Archive for the ‘Sad Pet Stories’ Category

Inside the Box

January 4, 2016

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1998

Zack is walking ahead of me talking to Zozee, a hairdresser from Martinique who owns five miniature dogs. We’re in his cave-like hair salon even though it’s a sunny day outside. I don’t want to hang around too long, but I understand the importance of seeing friends’ pets. Plus, Zozee’s partner-of-9-years just dumped him, abandoning him in the Gay Village like a dog in a city park.

We go into the undecorated storage half of Zozee’s huge double-roomed basement studio and in the futhest corner from the window, he opens the wooden door of a big, clunky armoir. From the deepest recesses of the armoir, Zozee pulls out a box where five tiny dogs live out their lives in complete darkness, with the rare exception of these occasional visits and daily feedings and  grooming.

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Entertainment

The dogs seem thrilled to see new life forms and to be able to wobble around aimlessly a bit.  I ask if they’re puppies, but no, they’re not. These adult dogs never leave the box. Their pathetic imprisonment and miserable life of darkness and isolation reminds me of my suburban childhood, and I need  to go outside and feel the sun on my skin.

Around other people.

Now.

I pull on Zack’s shirtsleeve, and when he looks at me, I sneer for a second and then look longingly at the window. Exasperated, Zack apologizes to Zozee and says that he needs to “take the boyfriend outside for a walk before he scratches me.”

For the rest of the afternoon, we argue about every aspect of this visit. It starts out being about how ownership and capitalism make us do unnatural things. Then this morphs into a debate about whether pethood is a form  of cruelty. And finally, it’s about whether a boring sex life is what causes most couples to break up.

I believe all these arguments we’ve been having lately are related in some way.

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GW and BW

October 17, 2011

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One Friday after Home Economics class, Kirk and I drive out to Big Pond to pick up the most insane marijuana we’ve ever smoked: Rapeseed Bud, it’s called.  “It can fuck you up pretty bad,” Sidney Normandson told us at the high school dance.

After picking up a measured ounce of Rapeseed Bud from a dealer in a church basement, we drive for a short 30 minutes and pick up Sidney, and then drive the hour back to Kirk’s place and fire up the power-hitter. A quarter ounce later, we’re all trashed, and Kirk goes into body stone watching the Expos play the Yankees on television.

Suddenly, Sidney gets a hypnotized look in his eye, jumps up and walks out into the kitchen really focused. Two cat brothers – GW and BW – follow him into the kitchen.

In Home Ec, we talked about the difference between nature and nurture. Sidney explains to me that he is going to torture one cat and spoil the other, and see if it really makes a difference. It’s like an experiment – science.

He looks so concentrated and stressed that I don’t dare try to stop him even though I find this experiment really sick. See, there’s just no point in resisting Sidney’s psychotic need to control: I don’t have as strong a character as he does – even Kirk and I acting together can’t make him budge.  Whenever I disagree with Sidney, he calls me a wimp or a faggot and then threatens to hit me or humiliate me in public. I don’t want to be on the receiving end, so I go along.

Sid spots a blow dryer and a bag of high-end kitty treats sitting on top of the fridge next to a case of empty Pop Shoppe bottles. With Kirk still engrossed in the ballgame, he drops some treats onto the kitchen floor, and both GW and BW go running.

Sidney throws them separate treats farther and farther from one another. When the cats are far enough apart, he attacks GW with the blow dryer yelling things like: “I’m gonna kill you, you little slut!”,”Soooh-eey!” and ” You’re not worth shit, you pissbag!” followed by a few long minutes of : “Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!…”

He leaves all the treats in a pile in front of BW and then chases GW around the kitchen yelling “Antichrist! Antichrist!” and cornering him next to the sink.

He plugs the blow dryer into a wall socket, turns it on high, and points it right at the cat’s ear. Wrrrrrrrr! GW curves his back, hisses, and tries in vain to beat back the hot air with his little paw. I’m paralyzed myself, just like GW, and my paws are about as strong as his when it comes to fending off Sidney’s hate-turbocharged charisma.

Through the entire kitty nightmare, Kirk watches baseball and notices nothing else. “Bottom of the fifth, and still no score….”

Finally, the experiment ends with GW running outside and hiding for a few days.

As soon as GW runs off, Sidney pops his smiling head into the TV room and says: “Hey Captain Kirk, want some crackers and cheese?” For Sidney, crackers and cheese are the cigarette afterwards.

