There were the gerbils, the hamsters, and the money you blew on Habitrail links. There were the fish…the bags and bags of fish over the years, and the months you nagged me to clean the tank, and, because I never complied, the slight smell of swamp whenever you entered my room.
There was the goose that met us at the school bus stop; that ate all the lettuce
you planted in the garden; that left a trail of green poo everywhere you walked; that honked and followed you, and only you, around like a dog.
There was the goat, Gomer…okay the goat was dad’s doing, but you’re the one who helped us to keep it. Remember holding the bottle of milk for Gomer and the look on its face while it sucked? His crossed eyes?
And my salamander phase, and my tadpole phase, my praying mantis phase, my ant farm phase?
There were the dogs, who to this day, loom as prominent members of our family. April, who everyone adored, who roamed the neighborhood looking for handouts (that unfortunately everyone provided). Steak at the George’s, bologna at the Klein’s, chicken at the Bumgardner’s…that dog waddled herself from door to door, happily wagging her shaggy, collie tail; curling her body around each leg for a scratch. She could sucker a treat out of anyone and her hips showed it.
There was ‘Girl’, the hunting beagle that dad bought and who, because Dad didn’t listen to your demand that she be spayed, got pregnant by way of the neighbor’s standard poodle, Maximus. Girl delivered a litter of puppies, one of which we kept, the world’s first ‘Beag-oodle’. We called him J.J. He was a character with his hound dog bark and his go-everywhere hair curls. Remember when Father Saylor stopped over for coffee and J.J. came trotting out of your bedroom with your bra in his mouth?
Thank you for all the muddy paw prints you cleaned up; the vacuum bags of fur you swept; the times when you hauled the crew to the vet’s; for being the bad guy when it came to ‘get that dog off the…’ ; for buying the dog a cone of soft serve when all of us went to the Meadow’s Ice Cream…because we bugged you to do it, or because, despite your hard exterior, you too were a ‘soft serve’.
Thank you for being a mom not just to me, but to the many animals that have been in my life. You have no idea what an impact those creatures made in my development as a person and how often I think of them all. The animals you allowed me to have, to connect with, gave me my understanding of how other creatures think and feel. They were my first experience with genuine empathy and of unbridled love. They made our family feel rich and expansive. They gave us someone else to think about at Christmas.
They gave me another way to explore my gratitude that I had a mother like you. Happy mother’s day, and thanks mom, wherever you are.
About the author: Bash Halow is a business advisor with Animal Medical of New City