A Musing Mom's Tales, Marriage & Raising Girls
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Parenting pets

I’m a mom, not only to two little girls, but also to eight pets. We’ve always wanted to adopt animals, but now that the family has grown so big, I realized that it’s actually fun! It makes me happy when I hear my girls gleefully play with our pets, and I always get amused when friends visit and start counting the animals living with us. Don’t get me wrong though–it’s not all fun. Having pets is similar in some ways to having children, i.e., it entails a lot of responsibilities. After all, anything that is precious or worthwhile does not come without a cost, right? So how do we manage things, you ask?

For one, my children would feed the pets, especially in the morning before we have our own breakfast and in the evening, before dinner. Bathing and cleaning after the pets are also divided between the two of them. We have pets that stay outside and inside the house, and they take turns in taking care of them. If one’s feeding those inside the house, then the other would feed those that are outside. For my part, I only have to make sure that we don’t run out of pet food, the pets get their vaccines on time, they are healthy and potty-trained, then the girls do everything else (with little supervision from me). Of course, I get to share in the cuddling too! Now, may I introduce you to our pets?

We have five dogs, namely Olaf, Hershey, Quinn, Skye, and Gyp; three of them are adopted. Quinn is the only purebred, a Boston Terrier, whereas the rest are all mixed-breeds. Olaf is half Jack Russell and half Aspin (Asong Pinoy, a local breed); Skye and Gyp came from the same set of parents, i.e., a chow chow and a Japanese Spitz; and Hershey is a mix of Dalmatian, Labrador Retriever, and Aspin, but she somehow ended up looking like a pit bull.

All our adopted pets came from our relatives. Quinn was from a reputable breeder, who is also a friend of mine, so aside from acquiring her at a very affordable price, we were given the option to not have her tail (and ears) clipped. We opted not to, and that must be the reason people would wonder if she’s really a Boston Terrier (or a purebred at that), especially when we bring her to doggie events. Seriously, why would people have their pets’ tails or ears clipped? If it’s only for aesthetic purposes and not for health reasons, like they have a tumor on those body parts, then they’re being unreasonable and should try having their own feet, hands, nose, or ears cut too, don’t you think?

Anyway, Quinn is the house dog, i.e., she stays inside the house most of the time. When she was younger–and whenever she could get away with it–she would sleep with my eldest daughter in bed, hiding under the blanket. That is actually good, in a way, because it helps my daughter(s) deal with anxiety and the trauma they had to go through (thanks to our vexatious next-door neighbors). However, my husband and I really meant for Quinn to be the guard dog inside the house.

quinn

Quinn’s the gentlest dog we’ve ever had, by the way. No matter how rough my girls would play with her, she never bites; she’s always calm. When she’s tired, she would just crawl under the table or couch, or to her own bed and sleep. She also never made a habit of chewing our slippers or furniture. (She would, however, chew paintbrushes, headphones, pencils, and shoeboxes if they’re left lying around while she’s all alone in the house.) And, because Quinn’s always well-behaved and rather small, we get to bring her to malls and parks from time to time. By the way, do you know that our Bella Quinn has her own Instagram account?

Olaf (we got her just after we watched the Frozen movie) is our most energetic dog, which is no surprise. (She is half Jack Russell, remember?) She likes to bury her treats and then dig them up after a day or so. Eeew! She barks at anyone or anything that would come near our house. She’s also the oldest in the pack and the only one privileged to have both table food and dog food; the rest are only given dog food. Being the oldest and biggest, she’s the alpha and she mothers every puppy that has been added to her pack, but not when they try to steal her bones. She used to stay inside our house, but because we had difficulty potty training her and she’s grown so big, plus we caught her stealing food from the table more than once, we decided to let her stay outside for good. She only gets to go inside when she’s newly bathed or when there’s a thunderstorm. (She’s afraid of thunderstorms!)

As for Hershey (our chocolate brown dog), what can I say except we thought she’d never learn to lick our hands? She’s the only puppy I’ve met whose first instinct was to bite and run if you try to touch her. She’s the most protective of us though, never trusting anyone fully to allow the person to get near us. She would never stop barking unless a stranger leaves, and it doesn’t matter if she has to bark the whole night away or lose her voice. She’s a very special dog regardless of her rough manners. Eventually, she has learned to lick our hands in greeting and even hug us too.

