Dead pets

It occurred to me today that, with the exception of the animals currently in my life, nearly all the pets I have ever known are now dead.

There were those who were part of my family: the guppies; Bubble and Squeak the (pointless) gerbils; Tigger the football-playing Angora rabbit and his painfully shy guinea pig friend PG Tips, who were both murdered by a fox; the goldfish Chicken George and Bowie; cute but mange-ridden guinea pigs Dorian and Aloysius and Rosie the Dutch rabbit, adopted from the kids I babysat for.Rabbit

Later there was Big Fish and Little Fish; then Rabbit, the loveliest, cheekiest bunny ever, who died when he was only a year old but who taught me so much about rabbits and the importance of a balanced diet.

Then there were those who were part of my life but not mine: Whiskey the mad mutt from down the road and the Alsatian from next door, who bit my friend Elaine on the back of the neck when we were six.

There was Wagger the dog, who taught me that barky and bouncy doesn’t necessarily mean violent; Snowy the greyhound, from whom I learned the importance of regular teeth cleaning, and Anna, possibly the most beautiful agoraphobic greyhound there ever was, who once nipped me on the face when she was scared. There were umpteen cats, which I never really cared much for and a newt that ran away almost as soon as I caught it.

Lastly, there was Sammie, my sister’s dog, who I loved more than I could ever put into words. She was wayward and only affectionate when she felt like it but, for a short time, was the only reason I got out of bed in the morning.

Even though thinking about all these pets has made me a little bit sad, it’s also got me thinking about future pets that will come into my life. All the animals that aren’t yet born – in fact, whose parents or grandparents might not have been born yet. It’s an exciting thought and I can’t wait to meet them.

Sammie

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3 responses to “Dead pets

  1. Every now and then in the press one hears another report about scientists finding evidence of a sense of self or a lack of a sense of self in some animal. Usually, only dolphins and apes make their grade.

    I always wonder whether these people have ever actually known any animals.

    To me, it’s obviously a scale and not a yes/no question.

    I had a dog that would get indignant when any humans laughed at its expense.

  2. No – I don’t think they have. The relationships we have with our animals take a long time to develop and come out of interaction. It’s daft to come to conclusions just by observing them for a few months.

    I once stroked Sammie when she was dreaming and she turned on me and my hand was in her mouth in a nanosecond but before she could clamp down on my hand, she realised what she had done and looked absolutely mortified. She pulled her jaws back and slunk away to her bed with shame.

    It all happened so quickly that I didn’t even have a chance to react and she hadn’t reached the point of hurting me, so I know her guilt reaction was purely her own, and not a response to anything that I said or did.

  3. Yeah, and shame is supposed to be quintessentially human.

    The usual scientific test of selfhood is: “does it recognise itself in a mirror?”

    I can well imagine a stone-age person who had never looked into a pool of water jumping back in amazement at a flat glass panel magically containing a stranger looking back at them. They would have to do intellectual work to figure out what’s really going on – it wouldn’t be just a matter of whether or not the person has a sense of self.

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