Below is an excerpt from "Manners: or, Happy Homes and Good Society all the year round," by Mrs. Hale, regarding household pets. The passage is quite long, the humor is in the account of the various pets in the author's home.
The small wood-tortoise will be found to be one of the best, safest, and most convenient pets for little boys. Children always long to handle a pet; and they can do so here, without risk either to themselves or the object of their affections. We shall have more to say on this point later.
Our aquarium has had a large population; but, as in the world of humanity, few individuals have risen to particular distinction. Fishes are monotonous pets ; still it is pleasant to see an aquarium, with its variety of life, * and very little care is needed to make the pets comfortable. The chief pleasure to the owners of this " watercolony " is in replenishing it; and one might well envy the happiness of our May, when she comes home with her wealth of snails, bugs, tadpoles, and dragon-flies.
The glory of our aquarium has departed. Only fishes, gold and silver, remain, with one eel and two lizards. During the past winter, this eel lay concealed under the pebbles and gravel at the bottom of the aquarium; but at the call, or rather whistle, of pater familias or May, this " water-snake" would wriggle itself up and out, eager to get the little rolls of meat held in the hands of its friends, even thrusting its long head above water to seize its food.
We have had a large collection also of birds, canaries, paroquets, ring-doves, and a mocking-bird. The paroquets were a novelty at first, and made a grand sensation at the end of their career. May had set her heart upon a parrot, and pater familias promised to bring her one from Brazil; but the fleet was ordered home suddenly while lying at Monte Video, where only the larger kind of paroquets abound, and the result was that May had two paroquets instead of one parrot. We all tried to love and praise these birds, and to persuade May that they were beauties.
Their color was beautiful, — green all over, in different tints, from the softest spring green of grass and opening leaves, to the dark shade of the closing summer foliage; and then their brotherly love (they seemed like brothers) * was more beautiful than their colors. Nestled closely side by side, as their habit was, with their necks crossed together, like green ribbons to be tied in a knot, they were indeed lovely.
At first they were very quiet; but, as time went on, their vocal powers developed. They did not talk; but oh, when they opened their beaks, what a volume of strange sounds those green throats could pour forth !
Unfortunately for our peace, a piano in full practice was within hearing of our paroquets. They listened and learned, and, after some time, began, on their own resources, a performance which none who heard can ever forget. It was as if every chord in music had broken loose, every quaver gone distracted, every semi-tone become a grand crash. This caused laughter at first; but, as the unearthly din went on day by day, even our steadfast patience with pets gave way, and we hailed the escape of one of them from the window, and exchanged the other for a pair of ring-doves; and thus ended the farce of the paroquets. May has never since coveted a parrot.
The ring-doves proved stupid as dunces, rarely opening their beaks except to eat, and then sitting with stuffed crops, seemingly asleep. Nobody thought these would fly away, but they did. Dunces are usually discontented; neither birds nor people are happy who have no resources within themselves.
Our mocking-bird was a female, and therefore could not be expected to sing; but, as it was a present from
May's uncle, General , who was among the early
magnates of the war at the South, and brought the bird from Port Royal, we all prized it exceedingly. Mockingbirds, however, should never be confined pets. Their nature requires space and freedom. Poor Dixie ! Every feather in its plumage seemed to quiver with its longings for liberty. One of her tricks excited much amusement.
When we said, " Hurrah for General ! " teaching her
to know, by a particular motion of the hand, she would fly round and round the cage, like a whirligig, always watching our hand, and ceasing when we ceased to cheer and wave.
One bitter cold night the furnace went out, and Dixie's little life went out with it. She was buried in the garden, beneath frozen turf, but May's warm heart gave her a "fficjacet."
Of the beast kind, our guinea-pigs were a nuisance, the mice pests, and the gray rabbits not much better. But Bunny, our white rabbit, was Fay's particular treasure. Bunny was well trained, and would stand on his hind legs, and hold up his paws for food. He would come at call, and lick your hand, — " kissing " Fay calls it, — and be very innocently winning.
In appearance and habits, this Angora species of rabbit seems to unite the distinctive qualities of several animal tribes, — laps milk like a kitten, nibbles grass like.a sheep, browses like a goat, and loves sweets like a bear; he plays like a lamb, leaps like a kangaroo, and has, like that strange animal, long hind legs and strong tail to assist his bounds; whiskers like a cat, ears like a donkey, fur white and soft as the ermine, and eyes that, in some gleams of light, shine like rubies.
