An odd fact jumped out of the radio this morning: It is illegal in Maryland to own turtles whose shells are less than four inches across. Surely I heard wrong, and it’s illegal to own turtles whose shells are more than four inches across? I thought about the turtle I had when I was 10 or so. The sad little plastic container, with the ramp up to the plastic palm tree. It seems unspeakably cruel, especially that fake palm tree. Did I really call him Diver Dan? How long did he live? How did we dispose of him? I honestly have no memory. My apologies. And, while I’m at it, I’m also sorry for all those goldfish, won by tossing ping pong balls into bowls.
Then I began to wonder what would happen if I wrote down the names of all the pets I ever had, if some sort of found poetry would emerge.
Chewmoon, a beagle.
Dreamy, a Scottish terrier.
Parakeet #1, name lost to time. (Tweety? I loved me some Tweety Bird when I was a kid.)
Peppermint and (temporarily) Esther, Butch and Mittens. Midnight’s progeny.
Gali (not a typo), cat.
Spike, springer spaniel.
Dulcie, retired racing greyhound.
Spike the Second, springer.
Most of the animals listed above died natural deaths, after pretty good life spans. Midnight — a black cat, people who praise children’s imagination should give them a pet to name to test that hypothesis — was hit by a car, as was the first Spike. If I were Tess Monaghan, I would find out which of my neighbors left my dog to die in the alley behind my house at the time, and bad things would happen to them. (I can’t blame someone for hitting a dog that got out of his yard, but leaving him while he was still alive? That’s pretty cold.) Pip disappeared, but I think she ran away to die. She was clearly ailing at the time.
Travis, who ended up going to live with my parents after Dulcie, the “cat-tested” greyhound, tried to eat him, inspired the best stories. The time he caught fire. (He was fine, after a visit to the vet’s.) The time he got a horrible wound that required me to irrigate it twice a day. The time he ate plastic grass from an Easter basket. How did I know he had eaten it? One blade . . . protruded. I took him to the vet. X-rays were taken, and I was advised that the dark masses seen in his lower intestines were either more plastic grass, wrapped in such a way that he would require surgery, or — gas. We waited a couple of hours. It was gas.
That Internet “real age” test says I’m 38.5 and the only way I can bring my score down is by getting a pet. A pet, and more potassium. The pet part is not to be for now. No yard, too much travel, some allergies in the household. So share your favorite pet stories. Or favorite pet names. Or, if you prefer, your porno name, made by matching childhood pet to childhood street.