I love animals, for me, they are great companions, a source of joy and inevitably heartache, but above all, they show unconditional love.
Growing up, our family home was never without a pet of some description. We had an assortment of furry, fluffy, flying, swimming critters, dogs, cats, a bantam chicken, a duck or two, budgies, a cockatoo, mice, guinea pigs and fish.
My earliest memory of “obtaining” my very own pet was when Dad and I were walking home from the shop not far from home. I guess I was about 3 or 4 years old.
A little black cat was sitting on a low brick fence, in front of a block of flats, meowing at us.
Now, let me be clear, I thought this little darling was all alone in the world and insisted that we take it home. Of course, Dad did try to explain to me that this kitty probably did, in fact, belong to someone who lived in the flats, but I would have nothing of that and picked it up, named it Muffin and toddled off home, cuddling my little bundle of fur.
Dad, of course, gave in, he obviously thought that the kitten would find its way back to its owner as we didn’t live far. I don’t remember if Muffin was living exclusively at our house, as he did come and go at will, but I did love him with all my heart.
“Mice! Not mice” screamed Mum when one of my brothers arrived home from his best friend’s place with not 1 but 3 (one black, one brown and one fawn) of the cutest little things I ever did see.
We pleaded, we begged, and threw in a lot of “please please, we will look after them” and after being bombarded with our continual nagging, Mum gave in and we were allowed to keep them as long as we did look after them and promised to keep them as far away from Mum as possible.
Of course, the mice were not all the same sex, and 3 quickly became 12 and then 20 and well, you get the idea. We did look after them and did, keep them away from Mum as much as we could. They were a great source of amusement and we quickly learnt how baby mice were made.
Mice, however, do have a distinctive smell. Their cages were cleaned out daily, changing the shredded newspaper they huddled in, however, their smell tended to linger. One of us decided it would be a good idea if we soaked the cages in the laundry tub with a combination of bleach, detergent and whatever else we could find, this might solve the problem of the smell.
The laundry was under the house. It consisted of two concrete tubs, perched on a timber stand with old metal taps supplying the water. The washing machine we had at the time, sat on a raised timber floor Dad had constructed from bits and pieces of wood pallets he had bought home from the dump.
We removed the mice from their cages and placed them in a cardboard box we had found. Not realising that this box didn’t have a very stable base, and after the mice were placed in this box, the bottom came apart and freedom followed for the 20 or so mice. They all tumbled to the ground and then scampered quickly through the slats on the wooden floor to the dirt below.
The three of us looked at each other, we knew this wasn’t going to end well. What was going to happen to the mice? What was going to happen to us when Mum found out? But more concerning, was what would happen to us when Dad got home?
Mum was beside herself when she came downstairs to see what we were up to. The three of us were lying on our stomachs on top of the wood planking, our little hands between the cracks trying to grab hold of at least one of those escapees. Our attempts were futile; they had all found their freedom.
Up until the day Mum moved out of that house (many years later) I am sure when she was downstairs in the laundry, she would remember that day, with trepidation, and hope she didn’t encounter any offspring of those mice.