It's about time for my dog's bi-annual trip to the groomer and he senses it. It's not that he hates the personal maintenance so much as he fears a repeat of the first time we took him in. That time, the groomer insisted on shaving him because of all the mats. Since that time, we've gotten better at keeping on top of the mats, (or I have, who are we kidding, I'm the Mom and it falls to me.) That first time, he returned home after the groomer, promptly dug a hole in the back yard, curled up in it and stayed for two days except to come inside at night. The dog was chagrinned. It didn't help that we had made such a fuss when we saw him. It was then we realized how sensitive and self conscious he was.
In high school, and just a teensy bit too long past that, I had a job in a pet store. It was a good first job. I learned a lot. Minimum wage paid for my clothes, fuelled my Pinto (I kid you not) all the things any kid in the suburbs could want.
I had always loved animals so it seemed like a good fit. And it was. My bedroom at home soon swelled with furred, finned, scaled and feathered creatures as I took full advantage of my staff discount. In hindsight, how could I have thought my parents were unfair? There were a few years there when you opened my bedroom door, you'd swear you'd walked into a barn.
My zealous menagerie collecting slowed after the miniature Chinese hamsters refused to cease their cycle of mate, birth, eat the young. mate, birth, eat the young and repeat. I came home from school one day to find that finally one of them (I could never tell which was which) had also had enough and had eaten the head off the other. I can only hope it killed its mate first, but with those two you could not be sure.
Then there were the two runner budgies (breeder rejects) that I brought home and named in honour of my favourite TV show Miami Vice. Instead of Crockett and Tubbs, they were Crocker and Stubbs. Stubbs had been born without feet, but admirably managed to balance on his perch better than you would think. Always a little shaky upon first landing and then he'd engage his core and voila, balance. It was quite something.
I had several lizards, one named Ron. Salamanders, dozens of fish. One solitary teddy bear hamster named Gargamel and finally Madison the cat, who lived long enough to *attend my wedding, many, many years later.
Early in my first year at the pet store, while still a neophyte, I met Mikey. Mikey came from one of the other stores (we were a chain) to teach me a thing or two about aquariums, fish, filters and everything related. He specifically wanted to train me on Fluval filters (probably because they were one of the most expensive things we sold). At Pisces (my aptly named store) we had a long wall of freshwater aquariums stacked three rows high. All of them full of water and fishes.
Mikey got a ladder out, climbed up and placed a Fluval on top of one of the aquariums in the top row. He plugged it in. I don't know what Fluvals are like these days, but back then they were a little smaller than a two litre carton of milk and weighed considerably more. Mikey began to lecture me on the merits of this superior filtering system, his height on the ladder only adding to his condescending presentation, when the Fluval filter toppled over, like a rigid slinky, smashing it's top first into the second row tank directly beneath and then its bottom into the third row tank.
Instantly, we had a disaster on our hands. Water gushed out of both smashed tanks onto the floor at our feet and fish flopped and flipped on the carpet. Mikey and I sprang into action, finding empty aquariums and rescuing fish from the floor and the broken tanks. Then finally cleaning up the big, big mess. We've been friends ever since the Fluval episode and I never let him lecture me again on anything without bringing that up. What are friends for?
Pisces lasted about another year before it closed and I was transferred to one of the other stores. For the move, my manager asked my parents if it was OK if I came in late one Saturday night, well after the mall had closed to help them move the store. At the time I really didn't get that they were skipping out on their lease and making a break for it. I look back on it now and think maybe there is a parallel between my parent's patience with the petting zoo in my bedroom and their decision to allow their 15 year old daughter to sneak aquariums and dog food out a back mall alley with potential criminals at night. Then again, it was the 80s. Everyone was hands-off parenting. It was all the rage.
No matter, I survived the move and went on to work at the other pet store for a few more years before I finally had enough. When I walk into pet stores these days to buy food for the dog, the smell instantly transports me back to those days. Not the salad days, but the pet store days. Now the dog and I just have to get through the groomer day.
*Note: I did not take my cat to my wedding. The event was at my parent's house where she was living.