Skye and Gyp, on the other hand, are what we would consider miracle babies. They were very sick when they were brought to us one stormy night, and we were not aware of their condition until we saw them in broad daylight the following morning. There were sores all over their bodies, ticks literally lived in their ears, and they couldn’t eat and walk. With patience and proper care (and after spending a lot on veterinary services) though, their condition gradually improved. And now I wonder if they would still be alive if we had not adopted them.

These two, by the way, have interesting characteristics too. Skye (the white one) likes being around people, but never wanted to be touched. He’s pretty much like Hershey in that area, except he has never bitten anyone yet. He would run away almost as soon as you lift your hand to touch him. The only person he really trusts is my eldest child, who bargained so hard–we didn’t want a male dog to avoid unwanted pregnancies among our pets, especially that four of them are female–and painstakingly nursed him back to health to keep him.

gyp

Gyp (she reminds me of a gypsy for some reason), on the other hand, is the sly one; she knows how to get into one’s favor. She makes the loudest, most passionate (and ugliest) sound in greeting whenever we would come home. She’s very curious, attentive, and she seems really attuned to our moods. She’s a sweetie, but once we turn our backs, she would wreak havoc. She would open the garbage bin and bring out its contents. She would also take our slippers and offer them to Skye and Hershey–one at a time, left one first–as chew toys, then give you that most innocent puppy look once you discovered them torn and useless. It wasn’t her after all, right?

Because they each have an endearing characteristic and they could keep my hands full, I would sometimes ask my husband, “Why would we ever want another child when we already have all these pets?”

Now, that’s only five of them… We also have a turtle named Turty. It was a gift to my youngest niece, but the giver didn’t realize that she was afraid of turtles, so we ended up adopting it. We have no idea whether Turty is male or female, and as much as we wanted to get a companion for him/her, we decided against it since in the past, we had terrapins that died. We couldn’t tell if a turtle is sick and we did not want to risk losing Turty by giving him/her a sickly companion. So, Turty’s all alone in the tank that used to be occupied by our goldfish, always busy rearranging the pebbles and miniature plastic plants in it.

In time, we decided to transfer Turty to a bigger tank and install a turtle dock. However, the dock turned out to be too narrow for Turty to climb without falling that we ended up returning the item to the pet shop. If you must know, it is not common practice in the Philippines for shops to give full refund or cash when you are returning an item. In exchange, we got Libby, a female guinea pig. We named her Libby because we acquired her on Labor Day.

Libby is our very first pet rodent. My daughters had long been asking for a hamster, a guinea pig, or a hedgehog for a pet. I don’t want a hamster because they look exactly like the mice that we would catch on mouse traps, except it’s white. A hedgehog, on the other hand, is so expensive compared to the two, so a guinea pig was our best option, and I’m glad we got Libby. I didn’t know that guinea pigs are sweet creatures and like to be cuddled too! They also seem to cry when they’re agitated, but would stop when hugged.

image

Two days after we brought home Libby, which also happens to be my youngest daughter’s birthday, I found myself agreeing to adopt another pet. This time, one that would complete the food chain, as my nieces would say.  A stray kitten kept following me in the streets as I walked back home after accompanying a guest to the transport terminal. Somehow, I knew that my daughters would love her. I, myself, liked her even if I was never really a cat person!

Unable to keep it a secret, I told my girls about the kitten and they demanded to see her. As expected, they pleaded me to take her in. It was a challenge to bring her home because of our five dogs, but it was a bigger challenge to feed her; probably because she’s used to scavenging. She didn’t seem to appreciate the (expensive) cat food we give her that she would scatter them. We call her Sparky, by the way. Tiny as she (we’re assuming it’s female) is, she seems to know how to stand up to dogs, yet she’s clingy to us. She continues to follow me even around the house and would even lick my feet like Quinn does.

sparky

On a sad note though, Libby was gone after nearly a month of staying with us. She had a bloody discharge, became lethargic and stopped eating. We have no idea how it all started. Unfortunately, our (former) veterinarian went MIA during the last three days of our dear guinea pig. Libby died in my youngest daughter’s hands, who was trying to give her comfort, when we saw her too weak to stand on her four legs. You have no idea how much sadness her death brought us, especially to my youngest child!

