Pets were a big, big part of being a kid in Wenonah and most likely all of 1960's America. God only knows why. Pets of all shapes and sizes. Mice and cats and rats and hamsters and guinea pigs and dogs and horses and ant farms and sea monkeys. Our homes were littered with pets of one kind or another. Okay, snakes were few and far between...you usually had to find one in the woods and bring it home and then after a few days in a cardboard box your mother would make you let it go. But after that everything was a pet...toads and frogs, box turtles, birds limping around with broken wings, bunny rabbits, everything...literally everything. Our backyard was a vast pet cemetery. Small wooden crosses over graves filled with rotting creatures.
Most of my pets were of the conventional variety. We had two cats for many years, Timmy and Surprise. Surprise was the oldest and Timmy the youngest. Each of them was actually a purloined cat. They showed up at our back porch and we fed them and then they were ours. They were with us until 7th grade. That's when my mother found out we were allergic to them. Then they were sent to a "farm". This is a euphemism rarely used but essentially my mother lied and had them slicked at the vets.
We had a few half hearted attempts at dogs but my father didn't do dogs well and dogs are a grown man's job, even in Wenonah. We had a dalmation that died of distemper and a shaggy dog my dad brought home from a gas station on Admiral Wilson Blvd in Camden. He lasted not much longer than the dalmation. Towards the end of my time in Wenonah my mother found out poodles are relatively allergen free so we had two small poodles. They hated my brothers and I but loved my mother.
Mostly we loved the cats. Who were killing us.
Of course we had turtles and tropical fish and we'd save various dying wild animals and all that but really it was the cats to which we had a real connection. I remember to this day the horror of finding Timmy on the back porch one day after he'd been gone a couple days. He'd been shot by a hunter and his left rear leg was shattered by buckshot. We took him to the vet and he recovered but it was a rare brush with death in our little happy world.
Which leads me inexplicably to our experiments with the toad. One day Chris and Terry and Gary and Mick and I and who knows who else found a toad and decided to test it's endurance levels. We buried it in a box for an hour. It survived. For two hours. Survival. Three, four, five, ten hours and still it's beating heart pumped life.
Then overnight. Surely that would kill this lousy toad. But no it rose from it's shoebox grave heart beating strong. Ugly, gray mottled monster. Stronger, smarter, more worldly than we...so we crushed it with the back of a shovel.
Life is short and pets come and go. I have had five dogs now over the years that I treasure as I would a child. Still, I raised up that spade and crushed that little toad with all my might. Later we set fires in the basement. Ha ha