Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Pet Gopher

I'm sure anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I love animals. It's more than just an appreciation for the cute animals as is the case with many people. It's a respect for all living things. Call me a granola or a tree hugger if you want, but I've always held the view that all life has equal value. I got weird looks when I told people about my humane traps to catch a mouse several years ago. I get dropped-jaw expressions when people learn that I will sooner catch-and-release a spider than kill it. And there's been more than one occasion when I nearly caused someone to smash into my back bumper because I slammed my breaks to save a gopher running across the street. I'm not going to kill something unless it is a threat to my own safety. I haven't ever killed anything for the sake of convenience, contempt, or just because I could. That's just how I roll.
My fondness for animals has been with me for as far back as I can remember. I was surrounded by dogs at home, as my mum bred them, and I was known to, from time to time, bring home a dog I found running around stray. There were three dogs that I can remember bringing home. Two had identification tags on their collars and my parents were easily able to find the owners. However, the third had no identification at all. I wanted to keep him. He was a golden retriever and was extremely friendly. I recall my parents trying to talk me out of it, but I was determined to keep the dog. So my parents said that we could keep him in the backyard as long as I went to take my bath right away. I agreed and went to bathe, excited to go back outside to see my new dog when I was done.
Unfortunately, the "gate had been left open" and no one noticed, so the dog escaped. I bought the story since I was about five years old, but it's quite obvious now that my parents let the dog go while I was in the bath. BETRAYAL! Oh well, I got over it.
A matter of weeks after I lost my new pet, I went with some friends to the BMX track that was located just behind the houses across the street from my own. For those of you Airdrites (or Airdrians or whatever Airdrie people are called) who came to Airdrie after about 1988 or so,  the BMX track was where the twin arena is now. The more you know! Anyway, as I said, I went with friends to the track to play. There was a really big hill upon which BMX races started and then a bunch of smaller hills that went around the track. I was too afraid to ride my bike down the big hill, so I started at the base of it and then rode around the track with my friends (they were too scared to ride down the starter hill as well). While riding around the track, we saw a cute little gopher resting on the grass. Walking over to it, I picked it up and held it. It was very calm and seemed friendly enough...I'd never known a gopher to even let me come close to it before. I told my friends that I was going to keep it. We all pushed our bikes through the rest of the track and then over to our neighbourhood. When I got home, my parents were in the kitchen. I walked into the house and triumphantly held my new gopher friend up so they could see.
Well, my parents FREAKED out. I clearly remember my mum screaming "oh my god!" I guess she wasn't a rodent fan...few people are. My dad grumbled "take that outside right now." I was five or I wouldn't obey. My dad followed me out of the house and grabbed the garbage can. He told me to throw my gopher into the trash! I began to cry and said I didn't want to throw away my pet.
"David! It's dead!" my dad revealed to me, "It's been run over."
Yeah, he was right. The gopher was well dead and flat as a pancake. No wonder it was so calm. No wonder it let me handle it. No wonder the flies liked it. But I didn't really understand that then. I threw away the gopher and my dad marched me to the bathroom to wash my hands.I was devastated. My parents then explained to me the ol' "don't touch dead things" speech and then sent me on my way to play.
To this day I can remember holding up my paper-thin pet at the BMX track and seeing my friends' awed expressions. And to this day I shudder at that thought. Imagine what sort of disease or illness I could have contracted while holding that thing. Ewwww.
That's the story of my pet gopher. My love for animals and ignorance about life and death marrying into a disgusting tale for your entertainment.
Oh, as I write this I realize I lied to you in this entry. I have killed a living thing before...and not for anything as noble as self-defense. When I was around eight years old, I saw a small black thing in the gutter (I thought it was a toy). I approached it to pick it up when it suddenly jumped up and flew INTO MY FACE! It was a june bug and it freaked the FUCK out of me. I was so freaked, in fact, that the next time I saw such a beetle, I smashed it under my heel without a second thought. Turns out it wasn't a june bug at all, but a piece of black material balled up in the gutter. And to tell you the truth, if I saw a june bug today, I might just have the same reaction. Scarred for life, I tells ya. So if you ever see me scream and begin curb stomping the air, I'm probably just violently murdering what I think is a june big deal.

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