Freedom and restraint

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, June 23, 2024

When I think back on my parents’ pet allowances for my siblings and me, I realize they ranked high on giving us a lot of opportunities for making pet-friendly memories. Our kittens, puppies and dogs were only home in the outdoors, but since we kids were outdoors every possible chance, we enjoyed a lot of animal time. Cats, beagles and bird dog pups are tough and kid-proof. I know from experience!

Not only did we enjoy the domesticated pets, we had the joy of raising a baby squirrel. Daddy had dislodged it and its sky-high home when he was cutting firewood. A bald, baby squirrel could only be loved by its mother and “baby humans.” Daddy showed us how to feed it with an eye dropper of warm milk. Because of our tender, loving care, that unsightly squirrel turned into a climbing, jumping, running critter that caught onto biting much sooner than we ever dreamed. Via experience, we learned that baby squirrel pets should come with warnings!

My prize pet was a tiny fawn that my brother and I rescued from a pack of dogs that was on the mother’s trail. The infant deer slept in a box next to my bed, and I raised it to young adulthood. We expected the “call of the wild” to draw it back to the tall woods, but we heard hunter rumors that a young buck had been shot a short distance from our home. Our pets delivered great joy but also were the reasons for a lot of tears.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The only pets entitled to live inside our home were two parakeets that my sister, Candy, and I persuaded our parents to purchase. That included the cage, bird seeds and a few extras that every respectable pet bird should enjoy. We soon discovered that squirrels weren’t the only biting pets. Candy’s blue parakeet would clamp down on any finger that went into the cage. My yellow one with grace and gentleness would hop onto any finger offered it.

My yellow “Tweety” grew so tame that we asked our parents if we could allow Tweety to leave its cage for just a few minutes. Seeing such a gentle beauty denied true freedom seemed like a form of fowl cruelty. They agreed and out came Tweety. We soon learned that Tweety was no bird brain. She had wings and knew what to do with them! From window to window she flew, with family in frantic pursuit. We were grateful that our energy outlasted Tweety’s. The yellow beauty had relinquished her freedom for a brief “fling.”

I’m an advocate for children to enjoy pets of their own. Animals can add a wealth of joy while teaching responsibility of ownership. Cats teach kids how to love even when they may not be loved in return. Dogs teach unconditional love. Wild squirrels teach that kindnesses aren’t always reciprocated. The most special, favorite pet carries no guarantee for long life. Mean parakeets, like mean people, never taste true freedom. A liberated parakeet knows what to do with its wings, but birds AND humans must learn:  Restraint is a necessary companion to God-given freedom.

Letters to Camille Anding may be sent to P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602.