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Appeal soon fades from fuzzy Easter pets

Besides its religious significance, Easter always brings to mind visions of pretty baskets filled with candy and colored eggs and, also, of adorable chicks, ducklings and bunnies that seem to signify the holiday. I remember reading an article in The Oregonian’s Living section last year offering clear instructions in caring for these baby animals that we humans, with little forethought, bring into our homes, in spite of our lack of knowledge regarding their care. Especially kids like me who are city born and bred.

My delight was in the author’s timely warning to would-be buyers of those innocent, fluffy animals. Only responsible, committed buyers should fall for their adorableness. How I wish such warnings had been posted years ago for the unwary. Perhaps my wise father would have insisted I return my Easter gifts to the two boys vying for my attention.

The two boys did not know each other. Mike was my high school sweetheart. The other boy, Bud, went to a different high school and was the son of friends of my parents. I had agreed to go with Bud to a school dance.

The chicks from Bud arrived first via special delivery. I wondered if it had been his mother’s idea. For years she had been maneuvering to get her son and me together. No matter, I was delighted with the chicks. Later the same day Mike came to see me, bearing two little ducklings. What a lucky girl I was, now the keeper of four barnyard critters, or so I thought.

First, of course, I had to name them. With Mike’s help we settled on Eenie and Meenie for the chicks, Miney and Frank for the ducklings. A pen of sorts was set up in the basement and dishes to hold their feed and water procured. An old dishpan was to serve as a swimming pond for Miney and Frank.

It took a week or two for the novelty to wear off, for me to tire of cleaning up their droppings and refilling their food and water dishes each day. By two weeks they were wandering all over the basement and had lost their cuteness. What was to become of my pets when they grew up to be chickens and ducks?

There was a ready-made answer for the ducks. Just across the street from my house was a large public park and in the park, a duck pond. As soon as the weather warmed up Miney and Frank would find a new home. But for Eenie and Meenie there was no such solution. My dad offered to build them a coop in our backyard, and I readily agreed. Alas! The chicks spent less than a week in their new location when a night prowler did away with them, feathers and all.

This lesson in the fruitless rewards of raising farm animals in cities was repeated at Easter time when my daughter was in high school. One of her boyfriends presented Sally with an adorable baby bunny. She named it Welch (as in Welch rarebit). I believe Welch had a cage, or did he hop around our basement for a while? I know he had to be kept away from Tammy, our mixed breed terrier.

On sunny days Welch enjoyed nibbling the grass in the enclosed backyard. There came a day when Sally’s brother Lorne inadvertently let Tammy out in the yard while Welch was grazing. The dog immediately took off after the rabbit.

Poor Welch leaped frantically toward the wire fence. Attempting to escape he burrowed beneath it and caught his neck on prongs of protruding wire, emitting the most blood curdling scream I have ever heard. It stopped Tammy in her tracks, time enough for Lorne to corral her and free the poor rabbit.

Sally eventually grew tired of her pet responsibilities and agreed to give Welch to Rosie, our cleaning lady. We’re not sure to this day of his eventual fate. Did he escape? Was he stolen? Or did he become rarebit for Rosie’s family?

Moral of the story: Farm animals belong on farms.

Audrey McConachie-Byers is a member of the Jottings group.



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