I’m not sure if baseball-body-stone Kirk ever figured out how GW got to be so neurotic. He probably doesn’t know or care why BW is so relaxed and confident, while GW – post blow dryer – is a lean loner who rarely seeks affection from cats or people.

Sidney used to fear his father who probably beat him up pretty bad.  But why did he have to take this out out on a little cat? Why not his own son or daughter?

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Nameless and Blameless

August 1, 2011

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The most famous Orangemen family in Steel CIty are the McTuskets who live on Horne’s Road near the abandoned Devil’s Point Shell Refinery. Because Mr. McTusket is in the merchant marines and away at sea most of the time, his affection-starved wife has taken up cat hoarding  as a hobby, with 29 felines calling the McTusket premises home.

Mrs. McTusket has never had any of the female cats spayed or the males fixed. Instead, twice a year, her brother – a wiry bruiser we kids call Uncle Brute – takes away the “extra” kittens.

Where he takes them, no adults will say, but Billy says he puts them in a garbage bag with rocks and throws them off the bridge near his house. I find this hard to believe; Mrs. McTusket has always been known for her kindness to animals. And humans too. So I figure Billy just says this to make his family sound tougher than it really is: working class tough talk.

But when Uncle Brute shows up one Sunday to pick up a pair of fresh kittens, I stick around to see what happens.

On the TV that afternoon, there’s a boring documentary about the ethnic cleansing of the Acadians. In a way, I’m glad there’s nothing interesting on like WWF or a Bronson movie because it means less distraction from the kitten drowning we’re about to experience.

Brute arrives about three o’clock in his red pickup wearing a New England Patriots cap and oversized Moosehead tshirt. He already seems a bit drunk as he stumbles out of his vehicle, but  Mrs. McTusket nonetheless offers him a few beers for his nerves. After drinking the first one, he can barely stand up. His eyes start darting aimlessly around the room, and his speech is slurred and loud – which means we can hear every word he says from the next room.

“I’m too fucking drunk to drive, Wilma. Just bring me a friggin’ bucket,” he says to his sister Mrs. McTusket who never curses herself.

My pulse starts to accelerate so I focus on the tragedy that is unfolding on the TV. As Uncle Brute prepares the bucket… Governor Cornwallis has just brought in New England settlers to scalp the local natives  – the Mi’kmaq.

“Never mind the fucking basement! I’m taking this jeezuz bucket right into that goddamn living room so that everyone can see it with their own fucking eyes!” he shouts, a water-filled bucket in one hand and two pink kittens in the other. The kittens’ eyes are still shut while Uncle Brute’s are wide open and glaring.

Father LeLoutre has just told a crowd to burn down their farms  Then a New England Planter destroys a dike and more Acadian families drown. Then three commercials: dandruff shampoo, Toyota Camry, and Oxfam.

Brute sets the bucket down between my chair and Billy’s. We’re both in our early teens and sort of curious about things like Satanism and cruelty. But Billy’s little eight-year-old brother Herbert and his friend Peter are also sitting in front of the TV next to the bucket. They aren’t curious about cruelty at all. They’re Disney kids. Nervous little Peter hides his face behind the corner of the multicolored afghan he’s sitting on.

But there are holes in that afghan, so all of our eyes are on Uncle Brute’s hands as they submerge the tiny kittens for a few minutes. Even though the TV is still on, I can’t hear the sound anymore. I can only see Brute’s skinny tattooed arms holding the kittens underwater, and hear the silence in their tiny voices.

After about three minutes, Brute raises the lifeless blobs of pink fur up out of the water, as we all sit breathlessly waiting for the triumphal conclusion of our first live animal sacrifice. But as soon as Brute brings them out of the water, they start to cry like little babies. They continue to cry until Uncle Brute puts them back into the water, and this time, for a much longer five minutes.

On the TV at that moment… Robert Monkton has just lead a band of New Englanders up the Saint John River to kill the few remaining Acadians hiding there.

When Uncle Brute pulls the tiny furry bodies up the second time, they’re very, very dead, and we’re all relieved. In a way.

One sleepless week later, Mrs. McTusket has all her females spayed.

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Queeny

January 11, 2011

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1985

Sometime in my early 20s, my little brother Freddy picked me up hitch-hiking from the beach. He was driving a low-riding lifestyle convertible, one of the four vehicles he kept on the road during the hot summer of his nineteenth year.

Feeling lithe and snarky after a day of swimming and sun, I start to complain about having been turned into a lithe and snarky homosexual by my angry,  micro-managing mother.

