Think­ing twice about keep­ing pets

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Leisure -

I DON’T know what you think but hav­ing a pet, a vi­cious one at that, is a ne­ces­sity nowa­days.

That would ob­vi­ously trans­late into the ca­nine va­ri­ety, in other words, a dog. A very big dog that takes about five min­utes to gen­er­ate a bark.

If you are of the sadis­tic kind, you would rather keep a pride of lions on your prop­erty. Not with thieves rul­ing the roost in the sub­urbs.

Af­ter a spate of break-ins some years back, we pur­chased the lat­est ad­di­tion to the fam­ily.

It came in the form of “Fluffy,” a ball of black and khaki fur that could barely scare a fly.

The rea­son­ing, nev­er­the­less a bit warped, was that Fluffy would grow into the job which is to se­cure life and prop­erty.

How wrong we were. Fluffy was just too po­lit­i­cally cor­rect to be a guard dog. Worse still, he never grew much no mat­ter how much ex­pen­sive dog food we fed him.

By the time we de­cided to fire him, we were on the verge of star­va­tion. I am glad to say that he did fetch quite a mint.

Our fam­ily has a che­quered his­tory of own­ing pets, some, I must add, quite in­vol­un­tar­ily. We once had a rat in the house.

It must have been a rat be­cause Anele (who was six at the time) an­nounced that he had seen a mouse that looked like it hadn’t bathed for a while.

The rat in ques­tion placed the fam­ily in a dilemma. Ei­ther to bait him with rat poi­son and send him straight to rat hell or just to pre­tend he was part of the fam­ily to please Anele.

The first op­tion was eas­ier but then there was the So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to Rats to con­tend with in the form of our three sons. You see this rat was so big that he just could be clas­si­fied as a pet.

It was so big that the kids con­cluded unan­i­mously that it was a rab­bit. And you should have heard the wails of protest as I chased it around the house with ma­li­cious in­tent.

My ar­gu­ment was that be­ing the bread­win­ner; I could never get to make dras­tic cuts to my monthly beer al­lo­ca­tion. All in aid of feed­ing a rat. The other op­tion was to up­grade the pest to pet sta­tus. That meant com­ing up with some gen­tle­man’s agree­ment with the rat in ques­tion.

First, he had to agree be­ing a gen­tlerat and stop caus­ing havoc in the kitchen.

Se­condly, the rat would have to ad­just its diet some­what to de­cent food and not my mag­a­zine col­lec­tion and c ont ai n e r of masese (opaque sorghum beer) in the pantry.

Un­for­tu­nately, the so-called ra­tra­b­bit (as ev­i­dently op­posed to call­ing him a rock-rab­bit) had de­vel­oped ex­pen­sive tastes, which ex­plained his weight prob­lem.

The other dilemma was the many sleep­less nights that the rat-rab­bit’s noc­tur­nal ac­tiv­i­ties caused.

Be­cause of its size, it could no longer sneak out through the tiny hole it came in. So in the dead of the night, one could hear it bur­row­ing away. to It was as if it had lost di­rec­tion bur­row­ing through any wooden sur­face he came across. At one point I thought it had dis­cov­ered my cen­turies old vinyl record col­lec­tion (re­mem­ber those flat, black, cir­cu­lar ob­jects that made mu­sic when you set an elec­tri­fied nee­dle on them?) In the end, quite sadly, some very painful choices just had to be made. Would we com­mit mur­der most foul and break our kids’ lit­tle hearts, or swal­low our stingy pride and pro­mote the rat-rab­bit to pet sta­tus? I per­son­ally pre­ferred a hunt­ing dog hav­ing come from a long line of poach­ers . . . sorry . . . hunters. At the time it was a lux­ury we could ill af­ford apart from the fact that we were stay­ing in a flat. That’s be­sides the fact that some­one would have to clean up the dog poo. In any case, of what use would be a pet rat that did noth­ing but eat and poo all day long? I am yet to see a guard rat, granted the mere sight of this chap would surely keep those pesky un­in­vited rel­a­tives away. Rel­a­tive One: “Did you catch sight of how big that rat, rab­bit, thing or what­ever was?” Rel­a­tive Two: “I thought I heard it bark!” Rel­a­tive Three: “I think I heard ‘them’ call­ing it by name!” Rel­a­tive Four: “We might be strange but these peo­ple take the cup. I don’t know about you but I’m out of here!” Which brings us to our cute Fluffy, the cross Al­sa­tian puppy. Its first act of hero­ism was to ac­com­pany the lat­est gang of bur­glars to the back door where they pat­ted him lov­ingly on the head and made off with our stereo. Sev­eral years and sev­eral hun­dred of dol­lars of stolen prop­erty later, I wish we had kept the rat. He would have been en­tered into the Guin­ness Book of World Records and made us fa­mously rich by now.

As for Fluffy, well he fell ill, died and went to dog heaven. The grief that it brought to the boys and the fam­ily quashed any fu­ture plans of pur­chas­ing a re­place­ment ca­nine.

For some funny rea­son, the bur­glar­ies stopped as well. Yes, I am as mys­ti­fied as you are too!

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