The first house I remember was on Wildberry Street. I loved the name, although there was not a wild berry in sight. However, my parents and my three sisters lived there quite happily. It only had a small backyard, and there was a chicken coop. We called it the hen house. One morning Mum woke me up very early and told me to put on my dressing gown and slippers and follow her outside. There in the chicken coop were some sweet little fluffy yellow chickens cheeping around and fluffing out their feathers. However, I noticed a few of them had bits of shell stuck on them, so when Mum went inside to make breakfast I decided I’d be very helpful and clean them up.
One by one I took them to the rain barrel and gave them a good wash. Then laid them out neatly in the tray of my little red tricycle. They were all very still. I’d accidentally killed them but wasn’t aware of that yet. I proudly rode out the front gate in my nightwear to show the kids down the street. I remember one of the other Mum’s came out and told me sternly to go back home. My parents were not happy but realised I wasn’t being mean, but helpful – I’m pretty sure the telling off was only verbal.
But I continued to help animals. I cut off the cat’s whiskers because they seemed messy. However, he got his poor head stuck in a hole in the outside lavatory and our neighbour had to come with a saw and get him out. The scissors were kept away from me after that and the cat always gave me a wide berth.
My pet mice had a Christmas treat when I gave them some leftover sherry trifle. They lay on their backs with their legs in the air, but at least they didn’t die. I took one baby mouse to Sunday Mass up my cardigan sleeves, and when its tail poked out the lady behind me gasped with shock. Mum always gave me a frisk down after that. I wasn’t allowed a puppy but managed to find a few that “just followed me home – can we please keep him?”. I can’t remember how Mum and Dad got rid of them but they were never around the next day.
I loved animals. I wanted to be a vet until I found out that I would have to also put animals to sleep. One day, I bought home some baby ducklings from the river in my school bag and put them in the bath. Poor Dad. I think I was quite a trial to him even then. I’m pretty sure they were returned quick smart back to the river where I hope their poor mother managed to find them and have a happy reunion.
I have always meant well. I still love animals dearly and when my dear old cat passed away last year I felt a deep sadness. However, any time I find a cat it gets a good pat from me. But those poor chickens. I still feel bad about that and can still see them lifeless with their necks stretched out and the look of horror on my poor Mum’s face.