When I was young, my first pet was a hamster. I named him Super Ben and even made him a little cape to wear. Sadly, he died in the first month of owning him (nothing I did, I swear). Turns out that replacing a dead pet on the very same day that it died is a great way to alleviate a child’s grief! Thanks to Mom, I quickly recovered from the loss and named the new hamster Super Ben 2. He lived a long and full life.
We then bred guinea pigs for a few years. There were some valuable life lessons learned in that venture. Hermie, the dad, was a randy little rodent and kept his poor spouse, Rosie, in an almost constant state of pregnancy. No matter how we separated them, he managed to get his claws on her and, if he couldn’t get to her, he preyed own his own daughters.
Yup… Major life lesson number one was that phone call from the pet store owner informing us that one of the baby girls we had sold him was pregnant.
Major life lesson number two was coming home after school to find the runt of the litter dead, having been trampled by his siblings during a feeding frenzy.
The pet that my sister and I really wanted was a dog but our parents said no. We thought they were terribly mean but they knew what they were doing. They both worked and we were too young to look after and train a puppy. We continued to beg and plead over the years and, once we were both in Junior High school and coming home by ourselves at the end of the day, they relented. But there were some conditions…
Dad insisted that it be a boy (he was tired of being the only male in the house) and Mom claimed naming rights.
We found an ad in the paper. Just outside the city, there was a family giving away puppies. My sister and I could barely sit in our seats during the drive out, but the excitement fizzled as we pulled up to the address given in the paper. I have a memory of old cars and scrawny dogs everywhere. There was even a dirt floor inside the house. It was like we had driven onto the set of Deliverance. A blind kid on the porch playing a banjo would not have seemed out-of-place. No word of a lie.
My dad had done some research on picking out a good puppy. Each in turn, he flipped the males onto their backs while holding them down with a hand on their belly. Only one furry bundle didn’t struggle. This docile little he-pup would be our dog. He was a Beagle/Black Lab mix and was the cutest thing we had ever seen.
Before we left, my dad tried to give the family some money for the puppy. As much as it looked like they needed it, they refused. In later years, we often thought about this family… and then we reminded our dog to be grateful for his life of privilege.
Remember how my mom had claimed naming rights? Well, she named him Pax which is Latin for peace. It also happens to be the name of one of the Jolie-Pitt kids, but Mom was way ahead of her time on that one. (We though it was hilarious that Angie gave her son a dog’s name!)
Pax was an amazing dog. He was gentle, playful and loved all of us beyond measure. Dad’s puppy picking method worked. Pax was easily trained and readily obeyed the boundaries of the house. He was not allowed upstairs in the bedrooms (except when Mom and Dad were away… shhhh) and he would never set foot in the formal living room area, knowing that it was strictly off-limits. He even refused to cross the threshold to open his Christmas stocking.
The Beagle/Lab mix was quirky combo. We couldn’t walk him off a leash because his Beagle nose would catch a scent and he would be gone. Periodically he would even slip out of his collar from the backyard run and we wouldn’t see him for the rest of the day. He had a Yellow Lab girlfriend named Fred and the two of them would often escape to roam the subdivision together. He would stroll home around 3am, give one bark to be let in and sleep off his adventures the whole next day.
The Beagle/Lab mix also caused some confusion around the water. His Beagle side made him loathe to jump in, but the Lab couldn’t stand to see us go out on the water without him. He loved to canoe, but his favourite water-sport was windsurfing. He would ride on the back and, when the board tipped up, he would hook his paws over the side to hang on. I would often fall off before he did. If one of us took a board out and left him ashore, he would bark himself into a frenzy until he finally worked up the courage to jump into the lake and swim out to us.
Pax was with us for sixteen years until a quickly spreading cancer necessitated us putting him to sleep. The decision was made while I was home in between my travels for work and my final farewell to him at the airport was heart-wrenching. I said goodbye knowing that Dad was taking him to the vet the next day and I cried for the entire trip from Halifax to Atlanta. After he was gone, I called my sister, who was living in Ottawa, and we cried long-distance with each other for hours.
This was our last picture together.
They boys have recently started asking for a dog. Like my parents, we are saying no. The Husband and I work long hours and we aren’t home from morning to evening. I have told the boys that they will need to be older and more responsible before we can welcome a dog into the family.
Don’t worry boys… it will be worth the wait.
Have you ever had to say goodbye to a furry family member?