He pulls over and threatens to make me walk: “Maybe it’s just you. Huh? All mom did to me was growl. Mothers growl. I came out alright. I’m alright.”

I came out alright. I’m alright. As he slowly turns to deliver these biting words, the sunlight hits him and a red crust the diameter of a beer bottle becomes visible in the stitches and dried blood in the middle of his forehead.

I sigh and promise to behave, and we get back on the road.

Twenty minutes later, as we drive by the Botrop’s house, I notice that they have a new dog. Their former pet – a police-trained German Shepherd named Queeny – almost decapitated Freddy one evening a few years before.

the dogbait years

1974

When I think about it, I can’t believe I walked by that dog every day when I was 12 and 13 when I was the neighborhood paperboy.

The Botrops were German, and my family were “French.” Almost no families in my suburb were “English” though everyone spoke English and watched American TV.

“German” herself, Queeny should have attacked me and killed me. But instead, she just growled and kept her back riding menacingly low every day as I passed by with my canvass bag full of second-rate political propaganda.

Maybe Queeny figured I was too easy a target, and decided not to risk her predatory honor by deflating a skinny gay paperboy with one fang.

Little brother wasn’t so lucky.

1979

When I was 17 – the last year of my closeted homosexuality –  Freddy demonstrated the unrealized potential of Queeny. Late for supper one winter evening, 14-year-old Freddy walked into the house looking like a horror-movie zombie.

The open, dry gash on his neck was the size and shape of a golf ball cut in half. His exposed flesh was white and fatty, but the gash wasn’t that noticeable because the rest of his face and neck were also grayish-white from fear. His bleached skin and blank expression made him look like he was having a nervous breakdown. He also had a hard time speaking, like he was fighting for air or to focus.

It turns out that Freddy had cut through the Botrop’s yard on his way home from street hockey carrying a hockey stick on his shoulder just like guys on TV do, when Queeny jumped  him and disarmed him with a slice of her sharp jaws to the lower neck.

It’s a good thing Mr. Botrop never strays very far from the living room liquor cabinet or Freddy might have been more seriously disarmed. Drunk Hanz Botrop came out mid-attack and called off Queeny before she could finish the job.

How did I manage to get past that instinctively-hostile death jaw every day and deliver the hated newspaper? Did Queeny hate my little brother even more than he hated me?

Maybe it was just Freddy. Huh? All Queeny did to me was growl. German Shepherds growl.

I got out alright. I’m alright.

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Theodore

September 7, 2010

Theodore

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We were a postwar family – both my parents were born just before WW2. And taking a page from the veterans of that massive war who came back damaged and in desperate search of social isolation, my parents relocated to a prefab suburb of trailer-quality bungalows on massive lots. “A place where you could throw a ball,” I heard a neighbor’s father say.

Our barracks was just like our neighbors’ barracks, and we’d all wait by our picture windows for our dads’ tanks to roll into the driveway at five-thirty each day. What else was there to do when you weren’t throwing a ball?

Our main enemies were the lawn weeds and insect infestations of the suburban cartoonscape. We heroically doused these parasitic insurgents with the latest army-issue biopoisons, when we weren’t chopping them up with the noisiest machines we could buy on credit at the hardware megastore.

The human animals in our house were all expected to maintain stiff upper lips because this is what helped the English-speaking good guys to win all their nasty wars against foreign evil. Sometimes this protruding lip turned into a snarl, and there were times when my mother reminded me of Johnny Lydon of the Sex Pistols.

Once our French-Canadian grandparents died, hugs and kisses in our Anglicized household were limited to X’s and O’s as a cutesy sign-off on personal letters. It was as if our parents were rationing affection to prepare us for real life, where “real life” meant World War Two and the hunt for Germano-Japanese scalp.

a remnant of ceremonial burial in post-war suburbia

Into this suburban military compound of emotional marasmus fell little sister Charlene. The baby of the family, she started out in life getting non-stop hugs and kisses from affection-starved older brothers and sisters like myself. But as she got older and less cute, all the sibling affection dried up in favor of sarcasm and psychological torture.

We honed the art of cold, distant personal relations while watching TV with our parents and interacting with the people in the identical bungalows around us who were watching the same shows.  Hugging became something nostalgic that nowadays, only actors do.

Instead of accepting our natural human vulnerability and neediness, we learned to be poker-faced schemers so that we’d win our own personal wars. Prepared by New York TV writers for the adult lives we would eventually drive to, we were then ready to face any Nazis or Soviets we might come across at the mall.

