When I was in the first grade, my teacher gave everyone in our class a baby chick for Easter. My teacher’s father owned a hatchery, and the giving of the chicks to students was a tradition. One of my aunts’ decided my chick needed a friend and got me a duckling. Around the neighborhood I went with my baby chick in my wagon, and the duckling waddling behind. My duckling grew much faster than the chick, and one day the duckling stepped on the chick and broke the chick’s leg. As I had seen on so many Saturday afternoons at the movies, there was always someone in those cheesy westerns who injured a leg. The magic remedy was always two tree branches, a torn shirt, and then a splint was created. I took two popsicle sticks; made a splint for the chick’s leg, and wonder of wonders, the chick’s leg healed. The chick grew up to be a rascally rooster and went to live on a friend’s farm. The duck grew up and went to live on a lake at a local cemetery, and I grew up to have a life long love affair with all animals.
It may surprise you to know that I did not get my first dog until I was almost eighteen. My father said the city was no place for a dog. I didn’t understand how he knew that since he had only lived in a city, but those were different times, and the conversation stopped when dad said “no”. My father was a firefighter, and anyone who has ever known a firefighter knows that one of the things they love to do is “ride their territory”. On these rides my father would take, he would find turtles and snakes in the road. For some reason he decided bringing these creatures home was a good idea. I was joyous. The more the better. Of course the turtles and snakes were always escaping. I’m sure they were very upset that they had been removed from their habitat. Of course then nobody talked about such things as habitat.
I finally talked my folks into getting me a rabbit. I named him Hercules and learned sometimes animals become their names. One day I decided to give him a bath. By this time he did look like Hercules; he was huge, and he did not enjoy his bath experience. I didn’t enjoy it either because he scratched my arms to pieces, and to make matters worse, I dried him, or at least I tried, to dry him with a hair dryer. I lived the lesson: when you know better, you do better, and I have plenty of scars to show for it.
My first rescue experience came when I got my first dog. I was leaving a softball field one day and saw a group of kids hanging something in a tree. I stopped to see what it was they were doing and saw this puppy with a noose around his neck. The kids told me their parents did not want the puppies and had told the kids to get rid of them. I took the whole litter back to the softball field and found homes for everyone. I took “Rocket” home, told my folks what had happened, and Rocket became a family member. He was a Jack Russell/Bull Terrier mix who protected me fiercely and loved me with a gentleness beyond compare.
When potential clients ask me what my animal experiences consist of I always smile as images of those past creatures pass through my mind. Then I say, with all humility, that my experiences range from giving a horse an inhaler for allergies to hay, to sitting a hen in my lap to give her an antibiotic while I hold off her rooster friend with a long pole. When you spend your life with the creatures of this earth, every day is an adventure, and the opening of every door brings an unexpected surprise.