Growing up, except for the occasional stray, we never really had pets as such. Of course living in the country we were always exposed to cows, chickens and pigs, but even kids learned early not to form long-term attachments to any of those. At one point I did attempt caring for rabbits in a pen my dad and I built by the wash house. They were a very happy couple and I was totally fascinated but soon after discovering that the intended end-result was dredging in flour and frying in lard I set the whole lot of them out in a field of mustard greens one day and never looked back.
The next time the life of an innocent was left in my hands was the day years later when my best friend and I rented a barely habitable hundred year old farm house in rural North Carolina. We'd convinced the owner that in return for very cheap rent we would carefully restore the property. Foolish man. Anyway, a mutual friend thought it would be great fun to give us a goat as a housewarming gift. Not knowing any better we tethered the young billy to a post by the kitchen door and left for what turned out to be an all night celebration in Greensboro. To our horror, when we returned home we found the goat dead; tangled in its tether. We knew it was just a tragic accident but our friend insisted that the goat had taken one look at its new surroundings and did the only honorable thing and hanged himself.
The point is I guess I'd never really had time for or the need for anything that couldn't feed, bathe or take itself for a purgative walk. Today I can't imagine life without Ralph, Alice, Sister Martha Delaney, Norton, Trixie and Pitch; not to mention the occasional family of opossums, flying squirrels, raccoons and barn owls. They have inexplicably enriched my life and the door is now always open.