me too when I see the list like this. I guess it’s a good thing though that my dad wanted to make sure I had pets. I’m sure my mother did not make that easy for him!

      • Amy

        At least my parents were both on the same page—total animal lovers. When did you stop using that alias?

        • Yes, that’s very helpful! The gardener is an animal lover, but not like I am. He’s afraid of horses and big dogs. And he doesn’t think about animals morning, noon, and night hahahaha. But he sure loves not only our family animals, but for example the cats at the shelter and on the street.
          Not sure when I stopped. It seems forever.

          • Amy

            Harvey grew up with no pets, but I made it clear from the get go that if he didn’t want to have pets, it was a deal breaker. He has loved all our pets whole-heartedly, but is not crazy in love with them like I am. 🙂

            • So glad it worked out for you two!!! My son has my intense love of animals and married an animal lover. At their wedding the best man mentioned in his speech that their mutual love of animals was the clincher.

  2. Rats ARE the best pets! <3

  3. Lovely to read about your memories of animals – I had no fear as a child and would wander up to any dog to pet – fortunately I was never bitten! Congratulations on the poem. And hoping that Felix feels better soon.

    • Yes, you were very lucky but I love that you would go up to any dog! I have a childhood friend who still does that LOL. You can’t go anywhere with her that she’s not going up to dogs all along the way. Yes, she volunteers at an animal shelter! Thank you about Felix. He hasn’t peed since Saturday early morning! yet his bladder is small. Maybe he’s been that dehydrated? from the diarrhea.

  4. Congratulations, Luanne

  5. I loved reading this Animal Who’s Who! Hope Felix is feeling better. You know I feel your pain when a kitty is sick. Take care.

    • Who’s Who hahaha! I love it! I just don’t know about this boy. He hasn’t peed since Saturday at 6AM. Doesn’t that seem extreme for it to just be from diarrhea? I put a call in to my regular vet.

      • My Sylvie went three days without drinking, eating, or peeing once. It was terrifying and overwhelming. I celebrated when it finally happened. She was one sick kitty! I trust you will have an equally good turn out with Felix. I hope you’ll update here or fb. Hugs to you all!

  6. You have a big heart and a forgiving nature, Luanne. Don’t think I’d have had a dog if I’d been bitten once never mind three times.

    • I don’t remember the first one, so that’s good. I imagine getting my eyelid bitten off or almost off would be a scary thing to go through. But luckily I don’t remember anything until I was at least 1 1/2!

  7. I was bitten by a dog when I was a toddler but it didn’t make me hate dogs. Maybe it made me love cats more! 🙂

    • Haha, maybe that’s what happened to me!!! Although for the first dozen years of marriage we had dogs only and I was known as the dog finder, finding stray dogs everywhere :/. Now I can’t imagine what I was thinking ;).

  8. Wow! My son was the only one bitten in our family by a neighbors guard dog that got out. A Doberman. Another neighbor had one as a family pet so when they found out the TS was afraid of their dog after being bit by the other dog, they called to invite him to go camping with their family. I found out later that he had to share a tent with their Dobi. It was their plan and it worked. He was never afraid of their dog again. I love your collection of pets. We didn’t have any growing up Military life isn’t conducive to pets. The pets we got for our children were so precious to us. One dog and one cat that thought she was a small dog. We were gypsies for so many years that pets weren’t a good idea.I’m so glad you had at least a few good memories of yours. It’s so hard to lose them.

    • Oh man, if somebody did that today (putting a kid in the tent with the dog breed he was bitten by) they would be sued, most likely! It sounds like it was a smart move though. That is so true about military life. I’m sorry you haven’t been able to enjoy a lot of animals in your life, but glad you got to really enjoy the dog and catdog. Haha, did you ever see that cartoon catdog? It was around when my kids were young, and I used to love it. It was basically a cat and a dog connected to each other so they were forced to live as one.
      So hard to lose a beloved family member :(.

