I’m not sure about anyone else but I know that, if I didn’t have my dog, the last few months of lockdown would have been hell. He’s been by my side, making me laugh and making sure I get plenty fresh air throughout the last six months and the only thing I can do to repay him is look after like the little star that he is and spoil him.
It got me thinking though, about pets I’ve had before. Not just dogs. It used to be budgies.
The first one was Orville, he was green. He was my childhood budgie and I don’t remember too much about him other than he hated being in his cage. Fair enough really. So, his cage was open all the time and, miraculously, he never flew out the window. I think he was happy enough just being out the cage.
Then came Charlie Crocket. Not one hundred per cent sure where that name came from other than it was a family decision. Charlie was a snooker-loving, white budgie with the biggest personality. He loved watching the snooker. At night, during the world championships, when we put his cover on (one of dad’s old pyjama jackets) he would go nuts if we didn’t leave a gap so he could see the evening sessions played to a close. He also had a favourite player. While he couldn’t speak many words he was very clear when he used to tweet “Steve Davis, Steve Davis”.
Charlie was also a bit of a daredevil. Either that or he just wasn’t very good at landing. More than once my parents had to lift out the unit in the corner of the room to retrieve him after he’d tried to land on the top of it but find himself falling seven feet and being jammed between the unit and the wall. Of course, this led to him “needing” a wee tot of brandy to get over the shock. I’m not saying he was skidding off the top of that unit deliberately but it did happen more than you’d expect it to.
He developed a taste for brandy and once a week or so we’d get up in the morning, take his cover off and find him hanging upside down from his perch, like a bat. The first couple of times it was alarming to say the least. Then he’d get a tot of brandy and carry on with his day. It was suspicious in the fact that he was able to hang upside down for however long it took for one of us to get up.
Charlie also liked being out of his cage and one of his other party tricks was the crisp packet. One of us had to eat the contents of a packet of crisps but leave crumbs in the bottom for him and put the almost empty packet on the floor. Then he would build up to it before running across the floor and into the crisp packet before making it move around the floor. It was his hobby, it entertained us. Adorable.
We found him lying on the bottom of his cage one day. He was old. Brandy didn’t work for him this time.
Before the move onto the dogs, we had a canary. Here’s the name: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Thankfully shortened to “Indy”. The trouble with Indy is that he was the most amazing bird, friendly, very yellow, and very noisy. Not just the odd tweet, constant from six AM in the morning. It’s apparently a thing for male canaries. Anyway, with a dad on night shift, my sister and I going to school and my mother working, it just wasn’t working and sadly, we had to move Indy on. However, he did go to a guy who kept canaries so he went to a home where he would live with other canaries in a large shed with an exercise area. Probably best all round.
Having a dog in our home wasn’t my first encounter with them. When I was a toddler (imagine that) my grandparents had an Alsatian called Ziggy. He was so big he used to knock me over with his tail as it wagged when we arrived at my nana’s. This was quite a regular thing and didn’t seem to happen to any of my cousins. It’s funny the things you remember because I know there was a spell when Ziggy wasn’t there. I don’t know how long it was, there was a gap and then he was back again and I’d been told he’d been on his holidays.
Our first own family dog was Reb. He was a beaut, cross boxer and lab. He used to know the time each day when my sister and I got out of school and he would sit on a chair at the window until we each arrived home. No one taught him this, he just did it. Taught himself over time, I suppose.
Losing Reb was the first I grieved over a death that wasn’t a human being. It’s extremely hard, as so many of you will know, to lose a dog. They are a gigantic presence in your life and when they go – it’s devastating. Sometimes, maybe all the time, it’s for the best. Reb was old, he had doggy dementia, he could hardly walk, he was getting blind. He was in pain. The vet came to the house and we had a very peaceful time with him in the living room before she injected him. We said our goodbyes.