AN INTERESTING ANIMAL I HAD
SPARKY, circa 1972
Sparky, like many of my animals, adopted us instead of the other way around. This was around my 7th grade year, 1966-67 or so. He lived several streets away but had a devoted relationship with a girlfriend, Spooky, who lived 2 doors down from us, and he simply bunked at our house so much that his family called up. The kids are grown, they said, he's always at your house, shall we just bring his stuff down? He became our dog. Mine most of all.
He and Spooky were a lifelong couple. When he was injured in a fight with a Saint Bernard (Yeah, really. Brave or stupid. We could never decide), Spooky came down to our house and stayed next to him, while he lay in his basket on the porch fighting a nasty infection from a really big bite.
He looked like a beagle, but his original family said he was actually a dachshund/basset mix. He was kind of an Eeyore dog, looked gloomy most of the time. My mom recalled a kitchen incident in which a mouse sauntered along the wall and disappeared behind the fridge, while she said to Sparky "Catch it!" and he looked at it, then at her like, "Oh please. Must I?"
He vanished a week before Christmas 1973. A week stretched into two. Surely he was gone for good.
New Year's Day, 1973, I went mountain climbing with friends. Sort of. OK, really just a big hill there in the Carolina Piedmont. Came home to find ...
Sparky, thin and exhausted!! He'd staggered back onto the yard and pretty much collapsed against the brick wall. He mostly slept for the next week. And we can never know what happened or where he was. But we've always joked that somebody, as my grandfather had suggested, had make the mistake of catching him to hunt rabbits. And had discovered, as with the mouse, that he looked at the kidnapers as though they were insane, and they either let him go or he escaped.
He was mine. I was his. I spent a lot of time with his head resting on my knee. He was getting quite old by the time I finished college, and had one last burst of energy Dec 23 1977, when he chased and was hit by a delivery truck. We buried him in the damn snow. That Christmas sucked.
I want to see all my animals again in whatever the next life is, but he's the one I want to see run out and meet me first. He appears in my dreams often to this day.
AN INTERESTING ANIMAL I ATE
This would be marinated alligator, at a Gator Cookoff. Chewy.
AN ANIMAL IN A MUSEUM (OR ZOO)
One fun day during our NJ years, Larry and I took the kids to the Philadelphia Zoo and went into the Lorikeet Aviary. These little birds are hilarious. Here's a picture from another aviary, showing someone feeding one. You get a cup of some kind of nectar-y stuff they love and they land all over you and battle each other to get to it. Hard little claws. Pushy, funny little guys.
AN INTERESTING THING I DID WITH AN ANIMAL
Our neighbors had a daughter with birth defects, and built a backyard swimming pool for her. It was a homemade pool, rough concrete walls. She grew up and got married, they sold the house to us. We'd drain the pool for the winter. In spring we'd clean and paint it and try to seal out the water leaks.
One spring a mole got trapped in it. I don't care how destructive moles supposedly are. I'm a bleeding heart. He was adorable. He scrabbled blindly around the concrete walls, lost and helpless outside his environment. I followed him with a bucket trying to catch him. Finally he bumped against the arch of my foot and just ... stopped, too tired and discouraged to move. I remember his hard, weirdly human little hand and the fine velvety texture of his fur. Scooped him into the bucket and tipped him out next to the fence, which he scurried under, and presumably dug his way to happiness.
AN ANIMAL IN ITS NATURAL HABITAT
PHOTO BY LARRY, 2007
Our tidal marsh is rather brackish, not an alligator's favorite thing, but once or twice a year, Betty hangs out for a few days to check out the local edibles. She solved the nutria-invasion problem in short order. This picture is from January -- she was around a couple weeks ago, but we couldn't get a picture. And since we fear for both Scooter and our feral cats, it's just as well that she didn't come in too close or stay too long.