“I’d didn’t realize until recently how much you loved animals,” Ken said to me this past weekend while we took a break from our yard work to watch the ducks in the pond.
I thought about it for a second and then said, “Oh, I’ve always loved animals,” like it was a well-known fact, but the truth is, I think I had kind of forgotten it about myself as well. If your not careful, motherhood can do that to you sometimes, make you forget who you once were before all the babies came.
For the past nine years I have been so wrapped up in wiping runny noses and sticky counter tops or fussing at kids for not knowing where their shoes are or leaving wet towels on the floor that I didn’t have time to add animals to the chaos. Pets were a luxury for people with time on their hands. Not new parents.
Edie had to beg for years (YEARS!) before I finally relented and let her get a measly ‘ole Beta fish. I remember at the height of all the begging, I was just barely keeping my head above water, trying to manage my mommy load. I felt like adding a fish to the mix would just be cruel. The odds were pretty good that since a fish would never shout, “Hey! Over here! FEED ME!” that I would eventually find myself standing over a toilet bowl in the middle of a fishy funeral. But after years and years of listening to promises that Edie would feed it and that all she needed from me was permission and the initial investment of fish food and a tank, I finally caved. She kept that Beta fish alive for over two years. I thought that was pretty remarkable for a Beta fish, not to mention, a kid under the age of ten.
But ever since we moved to Ashville, my view towards animals has changed. It doesn’t take much to convince me anymore that a new pet would be more fun than it is trouble. Maybe it’s living out in the country and having more space or perhaps it’s that my kids are now a little older and more independent, but I no longer see animals as an extravagance I don’t have time for.
Now, I see how their very presence enriches our lives.
Take Bailey, for example. it’s been over a year now since she wandered up and made herself at home here, and I can’t remember the last time I loved a dog this much. Every time I drive up my driveway there’s Bailey, running around in circles and jumping for joy that I have actually come home. She can’t believe it! There isn’t anybody else in this world that’s gets that excited to see me, not even Roark, and that’s saying something because that kid thinks I hung the moon.
And then there’s my cats, Tater and Tot. Tot is the small, affectionate one. He doesn’t care how you hold him just as long as he’s in your arms he’s purring and happy. I never have an empty lap when Tot is around. He spends most of his days lounging on the back porch or looking through the glass door, inviting us to join him outside.Occasionally Tater will convince him to play a crazy game of chase, where they run around like maniacs, jumping on each others backs, and then frantically climbing up the nearest tree and dropping to the ground. I don’t really understand the rules of their game, but it’s a trip to watch.
Tater, on the other hand, is the mouser. She is out all hours of the night and day, hunting down her next catch.
Poor little chipmunk. He never had a chance. She is affectionate in her own way though, just a little more stingy with her love than Tot. She really enjoys a morning snuggle, and when she makes her mind up that it’s time for me to pet her, there is no denying her. She’ll climb right up in my face if she has to.
I have a new favorite sport these days, and it involves these guys. We have dubbed it, “chicken ball.”All you need to play the game is twelve chicks in a box and one grasshopper from the garden. Simply drop the bug in the box and watch the game unfold.
Wings start flapping and chicks frantically dart from one side of the box to the other in mass chaos, trying to figure out who actually has the bug. I’m telling you it’s more entertaining than any football game I’ve ever seen, and I’ve spent hours watching them duke it out over a grasshopper leg.
And then there’s these guys, who are currently my favorite pets despite the fact that they are unbelievably messy and are terrified of me. ME! The friendly giant that brings them food and water. There’s no explaining it. I’ve been nothing but kind to these guys. I’ve learned a lot about Pekin ducks this past month. For starters, did you know that only the females quack? It’s pretty safe to say there are definitely some girls in the group because I’ve got a lot of quackers. Also, Pekin ducks grow insanely fast because they are usually raised for their meat. In just four short weeks, they went from little peeping ducklings to straight up ducks. Over the weekend, I was able to herd them down to the pond for the first time, and they haven’t looked back. What’s that they say about a duck to water? I’ve witnessed it first hand. I love watching them waddle, six little ducks in a row, clumsy as can be until they hit the edge of the pond and then transform into graceful swimmers, gliding across the water. It makes me smile every time.
The newest pet is by far the easiest to take care of. We have named him Big Turtle, and he requires nothing of my time. The kids and I found him one day at the end of our driveway. We walked him down and set him near the water’s edge. When he finally worked up the nerve to come out of his shell, he looked at his surroundings and then slowly meandered into the water. He’s been there ever since.
We have a Big Turtle sighting at least once a day. We’ll see him swimming around the pond, head sticking out, soaking up the sun’s rays. I’m sure one day he’ll leave us for clearer waters or whatever it is exactly that turtles prefer, but until then, I like knowing that he’s out there, enjoying our new pond.
Ken and I often wonder what we did with our time before we moved out here and our Saturdays weren’t consumed with working in the garden or cleaning out the duck pen, and honestly, I don’t really know. It’s not like we purposefully withdrew from all of our extracurricular activities. We’re still running around from one thing to the next, but somehow we have time for all of this as well. Maybe it really is just that my kids are older and can fend for themselves a little more.
It doesn’t really matter how this change came to be. All I know is that my life feels fuller now that I’ve gone back to my animal loving roots.