I Have an Imaginary Dog for a Very Good Reason
Let the Reason Be Love
When I was a child, a dog was always out of the question. My father wanted to buy an illegal exotic pet whilst my mother would say she was allergic to dogs and cats. We settled on a jar full of worms that I collected from the garden and eventually a goldfish with suicidal tendencies. After the death of my worms at the hands of my sisters, I was left alone with Bob the goldfish. I would chat to him for hours and in return he would commit suicide by jumping down the back of the freezer. Bob II would replace him and he lasted a relatively long time before his accidental death. It was my birthday and a shiny 50 pence coin would fall from my hand and into the tank, striking Bob II and dealing the goldfish a fatal blow.
It was pretty clear to me that this pet malarkey was much harder than I had ever anticipated. When I was seven, I found a litter of three stray kittens living in our derelict garage on Maindy Road. Our garden was wild and overgrown, a perfect place for feral kittens to avoid capture. I hunted them all through the summer holidays and I almost captured them on a number of occasions. I was always an inch away from being able to reach them. Finally I laid a trap which consisted of a comfy box with paper shredded up and made to nest the resting kittens. I placed it on the raft that took up our whole garage and waited for the kittens to make themselves at home. It worked. The three kittens all curled up inside for a long doze. I sneaked my arms through the broken window of our garage and turned the box upright and closed the cardboard flaps at the top. I had all the kittens trapped but that wasn't enough for me. I wanted visual confirmation of my prize.
I lifted the cardboard flap open and one of the more sprightly kittens flew out at me. I felt that separating them was a bad idea so, reluctantly, I let the other two also have their freedom back. On the weekend, I stayed with my grandparents in a strategic move by my mother. She called in my aunt who owned special cat catching contraptions. Within an afternoon they had rounded up all three cats and shipped them off to the countryside. One of the cats bit through my aunties fingernail in the process. I was devastated by not finishing my quest of capturing kittens. I wanted to try and persuade my mum to let at least one stay but my mum had seen that coming and taken preemptive action. I was very happy that the kitten had wounded my aunt.
A few years later I was asked to walk a friends dog whilst we were staying with them in Bournemouth. I was so excited to have the opportunity and the responsibility to show everyone how fantastic I would be with a pet. I was in fact so excited that I grabbed the lead, asked no questions, and made it straight for the local park. The park was large and completely empty. Tiny the dog and I ran around the place like it was Christmas day. I was so happy, Tiny was so happy, and we were out for a good hour or so. By the time I had put on the collar and it was time to go I had no idea where we were anymore. The sprawling park had about five visible exits and I had spun around til I was dizzy. I looked at Tiny in a little bit of a panic.
"Which gate did we come through Tiny?" Tiny was being obstinate and refused to tell me the way. All the houses were red brick and I was lost. I walked aimlessly with my little canine friend, in a time without mobile phones, wondering if I was going to have to call the police to get back home. I didn't even note the address down before we left. I made a conscious decision that it was all up to Tiny, he was our only hope. I gave him some slack and let him lead the way.
We walked for miles and I had almost given up hope when Tiny turned into a driveway. I knocked on the door and waited. My father answered the door. "Where have you been?!" he shouted at me. I told him and his friend Les what happened and I explained how Tiny was the one who led us home. Les laughed himself off the seat on which he was perched. It took him a minute to regain his composure and point out Tiny's collar, which was engraved with Les's name, address, and telephone number. I failed to show my responsibility and Tiny looked like he had run a marathon.
The Tiny affair had blown all hopes I had of convincing my parents to get a pet. I wouldn't try again. I just accepted that my future was without fur. Twenty years would pass until a furry was foist upon me.
The marvellous Colin was a big, ginger rescue cat. He had lived with my housemate years before and was looking for a new home. Furies was alien to me by this point. I was 26 years old and I was wary of things that needed excessive love.
Colin was a nervous fellow. He had been mistreated when he was young so he liked to hide in dark places and wouldn't socialise at all. We were very similar. Over the years we built up trust and respect for each others boundaries. He became less nervous and I had come to fall in love with this little dude. I would rename him several times, finally deciding upon the title "Mrs Admiral Colin Gingerballs Clegg McCatface Rochester III." It wasn't only I who adored the little ginger love machine. He was a hit wherever he went. I laughed until I cried on occasion at his fantastic catty antics.
By the age of 32, I wanted more furry love and I was offered a grey little kitten by a close friend of mine. I thought I knew everything about cats by this time. I knew nothing about raising a kitten. I was kicked out of my own bedroom for the first 6 months. She had decided to deprive me of normal sensory perception by keeping me almost awake, all of the time. If I didn't do everything she wanted then she would pee on my clothes to show me what evil was to come.
Falco Jiauo Jiauo, as I called her, was a menace to poor old Colin. She would run up to him and hit him on the head and run away to avoid reprisals. My entire existence deteriorated. I was now the pet human of a mean cat with the prettiest face. So, if you have a cat problem what should you do about it? The answer is to throw more cats at it.
I was working in a care home for autistic children when I met my third cat. She was found in the dumpster and I agreed to take her home temporarily. I planned on getting this kitten out of my house as soon as possible. That was easier said than done. The third cat my housemate and I called Tyco Mini Jiauo. She's a little black and white tuxedo with a needy personality. She was a completely different character from my other cats. She just wants to cuddle and play whenever possible. Within weeks my housemate and I were completely in love with her gorgeous personality. It was even better to have found Falco a little sister to play with and, in turn, they would leave the old Colcat alone.
Suddenly there was a smooth dynamic between all the cats. They all know their place in the system.
My girlfriend brought her enormous Husky to my house. Echo is an old boy now, he's made it over a decade and now his cat chasing days are almost entirely behind him. I love Echo. He is such a curious dog. Huskies need an inordinate amount of attention. They are one of the dog breeds that almost need the care you would give to a child. They're bred to be motoring across snowy wilderness and not stuck in doors all the time. My girlfriend started walking dogs professionally so she could give him all the walks he needs. My three cats have never made friends with a dog and a Husky that resembles a wolf was never going to be their favourite social experience.
I have spent days looking at pictures of cute little rescue dog who need re-homing. I can imagine each of them running up and down my stairs or getting excited about my return home. But in all those scenarios I neglect my favourite furry of all time. Colin would never forgive me. I realise that I own many imaginary dogs for a very good reason. That is, I'm already up to my ear holes in cats. All of them need love and attention to be happy little creatures. An imaginary hound is much less responsibility.
I would like to stop now and remember all the goldfish who have died of unnatural causes.
For Bob and other fallen comrades...