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Thursday, 05 May 2011

Shao Zhu

By Johna Ferguson

I’ve had lots of pets, from my first cat to my final pet, which I admit was my favorite.

My cat Pestiferous lived to a ripe old age - until I went away to college. Then I married, had children and along came dogs.

First a huge collie who eventually went to a farm. Then Perky, the sheep dog whose puppies were a real adventure, but she died of cancer. And finally King, the German Shepherd. When the boys left for college, King also went to a farm. My youngest son got me an orange and white kitten so I wouldn’t be lonely.

That kitten was so adventuresome my husband found him flattened on the street in front of our house one morning. We all felt badly so my son immediately got me a female two-year-old cat.

I had just returned from a bike journey in China so I named her Hei Mao, “black cat” in Chinese. She was wonderful but four years later, I moved to China so my middle son took her.

In China, many students worried about my getting lonely so one bought me three gold fish. I obtained a huge bowl from the chemistry department. I talked to old men who raised fish and they told me they were very difficult and often died even with an air pump in the water.

The first three died and then the next three, and then three more so I decided no more gold fish.

Later, a student came with a really strange animal. It was black with fluorescent orange spots. It was a newt, but was on the endangered species list so was really rare and expensive and also against the law to have in captivity. I kept it a week, but my conscience got the better of me and I returned it.

Next, another student brought me a beautiful white kitten, the only problem being it was covered with fleas. I bathed it but she still had them so I spent much time plucking them off.

A clean kitten, but what to use for a litter box? I bought a big enamel basin and filled it with dirt from the garden outside my window. I had to dump it often, refill it and carry it to my room but I was willing as the kitten was so affectionate.

She couldn’t go outside since I lived on the third floor, so I warned the maids not to let her out when I was gone. All went well until one evening.

I was sitting at my desk writing when there was a huge flash, bang and the lights went out. I lit candles, for I was used to power outages, but then I smelled an odor I couldn’t place. I found out what it was.

The kitten had chewed through a light cord. China has DC power so 220 volts passes through the cords. The poor kitten had electrocuted herself plus blowing all the power to the dormitory.

I decided no more cats so another student gave me two parakeets - one blue, one yellow. They had a big cage and during the good weather I could hang it outside my window and they could get fresh air.

I loved them and their chirping, but I was going home for the summer. A foreign student in the building said he would care for them, but he must have forgotten to always feed them; they both died.

Enough of pets, I’d rather be lonely. But then a fellow teacher brought me another, a little piglet. He found it outside a big foreign hotel - probably headed to the kitchen for someone’s roast pig dinner.

It was cute, loveable, clean and trained within days to papers on my tiled bathroom shower. Shao Zhu came when I whistled and rode in my bike basket. But she grew bigger and bigger with all the leftovers I fed her from the student dining hall.

Now what to do? I asked the chef in the kitchen and he said he could take her home to his family in the countryside - they raised livestock, but I must remember eventually where she would end up.

One day, off Shao Zhu went to her sad fate and I gave up eating zhu rou right then and there. (Shao Zhu means little pig in Chinese; pork meat is called zhu rou.)

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Johna - Great story!

When I hear about animals like 'Shao Zhu', I think seriously about becoming a vegetarian. But I never quite have the gumption to follow through! - Sandy

You have not had good luck with pets. I have always had a dog except when I had to be surrogate Mom to my daughter's cats.

I had to have one dog euthanized , another died of cancer and the others had to be given to friends when I moved.

It was so painful to give my last dog away that I decided to never have another pet. I have been 'pet free' for 12 years now and still miss having a furry friend for companionship.

I loved the time line and details of all your pets. They do add spice to your life, don't they? Thanks for sharing.

Wonderful to have all these adventures with the creatures..you've sure tried them all...from a child to a geezer, I have had great fun with all sorts of cats and dogs, some turtles, never birds and only met pigs when camping..only hope we add something to their lives, though I doubt it can ever measure up to what they give back...nice essay...thanks

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