ANIMALS, OF THE FOURLEGGED VARIETY, HAVE PLAYED A DOMINANT ROLE IN MY LIFE – EVEN THOUGH MY WIFE WAS AGAINST HAVING A FURRY FRIEND AS AN INTEGRAL MEMBER OF THE FAMILY WHEN WE FIRST GOT MARRIED.
HOWEVER, OVER THE years things changed. My first encounter with a pet was in Alberton where I grew up. One day my late father came home with a “pavement special” who grew up to become an increasingly intimidating animal. He was big and bold and the rainy night he jumped up on my mother, and left a pair of muddy pawns on the front of her evening dress, was the last straw with this undisciplined bow-wow. The next day he was removed and an abiding image was seeing him being carted off in the back of a bakkie.
Fast forward 30 years and we acquired our first of three Maltese who would become a common site in the Feldman household. Her name was Tiffany and we got her through a comedian friend who bred these dogs. This was our first pet, acquired six months before our daughter Janna was born, and the early days were fun. She had a pedigree, and if she could talk, she would never have spoken to the likes of us. She was also lady -like which befitted her regal position in the pecking order at home. Janna grew up loving Tiffany and sharing many cute moments with her. Then Dante arrived. He was a Maltese mix, with an impressively large head, whom I acquired from a music industry acquaintance. He adored Tiffany and the two became inseparable pals – until the day she passed on from a heart attack. Dante was inconsolable. So we got a naughty little Maltese puppy whom Janna named Cassie to keep him company and she dominated him from the start. He was infatuated by this little bundle of fluff whom we dubbed “that Maltese from hell.” She was often grumpy and would think nothing of snapping at you when she was irritable – but Dante (and the family) still adored her.
Cassie was the only fluff ball I know who, as a puppy, woke an entire household in the early hours of a Sunday morning by wedging herself between the fridge and a cupboard – and we’d only had her a mere 24 hours.
It was a warning we neglected to heed. She typified a teenager of the 90s. She was moody and failed to obey a legitimate command (like stop biting my neck) and dispensed love on her own terms. She was a free spirit and would often patrol outside at night while Dante lay snugly curled up in front of the heater. She also learnt a quaint trick, one guaranteed to constantly annoy visitors to the Feldman household. Without warning she would grip a thick rope, her favourite toy, in her mouth, and then proceed to run along the back of the sofa and almost knock everybody off.
The rope then disappeared from her bundle of tricks – probably buried by Dante somewhere in the garden and visitors were welcome back into the fold. One day I heard furious yapping in the yard. It grew worse by the minute and, on further investigation, discovered our tiny monster had cornered the neighbour’s cat and was about to inflict the coup de grace. Meanwhile, Dante grew old and sick. After sad farewells, we took him to our vet one Saturday morning in order to put him down – but once in the rooms he gained a new lease on life, when he encountered an attractive female patient and started wagging his tail furiously. When the vet asked if I was sure I wanted to put him down I decided to take him home again. I refused to play God. He lasted a further two days and we found him in the kitchen in the morning, where he had slept with Cassie. She seemed totally unperturbed by what had befallen her dear friend.
Cassie’s feathers were severely ruffled one night when a tiny Yorkie followed Janna into our complex. It had no collar, but seemed to have come from a caring home. We let her loose in our home while we decided our next plan of action. Cassie was not amused and took to our bedroom to sulk. She refused to have anything more to do with this hapless hound. The little tyke was both hungry and thirsty and we watched as he ravenously devoured the pet food we laid out for him. We scouted the area with the tyke in Janna’s lap, visiting various clusters in our area. The security guard at the complex across the road said the Yorkie looked like the one from No 7. Nobody was home at this abode, so I left my mobile number. Our unexpected visitor slept in Cassie’s basket in the kitchen, well away from our monster Maltese. The next morning my mobile rang. It was the dog’s grateful owner and the tyke’s departure allowed Cassie to return to her natural habitat. Cassie grew old and we noticed that the energy had waned and she was often confused and experiencing seizures.
One night in December 2012 we came home to find her little body in the pool. We decided then and there not to have another pet in the house. It had become far too traumatic for us.