Monday, October 15, 2012

Enslaved by....Animals

I've been reading a book that I took out from our local library called "Enslaved by Ducks." Admittedly, I was desperate -- the library closes for the entire month of Tishrei, the Hebrew month when all the holidays occur -- and I grabbed the book at the last minute so that I would have something to do in case I finished my jigsaw puzzle (which I did).

So here I am, reading about some guy who live(ed?)(s?) in rural Michigan, and keeps acquiring animals -- parrots and other birds, ducks, rabbits, geese.....The writing is good but there seems to be something a bit bizarre about a couple that craves more and more animals even while struggling to domesticate some of them, clean up after them and protect them from the elements. I'm also a little awed at the way that he describes the personalities of these animals, very much anthromorphizing (is that a word?) them.

Anyway, I find myself reviewing our history of animals which is relatively restrained compared to this guy, but still, pretty varied.

We started out with one dog, Sparky, who I found on the side of the road outside of Tzfat about 22 years ago (my middle daughter was 1 at the time). Sparky was utterly devoted to me, but never got the kind of attention that she deserved because I was simply overwhelmed with multiple jobs and multiple kids. Sparky went on to have four litters of puppies until the penny finally dropped and I realized that I can protest that our walled-in yard would protect my female dog, but it really won't. Now, whenever a female animal crosses my path, she gets spayed before she knows what happened to her.

While Sparky was still young my neighbor, the "cat lady" of Tzfat, got smart. Instead of asking me for the umpteenth time whether I wanted a cat and receiving the same negative reply, she asked my then-nine-year-old daughter, and next thing I knew, Ariel was schlepping Miranda home.  Miranda was a sweet, lady-like cat. Her claim to fame was that she could pee in the toilet, if the cover had been left up. I couldn't believe it when our babysitter first told me, but sure enough, several times I saw her perched ladylike on the edge of the toilet seat, doing her business righ in the correct spot. In her later years Miranda took to peeing around the house, but it was infrequent and we kept her until a skin condition developed which made her miserable when she was around ten years old. She was the only animal that I've had to put to sleep and it was not a lot of fun.

Next came Angora, a dachshund that I found as a puppy, rummaging for food next to a dumpster. Totally sweet and loving -- I kept saying "she's so gorgeous, I'll have NO trouble finding a home for her" but, in the end, we ended up with 2 dogs, a situation that has maintained itself for 15 years. Angora was originally named "Igora" because we can gotten ahold of the film "Fly Away Home" about a group of orphaned geese who were taught to fly south by a father, daughter and a glider. The kids were watching it endlessly and one of the geese was named "Igor" -- hence "Igora". I must mention that after that, I was never again allowed to name any of our animals.

Two cats arrived in short order, Bagheera and Yoda. They were both males, gorgeous cats, and we enjoyed having them, even though Yoda had a bad habit of slinking off behind the TV set to do his business. Yoda was found dead by a neighbor after about a year and Bagheera....well, of all my animal stories, I feel the most guilty about Bagheera because now that I know better, I realize that he probably had a bladder infection, but at the time, I thought that he was behaving badly, so I banished him and he disappeared.

Lucy. Ah, Lucy. My daughter acquired Lucy as a puppy when she was living at a boarding school. Neither my daughter, Ariel, nor Lucy were very controllable, but you could at least talk to my daughter. Lucy was a nutcase, but totally devoted to my daughter who was, in turn, totally devoted to her. During the 2006 Second Lebanon War Ariel ended up returning to Tzfat because she didn't have anywhere to take Lucy, and the two of them lived through the katyusha attacks with Lucy protecting Ariel from the dirty-old-man-next-door's unwanted attentions. Really protecting her too -- Lucy was a German Shepard and tolerated no monkey business where her mistress was concerned.

Lucy's next life is the kind of story that you find in storybooks. After the war Ariel wanted to go to Tel Aviv but didn't have anything to do with Lucy (her mother was not prepared to take on a crazy dog). Ariel gave Lucy to an Arab worker from Nazareth who was working on the street, but when the guy didn't bring Lucy to visit (as, I guess, he had promised) Ariel became suspicious and finally learned that Lucy had run away. So Ariel headed off to Nazareth, an all-Arab city, to post fliers and search for her. To my utter amazement, a few days later, the Nazareth city vet called and told Ariel that Lucy had been found and they were getting ready to put her to sleep. Ariel raced up to Nazareth, proved that Lucy was licensed (not to mention spayed -- for the short time that I lived with her, I was NOT going to let that crazy animal procreate!) and got Lucy released. So, back to Tzfat they came.

Then came the really strange part of the story. Within days, a notice appeared on the local Tzfat listserve from a resident whose neighbor's German Shepard had died -- the woman was in mourning and the neighbor wanted to know if ANYONE had a German Shepard to give to her. Are you kidding? We were there in a matter of hours and it turns out that a wild German Shepard was exactly what she was looking for -- her whole house was upside down, with (at least) two other coo-koo dogs, so what's one more? In fact, she told me that it was too bad that Lucy had been spayed....that a dog like that should have puppies. Ha! I did go to visit them once, when Ariel said that she'd had a dream about Lucy and asked me to go and check up on her. Lucy hadn't changed a bit -- I couldn't even take a picture of her because she was so hyper-active and wouldn't stay still for a second, even though her new owner tried to hold her. But she was obviously living the life of Riley -- plump and sleek with shiny fur and plenty of room to run around.

Next post: Lenny, Joey, Lavander, Pomponit and Lila, Louie, the-bottle-fed kitten whose name I forget, Lola, Jenny, Mica, Juliette, Garfield....

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