Here's hope that kitten arrived with all nine lives

August 08, 1996|By KEVIN COWHERD

LOOKING BACK on it now, this whole kitten business caught me at a bad time, that's all.

The dog had just been clipped and was sprinting madly around the kitchen -- we have this Shih Tzu who freaks out over any change in his basic molecular structure, including hair -- and the 14-year-old was fighting with the 5-year-old when my wife said: "What would you think about getting a kitten?"

"No," I said, because, No. 1, I hate cats and, No. 2, ever since we had children, my first reaction is to say "no" to anything proposed, just to be on the safe side.

But even as I said it, I knew it was only a matter of time before I walked in the house and some stupid cat was staring at me from the couch with a look that said: "Don't even think about sitting here, pal."

The prospect of a kitten coming caused me to review the checkered history of pets in our family.

The basic problem, not to put too fine a point on it, is that all our pets keep dying.

With pets, you sort of like to see them peppy and active. Ours start out peppy and active, but pretty soon you turn around and they're not peppy and active anymore, on account of they are dead.

The first pets we had were a pair of goldfish I won at the state fair, after this carny guy with a face like an old shower mat baited me into playing that game where you try to throw the ping-pong balls in the goldfish bowls.

I never win anything, but I won this time, naturally. And the prize was these two stupid goldfish, which the carny guy's assistant, a woman who belonged on a "Wanted For Interstate Theft" poster, gave to me in a clear plastic bag filled with water.

One fish was sort of golden-colored and the other was silver, so the kids named them -- stay with me here -- Goldie and Silvie.

Three weeks later, I came downstairs and Goldie and Silvie were floating belly-up in their little fish bowl, which was not a good sign.

You didn't need a medical examiner to figure out the cause of death, either.

It turned out that my youngest son, who was 2 at the time, had filled the fish bowl with liquid dish-washing detergent , which, to a fish, is like Agent Orange.

We buried Goldie and Silvie in the back yard, had a little ceremony and everything. I have a friend who's a priest, and I was going to ask him to come over and say a few words, but then I thought: Nah, we'll never get him to shut up.

The kids were pretty torn up about the fish checking out, which you could tell by the way they came up to me after the ceremony, threw their arms around me and said: "Can we go to McDonald's?"

Anyway, a few months later, we bought this hamster for my daughter, which she named Minnie, for reasons that escape me at the moment.

The hamster came with a huge cage that was like a Ramada Inn for hamsters. It had a big maze for her to play in, an exercise wheel, a water bottle, even a burrow she could relax in if she got too stressed out.

I'm telling you, the hamster was living better than I was, which isn't hard to do, actually.

Two weeks later I went in my daughter's bedroom and peeked inside the hamster's condo and made this discovery: no hamster.

It turned out hamsters are very athletic, if that's the right word, and this hamster had actually pushed the top off his little cage and escaped.

For days we would hear her scurrying around inside the walls of the playroom, and then we stopped hearing her, if you catch my drift.

Anyway, for weeks afterward my daughter would get all weepy if you mentioned Minnie.

But the mourning period ended abruptly when I overheard a friend mention Minnie and my daughter said: "Yeah, she's dead in the walls somewhere. You wanna play Barbie?"

Then a few years ago we got this dog, whose name is Pudgie, if you're interested, and I can't imagine why you would be.

He isn't dead yet, which is a plus. But I was so worried that he would keel over like all our other pets that I told the kids the average life expectancy of a Shih Tzu is four weeks.

This way if they came downstairs one day and the dog was stretched out stiffer than an ironing board, I could say: "Well, you knew this was going to happen. "

It's always better to plan ahead with these things.

Pub Date: 8/08/96

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