Talking Horses, Intelligent Pigs and Clifford the Wonder Dog
I am, by necessity, an animal person. I have no choice; it's a matter of survival. As you'll note from my profile, we have quite the menagarie here at the Museum. Growing up on Long Island, the extent of my pet ownership was a painted turtle whose home was a plastic island (complete with palm tree) and the tropical fish in my 10 gallon aquarium . How does one go from these meager beginnings to owning a virtual petting zoo? I married into the cat and dog and I'm still trying to figure out where the rest came from. One year around Easter my wife decided we needed a lamb (doesn't everyone?). I was presented with a litany of reasons ranging from it being good for my then 4-year old son (he could join 4H and learn responsibility by taking care of it, and he could enter it in the county fair etc) to never again needing to cut the grass since the lamb would do the job for us. Of course I didn't fall for it. I was vehement in my refusal but agreed to accompany her to the sheep farm "just to look" (I did, after all have to maintain the pretense of an open mind). Driving there I told myself that we would not purchase a lamb. And I'm proud to say we didn't purchase a lamb; we ended up with two. After all - they're herd animals and it would be cruel to separate them. And they were just so gosh darn cute!
A few years later my wife decided that the perfect Christmas present for me would be a retired thoroughbred race horse named Titan. Keep in mind that I was raised in a suburban town on Long Island where there were sidewalks not horse trails. Further keep in mind that everything I knew about horses up to that point I learned from watching reruns of Mr. Ed. Still further keep in mind that the extent of my equestrian ability was a 1 hour trail ride. Now doesn't it make perfect sense that my wife would buy me a retired racehorse named Titan? He wasn't named Titan because he's small or slow. Now a horse named Old Ned or Slow Mo or Little Joe- those are the names of horses that I could see, but Titan? And guess what? I was lied to as a child - real horses are not like Mr. Ed. Aside from the fact that he can't carry on a decent conversation, he can be pretty tempermental (and not tempermental like Ed was the time Wilbur took away his telephone privileges). I'm talking about tempermental like bucking and biting and running away. Something else to keep in mind - no matter how fast you are, you can't catch a retired thoroughbred (even if you are carrying a bucket of oats).
The miniature pony was a gift to my son from a family friend and it was hard to say no. He's gotten away a few times and although he's small, he's just as hard to catch as Titan. The rabbits were another Easter lark (at least they're small). My wife has suggested getting a pig, and as tempting as that may seem, I've learned my lesson. I'm sure he wouldn't be as intelligent or entertaining as Arnold Ziffel.
Of all the animals I've owned my favorite has to be Clifford, a sweet, gentle and loving golden retriever/border collie mix who passed away last year at the age of 14. Clifford was without a doubt the best dog in the world (it's a fact, look it up) and she is missed to this day. I couldn't write about my animal issues without giving her props. Attentive readers will note that Clifford is a she. We also have a female cat named Frank. What can I say? We're gender challenged here at the Museum. Actually, my now 23 year old son who was 7 at the time was a fan of Clifford the Big Red Dog so it makes perfect sense. For the record, Frank was named after Frank Sinatra because as a kitten she had blue eyes. When pressed we claim her real name is Francesca and we call her Frank for short - but now the secret is out.
Rounding out the petting zoo is a 9 month old golden retriever named Casey. He is smart and adorable and funny which I am convinced are evolved survival traits; it makes it hard to get mad at him when he chews things he shouldn't (something he is very good at). I've lost track but a partial list includes countless shoes, three pairs of sunglasses, furniture, a sisal rug and two remote controls.
What's next for the zoo? My wife has suggested getting a pair of Jack Russell Terriers. While I'll admit they're cute, they remind me of dogs on PCP and I'd rather have something more subdued. She almost had me when she agreed we could name them Jeeves and Wooster, but I shall remain firm (which scares me since we know how that usually turns out).