For most of my life I was never much of an animal owner. It’s not that I don’t like animals, I really do. Maybe it’s because I was never especially close to a pet growing up, or maybe because I have not had much luck with them. But it’s probably closer to the truth to say that I don’t like being responsible for them.
So, it was rather odd a few months ago when my stepson, who had not visited our home in a long time, looked at me and said, “You kind of have a little farm going on here, don’t ya?”
I had never really looked at it that way, but the question made me chuckle, and when I thought about it for a moment I wondered exactly how it all came to be.
At the time he said it we had a dog, a cat, eight rabbits, and about 20 yards from our side door about a dozen goats were hanging out in our neighbor’s yard. And, the stepson was not there when we had a different dog and eight puppies.
Now, to someone who grew up on a farm, that probably seems like a small number of animals. But to someone who grew up in town and spent most of his youthful years without pets, it seems like a lot.
So, I wondered, how did it all come to be, especially when none of it was by my choice?
It started about seven years ago when a young dog showed up at our house completely out of the blue. Our grandson started feeding her, and before long it was obvious that Buckeye decided she had found a new home. She was about as nice as a dog could be – gentle, with a trusting look in her eyes and a playful nature, too – except for all the trash she liked to drag into our side yard from who knows where.
After a couple months it was not hard to figure why she had showed up out of the blue. She was pregnant, and soon we had eight puppies. With no place to keep them, our little outbuilding was quickly transformed into a puppy kennel.
With the help of some friends and the Highland County Dog Pound Volunteer Program, all the puppies eventually found new homes. But until they were old to leave their mother, it was an eventful few weeks.
Eventually, Buckeye got hit on the road and had to be put down. It was sad, the whole family missed her, and I suppose that’s partly why, when my youngest son graduated from high school, he decided that he wanted a puppy as part of his graduation present.
He convinced his mother and brother that it was a good idea, and in a weak moment the night before his graduation party, they all almost had me convinced, too. But since he was leaving for college in two months, I came to my senses and said absolutely not.
But apparently my opinion does not matter much around our home, because the next day the youngest son and his brother showed up with a puppy. For more than five years now I have been the one that feeds and plays with Duke the most.
Not long after Duke arrived, a cat showed up at our house. The grandson started feeding him. And before I was adjusted to one animal, we had two.
I pretty much got used to that, then my wife started talking to the grandson about 4-H projects. Her entire family was deeply involved with 4-H when she was growing up, and she thought it would be good for the grandson.
Before I knew exactly what was up again, rabbit cages were being dropped off at our house. Next thing I knew we had two rabbits, and our animal family had grown to four in number.
Now, maybe I should pay more attention to the goings on around my home. And maybe I should have gotten a hint when more rabbit cages were dropped off at our house. Still, I was surprised again this spring when I realized that our number of rabbits had grown to eight, meaning we had reached double digits in the pet category.
From time to time it has been more than a struggle getting the grandson to understand that he needs to feed his rabbits on a regular basis – to the point that more than once I threatened to let them loose to fend for themselves. And, at one point this summer I thought that we would be rid of rabbits after the Highland County Fair.
But then the fair happened. And something there flipped a switch. Now the grandson has new enthusiasm for his rabbits. He rarely needs to be reminded now to feed them. And he’s talking about breeding them (actually he’s already tried, but as of this date we are unsure of the results).
And I’m beginning to wonder when more rabbit cages will arrive.
In truth, it isn’t all that bad. I have become attached to the dog, the 15-plus years old cat is my buddy, and the rabbits are kind of cute.
I just hope I don’t come home one day to find cows grazing in my yard.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.