It’s for the birds

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist takes off with a look at her pet-related past

Who doesn’t love dogs, or cats, or other pets? Most people do, but many people love them much better if they are someone else’s pet.

When I was growing up we had a menagerie of pets. Not all at the same time, but we did have a variety of pets. I first remember my parents buying us guppies. What were they thinking? We kids would love to watch the tiny fish swimming around the tank, but let’s face it, guppies aren’t much for interaction. You can’t pet a guppy, nor can you throw a ball and expect a guppy to catch it. Those guppies didn’t last long. After all, the aquarium was a constant chore and then the dreaded thing began to happen. The guppies furiously began mating, as guppies tend to do causing us to wake one morning to the sight of a tank full of guppies. According to Wikipedia, “Guppies are highly prolific livebearers. The gestation period of a guppy is 21–30 days.”

Uh, yup.

The female, it is said, can drop anywhere from two to 50 fry at a time and after doing so is ready for conception after only a few hours. I give you this background information only to set the scene. For us kids this was a fascinating process. For our parents it was a nightmare. We children believed that every single one of those guppies must be named. It mattered naught that they all virtually looked the same. We believed we could tell the difference. I know now that was just childhood fantasy. What wasn’t fantasy was returning home from school one day only to find the gazillion guppies, and the aquarium, gone.

I believe our parents told us that they brought them back to the pet store. But, as an adult, I now suspect something far more sinister than a happy little car ride to the pet store to be reunited with reluctant store owners.

This guppy disaster was followed with the acquisition of two parakeets. The male was named Romeo, the female was named Juliette. How original! Anyway, Romeo and Juliette were in love. Or so we siblings liked to believe. We were fascinated by their antics. They were just like an old married couple. One minute they would be picking nits off of the other’s feather and the next minute, Juliette would be madly pecking and screeching at her spouse.

The sad day came when Juliette died. Romeo was bereft. In fact, he was so heartbroken that he fell ill. The vet diagnosed pneumonia and instructed us to keep a warm heating pad under his cage and to warm some whisky and honey and give him a couple of drops from an eye dropper every few hours.

Romeo liked the prescription. A lot. And he liked it even better when my brother accidentally (?) gave him more than his allotment.

Mom and dad were at work at the time, but we kids sure were highly entertained by the inebriated Romeo. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, and all of that. Romeo did sing beautifully for us as he wobbled back and forth on his perch, his little yellow beak bobbing along to some drunken tune in his own head. Oh did we laugh!

Then, to our disbelief, Romeo totally swung round on his perch, did several loop-d-loops and then hung upside down for several minutes, singing all the while. I’m sure he was singing to his beloved Juliette.

Of course we never did tell mom and dad about the “accidental” overdose and eventually Romeo recovered from his drunken stupor. I’ve often wondered over the years if birds get hangovers, and if so, would a hair of the dog be an appropriate treatment for it.

You know, writing this column almost makes me want to buy a parakeet and a bottle of whiskey. Just kidding folks. Please don’t write the paper about animal cruelty. You can, however, write them about my perverse sense of humour.

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