Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So Not an Animal Person

Have I ever mentioned that I grew up on a farm?

We had over two dozen sheep, two horses, and a dog.

Oh, the sheep. My sister and I started with market lambs as a 4-H project when I was 8. We each had a lamb. I am pretty sure the goal was to teach us responsibility, taking care of something other than ourselves, etc. The actual result was that I developed a huge complex about getting dirty. Sheep stink.

Some of you non-farmers are probably thinking, "Oh, but they look so cuddly." Nope. Sorry to burst that bubble for you. Sheep are loud, stubborn, and stinky.

I named my first lamb Lamb Chop. I was so creative as a child. I also had a black cat named Blackie. And her kittens were subsequently named Brownie, Stripes, and Spots. The goldfish I won at our state fair? Oh, yeah. Goldie.

The first few years of raising lambs was quite fun for my sister and me. (And I? I never get that right. Someone please correct my grammar.) Then we had the (not-so) great idea to purchase some breeding stock so we could have year-round fun and breed our own market lambs, rather than purchasing them from other local farms.

Thus began my hatred of cold weather and mornings.

My sister and I would "feed up" every morning before school. Normally we switched off days, so each of us only did 2-3 days per week. Our father fed up on the weekends. This was obviously pre-divorce, back when we were a family and all loved each other. Wow, I am a little bitter this morning.

Feeding up wasn't too awful. Basically, we would fill the water buckets, throw in some grain, and toss some hay in the hay rack. Maybe a ten-minute job.

Until winter. In winter, the ice buckets froze. And you needed to get the buckets out of the pen, thaw the ice buckets if they were frozen solid, and then refill them with super cold water from the hose. If the stupid person who fed the night before (probably me) forgot to unhook the hose from the faucet, you also had to thaw the hose as it was likely frozen solid as well.

Suddenly, a ten minute feeding lasted over half an hour. Did I mention it was cold? Super cold? Oh, I did.

So cold.

Slowly, I began to develop a hatred for the sheep. I hated feeding them, I hated walking them, I hated washing them (super stinky!), and I hated shearing them. Shearing was probably the worst. It takes forever, unless you're really good. Which I wasn't. It also takes forever when you are also shearing both of your sisters' (Little Sister was old enough at this time to join the fun) and possibly your cousins' sheep.

I'm getting the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

I also despised showing the sheep at fairs, because, again, I totally blew.

I continued showing sheep (begrudgingly) through my senior year of high school. I only showed through high school because I needed a project for my SAE in FFA, which I will happily explain at another time if those little acronyms mean nothing to you.

Then I was free!

And I swore I would never have another animal so long as I lived.

Fast forward to my senior year at college.

I moved into an off-campus apartment with two of my sorority sisters, one of whom had a dog. She swore it was well-behaved and hardly ever barked. I thought, it's only nine months. How bad could it be? I don't have to take care of it, I just have to live with it. The dog won't be in my bedroom. Maybe we'll love each other!

Oh, to be young and naive/stupid again.

She was totally right about the barking thing. That dog (Bella) was super quiet.

But oh my goodness she stunk like it was nobody's business. And we hated each other.

I hated that she peed on the floor and constantly stunk.

She hated that I gave her looks filled with contempt and loathing.

The experience solidified my "no animals" ruling.

I generally deal very well with other people's animals, especially dogs. I like them well enough. I just don't want them in my house. Ever. At all. For any amount of time.

I also don't want to take care of them.

Side note: I hear people say that before couples have a child, they should get a puppy, so they learn how to take care of a being who can't care for themselves.

Stupidest thing I've ever heard.

A child will eventually learn to take care of themselves. A dog will ALWAYS need you to feed it and change it's water.

Now, I'm sure that some of the few people who read my blog are animal lovers. I would never try to convince you to do otherwise. I'm all about free choice. It's just not for me. I'm sure your dog/cat/lizard is absolutely fantastic, and I would be happy to visit with them. OK, not the lizard. But I don't want one of my own. And don't you dare bring your animal to my house.

My point is, I'm used to animals. I've had my fair share. And some of them had their good points. But I really don't want to make the life-long committment to being an "animal person."

Until, last Sunday, animal ownership was forced upon me.

More tomorrow. With pictures of our acquisition.

Also, I have this theory that I detest the thought of animals in my house because although we had a myriad of critters running around, we never had a house pet. (Except for Goldie, of course, but I hardly think that counts.) My only first-hand experience with an animal in the house was that one year in college with Bella the stinky dog, which turned out horribly.

So, if you have a house pet now, did you have one growing up?

Or if you fall more into my category of no-pets-in-the-house, why?


  1. I'm an animal person. In fact I'm sure once I'm old and senile I'll be one of those crazy cat ladies you hear about on the news.

    I can't help it--I think it's something you're born with or not. You don't have to defend yourself for not liking animals. They can be a lot of work and be messy and frustrating at times, and some of us are willing to deal with that, some not so much.

    BTW, as much as I love animals your sheep story is enough to make me not want to live on a farm....EVER. :-)

  2. Mary - Exactly! Either you have it, or you don't. And I don't;)

  3. you really are a great story teller. :) i love to read your blog.

    we had a cat when i was little, but he was getting old by the time i came along, and i probably pushed him into an early grave. (i was an only child for 5 years, and wanted him to be my friend, dressed him up, etc.).

    but honestly, after that, i became an animal hater. i'm allergic, and i think that was a big part of it.

    but then my parents got a cat, and he was so much fun. we went through some rough stuff, and finally decided to get kittens of our own. and now we love them to pieces.

    and the sarah mclachlan/aspca commercial makes me cry now, too.

  4. I love the way you express yourself and really enjoyed reading your story :)

    I *am* an animal person and grew up with them from the womb. Never had any exotic pets except for the time my youngest DS kept a scorpion in his teens. It was kind of creepy, but it stayed in its tank, so wasn't really an issue.

    I love all kinds of animals, but really feel incomplete without a dog or cat in the house. We're the kind of people who treat our pets as genuine members of the family (for instance, our little dog, Cully, is Hubby's and my "baby" and we refer to each other when talking to her as "Mommie" and "Papa")

    Thanks for sharing your blog with us! I'm saving it in my favorites so I can keep up with your entries :)

    -- kimB

  5. This is awesome! LOVE your story, and you told it beautifully! :D

  6. I grew up on a sheep farm. I made a point at doing no farm work, but I always wanted to pet any animals that we had. Of course, the animals didn't want that, so my interest quickly faded. And, my mom and I quickly learned that sheep are STUPID! Among other things, Mom had planted daffodils along the inside of the fence around the yard. The sheep managed to get their heads in and bite a flower off, decide they didn't like it, spit it out, then do the same for each flower on the row. As if the next flower was going to taste really good.

    And, you're right. Sheep are stinky.

    I do miss our dogs and cats, though.