So, we were left with five dogs, a kitten, and a turtle. What’s interesting though was seeing Quinn and Sparky visiting Libby’s home after she was gone. A few days after Libby left us, I got a new pet fish, a blue fighting fish. Somehow, a fish always comforts my youngest daughter (and me).

If you still want more pet tales, I could also tell you about the pet rabbits, fish, and house lizard that we had, as well as the birds that regularly visit us and perch on our window grills, waking us up with their throaty singing every morning. By the way, we are also considering having chickens, so we could have fresh eggs all the time. (You have no idea how many eggs we consume in a week!)

I think my girls’ dream of having their own mini petting zoo was somehow realized by having all these pets. Honestly, my husband and I didn’t have the heart to deny them their simple wish. A few years ago, they declared that they both wanted to become veterinarians, but agreed that only one of them would pursue that dream (Li’l Sis Z) while the other would become a medical doctor (Big Sis A). They’re both really good with animals. I’m the one who’s actually scared for them most of the time because they seem fearless when it comes to animals. I’m afraid that they might get bitten, especially by others’ pets or stray cats and dogs, which reminds me that Lil Z and I both need to get that pre-exposure anti-rabies vaccine soon. (Big Sis already got the shots.)

Maybe one of the reasons we keep allowing the girls to bring home pets is because of their positive effect on them, too. They not only help them be responsible, but they also help them emotionally. Our dogs, especially, give them a sense of protection that they are now able to stay in the yard and play with them, even when our vexatious neighbors, the ones who traumatized them, are nearby. When we only had one dog, Olaf, they would immediately go inside the house as soon as they hear our enemies’ voices. However, with five dogs now, even when they were still very young puppies, they are no longer as terrified of them as they used to be. (Of course, my children still go through psychiatric counseling at the Philippine General Hospital to help them cope, and they’ve been doing so for a year now.)

Thankfully, my children are always mindful of their pets, even greeting them first before giving me a kiss upon arriving home from school. I would always act indignant when they do that. Secretly, however, I am pleased because I get a glimpse of their big hearts.

As for myself, the pets keep me company, especially when the girls still used to go to another school. Somehow, they also help me relax and keep fit as I have to do some tremendous cleaning up in the yard, especially when our rabbits were still around. Do you know that rabbits both eat and poop a lot? It’s a good thing that my girls are now big enough to take on the responsibility of cleaning after most of the pets and bathing them regularly, especially Quinn and Sparky, while I deal with the chaos the four other dogs create outside.

The only regret I have about having all these canines is not being able to grow a beautiful garden. Or rather, having my once thriving flower and vegetable garden ruined. They would eat my vegetables and herbs and they would dig up, poop on, or tear apart the ornamental plants. Most of my flower pots are empty now and the soil, nearly barren, and I’m not sure how to keep the dogs away from them without tying them to a post. I guess it’s time I start planning a vertical garden, if not a fence to keep the dogs only in one area.

Nevertheless, I care about our dogs and I prefer to let them run around the yard all the time.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand why there are people who are not fond of animals at all, if not totally afraid of them. A few years ago, I met a fellow mom who was so afraid of dogs and she seemed to have passed on the same fear to her sons. I once invited them to our house, hoping my daughters and I would be able to show them how loving dogs could be, but almost as soon as the boys would come near our puppies, even if they’re in a cage or on leash (which I don’t really like doing), their mother would shriek and tell them to move away. It was sad, but I’m glad that this mommy friend of mine has now adopted a puppy, or I should say her husband did, and she and her kids (her husband is also an OFW and is away most of the time of the year) are now also discovering the joy of having a pet.

If you’re a parent, I would encourage you to have at least one pet, preferably a dog (and a Boston Terrier at that). It could help teach your child to learn some chores, be responsible, and think about others’ needs. Remember, however, that you need to show your kids how to care for them first. No need to have as many pets as we do, especially if you do not have a helper and cleaning isn’t one of your favorite chores (like me, really). At times, having a pet could be so tasking, even costly, but always remember that these animals need you and you are responsible for them, especially once you take them in. As much as they give you joy, you are also a source of joy to them. Ever heard of a dog that left its owner no matter how abusive the latter is? ❤

 

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