I'm an animal person, I like them all, and they like me. I'm the one who sits down at the farm and feels a dog nudge her hand for a pat and a scratch, ends up with a cat curled up in her lap and a dove on her shoulder. Ok, a bit of exaggeration on the dove thing, but totally true with the cat and dog. I get along well with horses, cows and sheep. As a child I had a pet chicken. I even love reptiles and snakes I find the patterns on a lizard amazingly beautiful and holding a snake sends a naughty little shiver down my spine.
I must confess that I'm not a fan of pigs, they scare me and they're not much fun to love on, it seems that the piggly little parts which aren't bristly are slimy, dirty and really stinky. Pigs however seem blissfully unaware of my reticence of love and push their little snouts over the fence and snort happily as I pass.
I've wandered across both a skunk and a porcupine in the wild and after assessing each other, from a surprisingly close distance. We exchanged a loving smile, sighed, for ours was a love destined to last only stolen seconds, then ambled on our respective ways. I'm sure they each treasure the memory of our brief encounter as do I.
Yes, I'm a regular Eliza Doolittle I know, I'm mixing my literary references.
Another fun little thing I like to do with animals is give them credit for human thoughts, and emotions. I'm certain animals have distinct thoughts of admiration, excitement, cynicism, etc. and am happy to interpret for those unfortunates who can't hear their little voices. I'm told that animals don't have an internal dialog imprisoned by an underdeveloped voice box, perhaps that's right since I also attribute thoughts to plants, cars, really cool rocks, vegetables and other non-brained creatures, whatever, as long as everyone is cooing and purring it's all good, right?
Alas, the 'fly in the ointment', fly as in fishing that is. Sadly fish don't seem to care much for me. If I press my nose against the glass of Shamu's tank Shamu suddenly remembers a pressing appointment at the windowless end of his domicile. When I hold a dead stinky bait fish on my hand and stick it in the touching pond... nothing, just a cold, wet, handful of stinky bait fish. Don't even get me started on swimming with dolphins, I'd love to; but, I can kill a carnival gold fish in twenty four, or less, hours, can't even imagine what I could do to a lagoon of hapless dolphins.
"Erph, erph, can't breath Porpy not since she got in the water!"
"Moko, No! Dude don't belly up on me dude, erph, erph!"
So, last Christmas break when my, working towards Eagle Scout, sons came home with a Betta fish to create a habitat for the Environmental Scientist merit badge I was less then thrilled. They found and filled the fish bowl which had been stuck under the bathroom sink after 10 fancy goldfish had bellied up in two weeks. 10 because we started with 3 and kept replacing them until I accepted that I'm some kind of fish plague. They added some glass rocks a couple of water plants then dumped Mr. Beta out of his plastic transport bag and dubbed him Knuckles because of his spiky, red fins which reminded them of a cartoon hedgehog by that name. I accepted his eventual swirl with fate by thinking of seven Eagle Scouts and hoped that Knuckles would at least survive the two months that the merit badge required.
Knuckles and I approached our relationship carefully. I knew he had a reputation for being mean and aggressive, to others, thus no bowl mates. I planned to keep my distance, except that his tank was on my bathroom counter, so, not that much distance. But, I could avoid contact and feeding, he was my boys project they would change his water and feed him, right? For a day or two we just gazed at each other five or six times a day as I answered the call 'o nature.
Then the inevitable occurred, one day I heard him say "Lady, I'm hungry."
"You weren't going to get involved" I chastised myself as I fed him.
In my mind Knuckles responded, sounding a lot like Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lechter, "No one can resist my fatal charms, Clarice."
I was hooked, he was a territorial loner, I a plague to his species. Perhaps it was danger that drew us together; or, maybe my longing for acceptance in his fishy world. It could of course be that my, would be eagle, sons had pretty much abandoned him and his bowl was stinking up my bathroom. Whatever, we're involved and 10 months later Knuckles is alive and my boys are environmental scientists, though not Eagles.
The story could, perhaps, should end here. A sweet little tail of an animal lover sans fish who finally found aquatic acceptance in the company of a cold, fishy, loner. But, as fate would have it, there was an elementary school safety carnival, a gold fish was awarded. I sighed and prepared myself for tragedy. But wait, Knuckles! I rejoiced the plague was ended I was free to bond with fish.
We took him home we found a mayonnaise jar, Knuckles' bowl had broken during a cleaning so, to his furious chagrin, he was in a similar jar. We set the jar on the bathroom cupboard, Knuckles ignored the prisoner in the next cell he maintained a coldblooded silence, he offered his genius help in keeping fish alive by bargaining for new accommodations. "I can help you Clarice but I'll be needing a bowl with a view"
"Quit calling me Clarice, you know I keep meaning to go to Petco." I would answer.
Fish (his name) flirted outrageously with me, flitting his fins and eating Betta flakes enthusiastically. "Gee, your hair smells terrific! He would say eagerly, as I toweled off after a shower.
Then it happened, less then a week after Fish arrived he was floating belly up in his jar, Knuckles swimming smugly in the jar next to him. "Knuckles, what have you done?" I moaned
"I didn't like the way he talked to you Clarice, I had a little talk with him." He gloated.
I dumped Fish in the toilet and tossed his jar in the garbage. "You knew this would hurt me Knuckles. I have been hearing the silent gasps of dying goldfish since I was a child." I cried, desperately.
Knuckles laughed wetly.
So life moves on. I still love animals and, though I still regret the whole fish plague thing, I am strangely comforted knowing that Knuckles loves me.
Knuckles still swims in his jar, occasionally taunting me by asking for a fishy companion and some fava beans.