Tuesday, November 18, 2008
"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
This week my brother and his significant other were travelling outside the country. Mater and my cousin obliged them by tending to a family of five gerbils. They agreed to be caretakers, to be suitably respectful of their furry charges, feeding them regularly; but they were not inclined to exhibit much intimate affection for the little fellows.
When I was last at home in Ireland, and a female rat came to stay with us for a week in similar circumstances, I talked to her, promised that her owners would be coming back soon, reassured her that I was a friend, to the extent that I missed her when she went home again.
I could not expect that my mother would provide the same level of attention: she is reluctant to dwell too much on animals and their habits and her single task was merely to ensure the gerbils' safety and physical well-being. Curing their homesickness was not part of Mater's agenda.
All was going well until last evening when Mater, prior to departing for the airport to pick up the pets' human parents, entered the zoo-room and found not one but two gerbils inspecting her shoes, dashing about and generally running amok. Mater could see, from her frozen position in the doorway, that the cage door had been left open and so, of course, the curious creatures took the obvious path.
Mater's feet were welded to the carpet as the gerbils raced this way and that and all around.
Between being not sure at all how to begin catching the gerbils, and fearfully wondering how she would tell their owners about the disaster, Mater was suspended for a time in a frame of inner hysteria that did not manifest itself in physical expression.
She at last let out a roar for my cousin, a bellow that could be heard over the fields.
He came running, but the would-be hero reeled in astonishment when his grim task was revealed.
Mater took the opportunity to make that most essential drive to the airport and was out the door in a flash, leaving my cousin on his knees, scrambling around for the precious, wayward pets.
They were caught, eventually. Mater is an honest soul and told the resolved tale as soon as the passengers met her at the airport.
"Don't worry," Mater was told in jest, "you aren't fired from the job!"
I suspect that Mater, who was still trembling and traumatised, might have liked to hear otherwise.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 6:17 AM