When I turned ten, I got a kitten for my birthday. A gray tabby with a white face, white paws and a pink nose. I named her Strudel. I had never had a pet before. My dad kept an aquarium of salt water fish when we lived in Michigan (I think it was a distraction from the fact that we lived in Michigan and it was -14 degrees) but I was too young to appreciate how awesome they were, or understand that fish can be pets too and need to be cared for. I wanted a pet more than anything in the world. Cats are pretty easy to train, so my mom, in an effort to keep the white carpet white, agreed that I could get a kitten with the condition that I was responsible for all of the care. That was fine with me; I was just excited to get my new friend.
I remember really caring about animals when I was a kid. Like most kids, I didn’t really comprehend that eating bacon was eating a pig. If I had, you wouldn’t have been able to pay me to eat it. I loved pigs. My kindergarden class went on a field trip to a farm. While we were there, I volunteered to hold a piglet in some sort of demonstration. I was smitten. The farmer let me carry the piglet around for the rest of the day and I was heartbroken when I had to leave him. Although I had always loved animals, the piglet was the first one that I really felt like I bonded with.
Looking back now, I can see that each time I bonded with an animal, it made my love for other animals grow stronger too. Some time after the field trip, I was walking home from the bus stop, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw something flailing in the grass. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was in injured baby squirrel that looked like it was attacked by a cat. I used one of my mom’s oven mitts to pick it up, and when I got home I put it in a shoebox with a warmed-up towel inside. I named it pepper, because it’s fur was a salt and pepper color. Pepper died at the vet.
By the time I got Strudel, I already had a considerable amount of experience with animals, even though they weren’t pets. I understood that animals have shorter lives than people, and are much more vulnerable to injuries. I think that this made me appreciate her a lot more. I’ll never forget the first night I got her. She was teeny-tiny, she probably weighed two pounds (at the most). She sat on the bed next to my pillow and howled all night. I didn’t care…I loved her so much that I didn’t mind not sleeping at all.
This class made me remember all the things I used to think about animals when I was a kid. It made me realize that it is really important to get kids acquainted with animals, and make sure that they have positive interactions. At my bus stop in elementary school, there was a boy who used to throw frogs at girls. They girls used to scream and cry because the frogs were “disgusting.” I wasn’t afraid of frogs, and because I wasn’t afraid of them they didn’t get thrown my way. Nevertheless, I told my dad that this was happening, and I distinctly remember him freaking out about what a terrible thing that kid was doing. Throwing frogs like they are snowballs is not okay. It is a perfect example of why kids need to be educated about animals and supervised when they around them by an adult who can answer questions.