When I was three, I had a kitten named Mittens,
Because he was grey all over with four white paws.
He climbed the curtains, so they gave him to another family,
Who presumably had no curtains,
Or simply liked playful kittens.
Then came Phoebe, my dog.
Because the earlier, sweeter, most wonderful dogs came before I was born.
Phoebe was a sleek black lab mix.
Her strong tail thwack-thwacked down the hall,
Every time someone rang the doorbell.
They called her high-energy, too playful.
I guess we were none of those things,
Because we gave her away to a farm,
Where I suppose energy and playfullness grew in the fields.
She wasn’t completely black.
She had a small white patch somewhere.
On her neck or muzzle.
I can’t remember now; the Phoebe era was short.
My brother had snakes and hamsters,
Which, looking back, don’t seem like a good mix.
I had two brother gerbils, Socks and Snoopy.
One was fat, the other thin.
I remember finding a tumor on the fat one’s small ear.
We took him to the vet, but there was nothing to be done.
When the gerbils were gone, we got Chester.
Ah — the stars were starting to align.
Maybe this was the problem all along.
We were cat people.
Not kitten people,
Or rodent people.
So Chester stayed.
We had enough energy for him,
Because frankly, he didn’t require much.
Just rubbing and scratching behind ears and a warm lap.
The foot of the bed.
A trickle of water from the bathroom tap.
We loved Chester, and he was my only real childhood pet.
When he died, nothing replaced him.
Like good cat people,
We kept ourselves to ourselves from then on.