Charlene grew increasingly desperate for affection as she neared nine-years old, so my mother temporarily suspended the house-ban on pets and allowed her to get a small gerbil, “as long as you clean his cage and I don’t have to look at him.”

About two weeks after she brought Theodore home from the pet shop, Charlene woke up screaming because she had accidentally crushed him in her sleep.

When my mother came out of Charlene’s room that morning, I asked her what happened, and she looked at me with a firm gaze and said, “Theodore’s dead.” It was like getting bad news from the front from a concerned corporal.

That same day after school, my mother held a military funeral for Theodore in the back yard, and her and Charlene  –  the only attendees –  fashioned a cross out of sticks, and buried him about three inches deep in the chem-tech lawn.

She got a new gerbil a week later, and killed him exactly the same way. I later found out her M.O.: Late at night, the noise from the nocturnal rodent would wake her up. Vulnerable and semi-conscious, Charlene would then take the helpless creature out of his cage, and start to hug him very gently until she fell asleep …on top of him …silently crushing him to death.

By the fourth gerbil, there were no more tears shed, and the ceremonial burial was replaced by the sound of a toilet flushing and my mother saying, “so long, comrade.”

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Little Fella

August 14, 2010

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The MacIsaac’s camper trailer is dark brown and white with chrome accents – the perfect color scheme for hiding dirt and mold. But I don’t think Kipper’s barking at mold. He barks at shadows all the time, but it’s overcast today and the shadow under the trailer isn’t really moving, so there must be something out there. Or maybe I’m just dazed from all the low-grade pot we’ve been smoking.

After about 10 minutes, when his buzz starts to recede, Billy goes outside to empty a few cat litter boxes – the MacIsaacs have 17 cats and six active cat litters in total – and I go outside with him just to check out why Kipper’s barking.

I crouch down. The smell of wet dirt under the trailer helps explain the soggy piece of toilet paper lying in the shadow. I can’t believe Kipper has been barking at an inanimate object for what seems like an hour.

But wait. That isn’t a piece of dirty toilet paper. It’s… oh my god. It’s a beige kitten that’s been abandoned by its mom! Why would a post-partum cat abandon its own little kitten? Don’t they need to feed their kittens just to ease the pain from the milk pressure? Isn’t this instinctive? Time freezes for a few seconds because I can’t process what I’m seeing in front of me.

I have to bend over to get a closer look, my heart-rate doubling as my mind focuses and my emotions go red hot. The kitten, like me, has round bulging eyes. But his little eyes won’t open for a few weeks – if they ever open at all. And though his eyes are closed shut and the kitten is silent, I can feel his fear – his deep and unrelenting fear.

I rush him into the house and wash the dirt and placenta off his shivering little body in the kitchen sink. He looks sort of homely and morbid: like an abandoned biology project. But he’s moving and warm – alive.

Not knowing what to give him to eat or drink, I wet a piece of paper towel with milk and let him lick it a bit, which he does. He starts to move in a way that demonstrates that he is, perhaps, willing to live, but only if someone helps him. If someone will just pick him up and do what they’re supposed to do naturally, this kitten just might survive – he just might want to survive.

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An hour later, Billy’s mother gets home from her job at Zellers and I explain what happened. Having raised a few dozen kittens in her time, Mrs. MacIsaac puts my mind at ease as I leave their house to go home to my own – my teenage emotions forever changed.

Eventually, one of the other mother cats at the MacIsaac’s – one who had just had kittens of her own a week earlier – adopts Little Fella and he starts to feed regularly and often. Within a week, he’s as healthy looking as his older cousins whose eyes have already opened as they stumble outside their homemade kitten pen.

Little Fella is always a step behind these siblings, and his biological mother – who is the grandmother of the kittens he is nursing with – seems to have completely given up on mothering. She just paces around in circles meowing for a few weeks, and then calms down. Perhaps she was just too old or too frail after all the other kittens she’s had in her lifetime. Or maybe she had problems of her own when she was a kitten. I have no idea.

When Little Fella got older, he didn’t really act like other cats. His best friend was Samo, the neighbor’s Chihuahua, and Little Fella would always jump up on people and lick them on the face as if he was a dog himself. He rarely meowed, and seemed to love human beings and want to be loyal to them. He liked to chase cars with Samo and even wagged his tail when he saw his favorite people.

Perhaps there’s a lesson here for all cats: mistreat your kittens, and they might reject their own community. I mean, wouldn’t you do the same if your own community had left you to die?

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