My actual first pet was a black and white boy (cat) that I named, in all of my three-year-old wisdom, "T-nut" (my valiant attempt to say Peanut.) He died of unknown causes when I was five years old. I was barely able to understand the concept, and didn't grieve overly much due to that lack of understanding. Which is why, when I think of my first pet, I don't have many memories of Peanut, though he must have been a sweet, gentle soul to have so gamely put up with me at that age.
No, the first pet that I remember was a cat of a completely different stripe. After Peanut was buried, my parents gave it a couple of weeks, then took me to the "pound" to pick out a kitten. I don't remember much about this shelter, though I don't think it was a very progressive, no-kill type of place. Even at five years old, I knew that not every animal was getting out of there.
The shelter workers put me into a room, and then turned loose about twenty kittens on me. Haha, I can't even begin to imagine setting that kind of chaos loose on a five year old child, but I seem to recall that it was fantastic and fun regardless. Kittens of all colors climbed all over me, cavorted with one another, and had a party in the way that only a group of kittens turned loose on a small child can manage.
And then there was one. He climbed up my back, using his claws as tiny crampons. He got to the top, that is, my shoulders, took one look into my eyes, and panicked! He leapt off of my shoulder and went skittering across the room to hide... behind a giant chest freezer. And that was the one that I wanted.
My parents tried to talk me into choosing an easier-to-get, possibly more compliant kitten, but I was dead set on that one. We had to make it a team effort to get him out from behind that freezer, and then he was mine.
He was pure white, with short, soft fur and green eyes. And he became "Snowball" that day. (No, my naming abilities hadn't really progressed that far beyond the days of "T-nut" yet.)
Never a more cantankerous cat existed. He would ride my toddler brother down the hall by sinking claws into the poor kid's back... though come to think of it, my brother thought it was kind of funny. He would hide from us sometimes, and then leap out of the shadows and scare us into gibbering insensibility. And this is what he did for FUN. And yet he would come in and snuggle up beside me at night, before my father would come and send him to the basement until morning.
Snowball contracted FeLV at some point. He was an indoor-outdoor cat, and so likely got into a fight with an infected cat. Not much was known about the disease at the time, this was back in the 1980s. (Or if it was known, it was not conveyed to us.) Despite his disease, he lived to be a very old cat, passing away when I was a teenager.
He wasn't much of a child's pet, really. He liked my mom more than he liked anyone else, and had an unfortunate habit of lashing out at us kids if he felt like we were invading his space. But I loved him.
It is probably Snowball's "fault" that I have my current taste in cats. The cantankerous, difficult to get along with ones are the ones that I have a soft heart towards. The ones that I itch to remove from the shelter so that they have a home in which they can be themselves without worrying about euthanasia due to personality. I'm sure that I have him to thank for Charlotte - if I hadn't had him around for eleven of my formative years, a cat that bloodied me on our first meeting would have probably scared me to death.
Thanks, Snowball. I hope that you peer down at me over the Bridge sometimes, and that you think of me fondly. I've grown up quite a bit from the little girl who would occasionally tug your tail, I promise.
So, who was your first pet? Did you have a pet as a child, or was this an adult-onset mania?