Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Homeschool Memoirs - Four Legged Friends

Something often overlooked on our blogs is the ‘other’ family member that sleeps at the end of the bed. We fail to mention our fur children even though they are a huge part of our lives. Is your ‘pet’ is really the king or queen of the house? Maybe you just tolerate having an animal because the husband or kids can’t live without one. Or some of you might be ‘animal free’, take issue with ‘just another responsibility’, or find that you’re deathly allergic to dander. With as much a part of our personal lives as pets tend to be, I figured it would be good to share about our animal friends (or the lack of them).

Who doesn’t love looking at furry critters - even if they aren’t your own? Some of us spend more time inhaling them than looking at them (cat belly can be addictive). Let’s not forget the slimy froggies, swimmy fish, feathery birds and other interesting creatures that some keep, also! Do you have an exotic pet to tell about? Or a neat animal story? Have you ever rescued a wild forest animal or had something strange wander up on to your porch?

Tell us your pet history. What was your first pet? Which was your most memorable? How about today? How many pets do you have? Do they help or hinder your homeschooling?

Me and my sister on our pony "Molly"

I grew up on an island in the woods with lots of room to roam. No neighbors. No fences. Just a dirt road and a forest to explore. What a great childhood I had!

We always had animals of all kinds : dogs (always at least 4 at a time), cats, rabbits, chickens, geese, 2 goats, a pony, a pig, parakeets, fish, turtles, and a rat. I'm sure that I'm leaving some out!! There was always a four legged friend around to keep us company. Most of them were nice (although those geese were evil! That hissing was really frightening). I always thought that I would like my kids to grow up in the same fashion.

But, things haven't gone the way I thought they would. Do they ever?

First of all, back then I didn't know that I would marry into the Army. Can you see us with a U-Haul full of pigs and chickens heading cross-country to our next duty station?

We are nomads and I have accepted that. We never know where we will be living next. It could be overseas or we could be living in a small apartment somewhere stateside.

I know that there are plenty of military families that have pets. I for one have a hard enough time being alone with the kids for a year-long deployment without the added responsibility of caring for a pet. And a move with animals? That scares me.

I have to say that we gave it a try this time. We bought a house with a big yard instead of living on post. We promised the kids a pet and we delivered. We found Buster at the animal shelter. He was a very energetic and loving yellow lab. Besides running away whenever given the opportunity, he was a great dog - a wonderful companion for the kids.

We had him for about a year when I started really worrying about my abilities to properly care for him though. He needed someone to play with him and take him on walks constantly (duh - right?). I can honestly say that I didn't know how much work it took to have a dog. Growing up, our dogs were always outside. Since we had no neighbors and no fences, they just roamed around and got plenty of exercise on their own. Not so with Buster.

He liked to hunt (according to the previous owner) and I don't go moose hunting very often (ok, never). The cold climate and constant snow cover made taking him outside unpleasant. And when spring hit - you wouldn't believe the melting mess in the backyard!! I will spare you the details...

Under normal circumstances, I probably could have handled all of this. With baby #5 on the way and a husband about to head to Iraq for a year-long deployment though, I made the decision to find him a new home.

We were all very sad to see Buster go. He was the only pet the kids had ever had (other than a couple of beta fish in CA).

It was hard on all of us, but looking back now (it's been almost a year), I know that I made the right decision. Thinking about how hard it was for me to keep the yard clean for the kids, how often we had to open the door into below-zero temps to let him out, and how many times I had to drive around the neighborhood searching for him after he had run away (including paying a ticket once), it made sense to me. He was more responsibility than I was able to take on at the present.

Do I think that we will always be pet-less? Definitely not. We will eventually settle down and when we do, maybe we'll have our own little menagerie, not unlike that of my childhood (but minus the geese!)

Ellie and Buster, Sept 2007


5intow said...

What an amazing way to grow up! So sorry about Buster. I am sure you did the best thing though, we have a yellow lab and she does really need to get out. It keeps me exercising, but I can't imagine it with a baby and home by myself.

Love the pony picture!

SmallWorld at Home said...

A Russian linguist!!! That is too awesome. So--what other careers are there for people who study Russian?

KymPossible said...

What a great way to grow up, all that room to roam and explore!! Sorry that you had to say good-bye to Buster. Love the pictures!


Christina said...

You need a cat. A cat is a great military pet because they travel well and don't need much; they don't even need to go outside if you have a place for the litterbox that the kids won't mess with. Raven has made the adjustment to apartment life, doesn't even try to escape when we leave the door open. And she's so good with the kids!

Amanda said...

Having four children myself, and a husband who works too much, I completely agree with your decision!

Megan said...

I liked your story. We are also military and it is hard. You are always moving and it seems you always have to leave a pet behind.