  9. Congratulations Luanna – and it was so interesting reading the retrospective of your pets and misadventures……. I was so like you as a child, collecting animals from every which where and battling a mother who was intolerant. It continued all my life really, until recently when I somehow managed to just settle down with two and ignore all calls to widen the menagerie ……. 🙂

    • Oh my, I had no idea your mom was like that, too! Eventually my mom accepted that animals were a big part of who I am and started to accept the whole idea. But the only one of my cats she really likes is Pear because she curls up on her lap and goes to sleep–and maybe Felix because he keeps to himself. She calls him Mr. Big Eyes LOL. When she started to be lonely after my dad passed, she said, “Maybe I should consider getting a pet.” I said NO! Hahaha. You have to love them to take good care of them IMO.

  10. Wow, lots of pets and bad stuff, Luanne! I’ve been bitten by dogs a couple of times–mainly because we always had dogs and I wasn’t afraid when I should have been. 😏 One was a big German shepherd, but the other was a little yappy poodle. I hope Felix is feeling better soon–and all the others stay well.
    Younger daughter texted us that their puppy keep vomiting. This dog is lucky she’s so adorable because she’s been through numerous surgeries in her short life. Daughter thought she might have eater a slipper. . .tests were inconclusive, so they have to see what happens in the next 24 hours.

    • Yup, lots of pets and bad stuff. I’m sorry you were bitten, but even sorrier that your grandpuppy is sick! I hope she’s ok!!!!
      When my daughter was a toddler we were standing up talking to family members. I happened to look down and their cocker spaniel had pinned my daughter down and starting to go after her very aggressively. My daughter never made a peep. I think she was that scared.

  11. And congratulations! 😀

  12. Awesome! Congrats!

  13. Congratulations on your poem in the 10 ten list. I noted your name when I read the North of Oxford post. I should have congratulated you then! I hope Felix is feeling better now; it’s so hard when a pet is ailing.

    • Thank you, Liz! No worries. It’s hard to jump from site to site and one social media platform to another. We don’t want to make fun into work!
      And thank you about Fefe. He seems to be feeling well!!!!

  14. I think my computer is blocking a popup that allows me to like your posting. But I do like it. Anyway, that is quite a catalog of critters, and I’m very happy that this isn’t one of those stories of “I got bit by a dog as a child and I’m still terrified of them.” You are a deep, deep lovers of dogs, cats, and all other animals.

    • It feels like your computer has been doing that for awhile! LOL, no, that would be a terrible story, wouldn’t it?! Yup, I love the animals! They are the innocents.

  15. Congratulations on the popular poem. It is a great one.

    Hope Felix gets better soon.

  16. Very adorable. I hope and pray Felix gets better soon.

  17. Luanne, your vet bills must be enormous, but so is your heart. Thank God for people like you.

  18. Amazing your harrowing experience with animals didn’t have an adverse effect on your feelings for them later – bravo!
    And extra bravos for your poem included in the top 10 group – that’s really super, Luanne! Onward.
    Your cats are the cutest!!

    • You noticed! They ARE the cutest! Thank you also about the poem and making it through the sad and scary times without (too many) scars ;)! Speaking of which, I think the chunk out of my ankle scar is still there, but I never look any more.
      I hope you and T are well and your family both human and canine.

  19. What a succession of furry lovebugs you’ve had over the years, lucky lady! And they were lucky too!

    Good you didn’t become phobic about dogs after that crabby cur bit you! Yikes!

  20. Hi Luanne, your post reminded me that I hadn’t told you we lost our cat Mittens in June (2020). She was our tuxedo cat, and she had a few health issues all her life, mostly GI stuff, so it was sometimes hard keeping up with that in the house, but she was fourteen years old and a feral rescue kitten when she came to us, so I feel grateful she had a better life with us than without us. The end came quickly – three days in emergency treatment for respiratory distress that turned out to be advanced cancer. They said she was a “lovebug” while she was there, and we got to hold her as she breathed her last breaths, and we got to be there even with virus precautions, so that was a relief. Goodness, the bill for her treatment was quite an investment, but as least when she passed she was no longer in pain. We still have Pickles, her sibling, who is all-black like your Kana. So happy to see the photo of Perry! 🙂 – T