Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Horse Before the Cart



"You are responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose."
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

One afternoon when I was six years old I went visiting locally with my mother. At the end of the visit I was presented, most bizarrely, with a pair of cats. My mother had not agreed to it; I knew better than to request any new pets. Nevertheless they were boxed up with dizzying speed and by the time we got our balance back we were in the car on the way home with two unexpected additions to the family.
My mother grumbled. I was in shock. As we rolled home I could feel the animals moving around a bit inside the box. The journey to our house took just a few minutes but by the time we arrived I had grown accustomed to the fact that for the first time, I was the proud owner of two pets. I would be responsible and careful and nobody, I assured my mother, would have to worry about them because I would take good care of the little creatures.
Frankly, I was astonished that my mother was not more reticent about the matter. She instead seemed quite accepting, after a long silence. I had my cats, though, and I was as merry as a lark. When it came time to open the box I could barely work my small fingers around the cardboard. Kneeling on the grass in the garden I prepared to acquaint myself with my new friends.
I heard the most startling sound, very much like a hiss, and I saw a sudden flash of grey. The murky wisp streamed from the box like a cloud of smoke, streaked across the field, slid up and over the fence, and vanished.
I think that it might have been a cat but the fact could never be positively verified because that was the first and last time any of us saw the shadowy blur.
Aghast, I stared down into the box at the remaining feline. No more than a few weeks old, mewling pitifully, the tiny thing stared up at me with surprise and, thankfully, some calm docility. She nestled into my hand and I just knew that we would be companions for life.
Come bedtime, I prepared to carry her indoors with me. My mother refused to let her into the house. I was thunderstruck. The kitten was so tiny, so helpless- there was certainly no way that she could survive a night outdoors in an unfamiliar place. I pleaded but my mother, genuinely thinking that it was the right thing to do, ensured that I slept indoors while the cat did not.
The kitten had, naturally, disappeared by the time that the first bars of sunlight blushed across the sky. I was anguished and could only hope that some kindly neighbours had found her and taken her in.
The truth is that we were not really prepared for new pets. It is most important to be ready.
Spouse and I would love more than anything to have a dog. We know, already, what our future dog looks like.
He is yellow. He possesses a most gentle head, wise eyes that promise protection, and enormous paws. He loves everybody with unbridled enthusiasm but will not hesitate to sniff out trouble and send people running if the situation should require it.
He exists only in our hearts because we do not have a stable enough life to keep a dog and to guarantee that it would be permanent. We simply could not bear to find that we do, after all, want to live in another country or that we must by necessity relocate to a home that allows no pets, and discover that we must find another home for ours. We are being responsible by denying ourselves a most wonderful pleasure, in order to not hurt a living creature.
Our kindest action for the moment is to have no animal at all. It makes us awfully lonely at times but it is the only decent thing to do.
I believe that under these circumstances it requires just as much love and understanding to keep an animal as it does to be without one.
One day, I know, Spouse and I will declare that we have found our nesting place and root ourselves in a quiet green corner of the world with that imagined dog suddenly a wonderful reality.

2 comments:

Beth said...

I enjoy each and every one of your posts very much. You are so practical and poetic. Thank you for sharing your life and experiences and growth with your readers--it's almost as if we are sharing stories over a cup of tea.

TheElementary said...

Beth, you left a truly thoughtful comment. Honestly, it is constructive and helpful words like those that keep me writing! Getting a perspective on what readers think is so useful, and I do appreciate what you said. As for your last line- that's my aim, since the art of story telling has always revolved around mealtimes and tea drinking :)

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