In short, we cannot but wonder where the rationalistic philosophy would place the " development" of our Bunny, and from what class of animal life he can claim to have been "evolved." Probably the learned Herbert Spencer would himself rank these queries among " The unknowable."
Among our domestic favorites the most distinguished is a very small English terrier, black and tan color, pure blooded and thorough bred, one of the most perfect specimens of doghood to be found in petdom. Mio belongs to May; but we all feel that "Mio" means mine, and so all claim a share in loving him. Mio's reverence as well as affection is certainly given to the pater familias, who — softly be it said — is as fond of pets as any of us children, old or young, can be. So Mio is pampered and petted, and leads a useless life, except that he gives much pleasure to the household. His own happiness would be complete, but for one fault; he will bark when gentlemen come in, and then he is scolded. This wounds his feelings, especially if the reproof comes from his master. Then tears gather in Mio's eyes, — veritable tears, tears that sometimes fall; and his whole manner is so humble and pleading, that you could not but forgive him had he bitten you. We should add that he admires ladies more than gentlemen, and rarely barks at a lady dressed in black.
Our sketch is growing long; but we cannot close without a notice of Tip, the only reptile we ever petted. This little turtle was given to May, as one of the waterspecies, for her aquarium: it was kept three years among the fishes. While there it was only known as the "snapping turtle," and deserved its name. It snapped up and ate or killed bugs, snails, the insects of all kinds, and even the little fishes. It was the ogre of the aquarium: though its shell was not larger than might have been covered by a silver dollar, it seemed ,so fierce we were all afraid to touch it lest it should bite.
At length it was discovered accidentally, that this turtle could live out of water,—indeed, seemed to like the change, and became more gentle in its nature. May was glad to be freed from such a destructive in her aquarium, and gave it to little Carolus who had been longing for a pet of his own ; but, as he could not take care of it, both boy and pet came under grandmamma's protection; and so we had a reptile to instruct.
The first thing was to give it a name; and Tippecanoe, shortened to Tip, was chosen. The first lesson was to teach this name. We have heen often asked about the process; the best illustration may be gathered from " Molly Dumpling's" way of " calling spirits from the vasty deep ;" that is, calling for her drowned lover and his drowned dog: —
" Oh ! tearfully she trod the hall,
And 1 Thomas !' cried, with many a sob ;
And thrice on Bobtail did she call,
Repeating sweetly, ' Bob ! Bob ! Bob !'"
There's the secret; repetition, "sweetly." Fix your eye (" sweetly ") on your pet's eye, and thus chain his attention ; then repeat the name (" sweetly") till the lesson is learned. This will be much sooner, probably, than you expect.
" Tip " soon knew his own name, and we then went further. We placed him upon our hand, extending the arm, saying, repeatedly, " Come, ' Tip,' come, if you love me;" and the little creature would run up the extended arm, and nestle at our throat. This feat he refused to perform with any other member of the family, although always ready to come to them when they called his name. But, alas! " Tip" proved himself unworthy the confidence reposed in him, and grieved us all by wandering away and getting lost. His place was then supplied by two little turtles, named " Tip" and " Tina," to which they responded when called, but never developed the intelligence shown by our old favorite.
Carolus has now a wood-turtle named "Terry," who seems to enjoy its new life upon carpeted floors and amidst the luxuries of civilization. We know little of his powers as yet, but trust much the effect of the two great tamers and civilizers, — kindness and love. We find our opinion in this matter confirmed in a charming little work which has lately appeared, " The Chronicles of a Garden, its Pets and its Pleasures," by Miss Wilson, niece of Dr. Wilson, who seems to have a large experience in pet-life. She says, —
"The great secret of training and attaching animals seems to be kindness and quietness, and a certain sort of friendly intercourse with them, which, perhaps, is only understood by those to the manner born. All teasing them, even in fun, should be avoided, if you wish them to trust you and be gentle. There are individual exceptions in every species; but there are few exceptions, either among quadrupeds or birds, that will not soon get attached to the person who feeds them; but they are frequently far more attached to the individual who understands them, and keeps up a quiet, friendly intercourse with them.
" Unless this sort of' rapport' is established between us and our pets, they are (to my mind) hardly worthy of the name: they degenerate into ' captive animals,' and can neither give pleasure to others nor be made happy themselves."