I was doing something online, and a security question popped up: Name of your first pet?
When it comes to this question, I always think of my first dog, a miniature Schnauzer Ajo; I got him when I was 13. After years and years of begging my parents.
But then I realized he wasn’t my first pet.
We were not allowed to have any pets when I was little. My parents’ arguments were: we live in a small flat, and it would be cruel to have a dog or cat. I never questioned what did they mean by cruel? Like we wouldn’t feed him? Or would we lock him in a cupboard? The second argument was: you want it now, but then you will get bored of it – like you got bored of drawing class, drama class, crochet class, and we will have to look after it, or we would have to rehome it. It was hard to argue, but I knew I would never get bored of my pet.
So for a long time (in my child’s eyes), my only pets were my stuffed animals, particularly my 15 monkeys. They all have names and personalities, obviously.
My first live animal pet.
And then, one day, I got a LIVE animal pet — a hamster. By accident, not by choice of my parents.
Our next-door neighbour bought a hamster for his two sons. I bet he was thinking, what a brilliant idea and what a lovely surprise for the kids! Well, his wife didn’t share his thoughts and enthusiasm. I assume she said something like this to him: ‘ Do you think I have time to look after a hamster?? Am I not busy enough to look after all of you?? Take the bloody thing, and don’t come back with him!!’ So he left with a five-liter pickle jar with a bit of hay in it and a baby hamster.
He didn’t go far – literally five steps across a small hallway, knocking on our door. I can’t remember who opened the door. I just remember all four of us standing there, him with the hamster standing outside of the door, trying to explain the situation, and his wife eyeballing him across the hall. And probably his sons were crying, which would be understandable. But I don’t remember such detail as my eyes were glued to the five-litre pickle jar and the tiny hamster in it.
He was so cute! He was light brown with a white belly and big black eyes, holding a string of hey with his tiny paws, munching on it, and wondering what the hell his going on.
I don’t know how much convincing it took, but my parents agreed we can have him. Probably they added something like: until we find him a good new home… yeah, yeah!
So here he was, my first pet! My first hamster! My first Mikinko! After him, I had another two hamsters, and they were both called Mikinko. Please don’t ask me why. Easier to remember, perhaps?
The first Mikinko was super cute! He lived in a reasonably big aquarium covered with books (to stop him climbing out – but with gaps, so he could breathe – obviously). In the early 80′ in Slovakia, we didn’t have the fancy crates with tunnels, running wheels, and tiny houses, so he just live in an aquarium. But I would let him out and play with him on the floor, and he was so adorable. Over time, he learned how to pile the hey, push the books, and climb out of the aquarium. He always did it at night, and I often found the little fluff ball sleeping by my neck. No one ever believed me that I didn’t put him there. But I didn’t care; I knew my truth.
I thought we had a bond.
Until one day. You see, when the weather was nice, we would put the aquarium on our balcony so he could enjoy the fresh air. Did he enjoy it? Who knows. But being outside probably gave him an idea that there has to be more to a hamster’s life than just an aquarium, running on a carpet, and being pet by a little girl. So once again, he piled his hay, pushed the books aside, pushed himself up, jumped down, and run. Maybe he even paused, looked back, and said goodbye.
I’m sure he did. We did have a bond!
But no one will ever know. Because we lived on the ground floor and the outside walls were covered with textured plaster façade, called brizolit (which you can’t see here in the UK) , it was easy for him to climb down. And then probably run through the grass, run across the road, railway straight to the meadows. Straight to the freedom! Or a death?
I’ll never know… I did cry a lot. I felt betrayed, as I thought we were friends and loved me as much as I loved him. And I even went to look for him. But my first pet, my Mikinko, was gone forever.
What was your first pet?