I always wanted a pet of my own, something that was mine that no one could get rid of on a whim. I wrote a blog about my pet parakeet and what happened to it, but this one is about a secret pet that I had.
My sister always seemed to get a pet whenever she wanted one. When she was about 9 years old, she got a purebred beagle puppy that she named Brown Sugar. After having her for about 3 months she got tired of having to take care of the dog, and she wanted to give her away. My Dad said no, that she wanted her so it was her responsibility to care for her. About a week later, the front gate was “accidentally” left open and Brown Sugar escaped. She got hit and killed by a car.
A year later my mother gave in to my sisters’ latest tangent and decided to let her have a guinea pig. My Dad insisted I get one also. I loved my little “Blackberry” and I took good care of her. My sister realized that the guinea pig was a lot of work, and she no longer wanted it. I offered to take hers but she refused. One morning I woke up and both animals were gone. I rushed around the house looking for them, but they were nowhere to be found. Then I saw my Dad carrying both animals in from outside. Both of the animals were dead! Apparently, my sister had put them out the night before because they smelled bad and left them there. Where we lived we were surrounded by desert animals and one had gotten into the yard and tried to eat them. The poor things had died from their wounds.
So, when I found my special little pet, I knew had to keep it a secret. In one corner of our yard, we had a very large pine tree. The limbs hung down almost to the ground which made it an ideal hiding place. I spent many hours playing there and no one knew. So when I found “Fred”, I knew exactly where I could keep him. First, I found some discarded 2×4 pieces and I made a square out of them. I placed it on the ground under the tree. Then, I got a bucket and started scooping sand out of my sandbox and poured it into the square. I ventured into the alley that ran behind our house and found a variety of rocks to put in it. Last but not least, I took a lid off a discarded jar and put water in it so Fred could stay hydrated.
Every day I would run home from school and search the yard for ants, beetles, or grasshoppers to feed him. His kind would normally hunt for their own food, but I think I spoiled him by getting him his meals! I would dig holes for him to crawl in and out of, and I even found a small cactus to put in his home. My favorite thing was to just hold him in my hand. He would run up and down my arm and it would tickle. I had him for close to a year when something unthinkable happened.
I remember it was a Sunday because I had just gotten home from church. I ran indoors and changed my clothes and snuck out to my tree. When I looked in Fred’s habitat, I couldn’t see him. Granted he did kinda blend in with the sand but when I would walk up he would usually crawl out of wherever he was hiding. I got on my knees and started digging through the sand. I was frantic. Suddenly his head appeared from under a rock and I reached out to pick him up, and he spits blood out of the corners of his eyes at me. I started screaming and ran inside to wash it off the side of my face. My Dad stood at the bathroom door and kept asking me what was wrong, so I told him. He walked with me to my hideout, got on his knees, and crawled under the limbs. There was Fred sitting on a rock like nothing had happened! My Dad reached over and grabbed him. He backed out from the tree, and he told me to follow him.
There was an arroyo that ran behind the houses across the street and that is where we headed. When we got to the edge of it my Dad said to say goodbye to Fred because he needed to go back where he belonged. I cried because I knew I would miss him. On the way back to the house Dad explained that a horny toad was never meant to be a pet. He said I may have made it so that he will have a hard time getting the food he needed, but he was sure Fred would adapt. He also explained that the blood squirting was a defensive act that horny toads do when they feel threatened and that I probably startled him. I learned a valuable lesson that day, wild desert animals do not make appropriate pets.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.