Sharon Randall, 10-01-12: The perfect pet for petless people

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I've always wanted a pet of my own. Not just one I had to take care of (I've had plenty of those), but one I actually got to name.

I remember when I was 6, a classmate named Boyd. His family, like mine, didn't have much materially, but he had a treasure that I did not: A flea-bitten mutt he called "Blue."

Blue made me green with envy. Like his master, he was not the sharpest ax in the shed. But what he lacked in wits, he made up for in loyalty.

Every day, when Boyd and I got out of school, Blue would be waiting. When he saw us, he'd come trotting up to lick our hands -- mine first, then Boyd's.

If it bothered Boyd that Blue liked me better, he never let on. I asked him about it once.

"He's partial to girls," he said.

I started to say that Blue was not partial to girls in general, just to me in particular. Any fool could see that. Instead, I asked a question I'd been dying to ask.

"Blue is brown," I said, "not blue. Why do you call him something he's not?"

Boyd gave me a bad look.

"Because he's MY dog," he said, "and I can call him what I want. Besides," he added, wrinkling the freckles on his nose, "what kind of fool would name something 'Brown'?"

A year later, against my better judgment, we moved to another town and I didn't see Boyd or Blue anymore. But I did get my own dog.

The house we rented faced a busy highway where I spent hours waving at truckers to get them to honk their horns. (Note: Back then, believe it or not, we did not have cable.) One day, I saw a crate fall off the back of a pickup and smash on the road. The pickup kept going. And out of the crate sprang a beautiful, speckled, black-and-white dog that followed me home.

My mother named her "Speckles." She was my dog until she got hit by a truck.

When my children were growing up, we had two dogs -- first Maggie, then Tuffy, both Shelties, both already named when we got them. I loved those dogs. And they loved me, the hand that fed them and bathed them and dragged them home whenever they got loose and acted like they didn't know us.

Maggie died of epilepsy. Tuff developed a brain tumor. I held him in my arms and sang "All Things Bright and Beautiful" while the vet put him to sleep. After that, I decided maybe I didn't need a pet after all.

The kids had other animals -- birds, hamsters, a couple of cats and a bunch of lizards. I never got to name any of them, either.

The animals, not the children.

Now the children are grown with children and pets of their own. And my husband and I live in Las Vegas, where cats hide indoors to avoid coyotes and dogs go for walks wearing booties so their paws don't fry on the pavement.

We miss having a pet. But my husband works late and I'm often on the road. It wouldn't be right to keep an animal cooped up for long hours all alone.

Recently, however, when we went to the San Francisco Zoo to celebrate my grandson's first birthday, there it was in the gift shop -- the perfect pet for petless people like us!

When we got home I asked my husband, "Should we get one?"

He rolled his eyes as he often does, but he did not say no.

So I ordered two. One for us and one for my sister. Hers is due to arrive on her birthday. Ours should be here any day now. I can hardly wait.

A Weazel Ball (a stuffed mini-weasel stuck on a rolling ball) may not be the ideal pet for everyone -- particularly those with live cats or dogs that may be tempted to rip it to shreds. It is not, I realize, a real-live animal. Some people are picky about that. But it is furry and cute and highly entertaining. You don't need to feed it; just change its batteries. And you can leave it alone for days and it won't chew up the rugs.

Best of all, I will get to name it. It's striped black and white. I think I'll call it "Brown."

(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or at www.sharonrandall.com.)

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