Welcome to the jungle
It started with a dog. I was on maternity leave, so I reasoned it was no big deal to have a puppy as well as a baby; I'd be home most of the time anyway. I chose a loyal, soppy-eyed breed in the hope she would follow me faithfully around the house, obeying my every command. Well, someone ought to. When she arrived, everyone fell about doting and cuddling and I hoped their appetite for domesticated wildlife would be sated.
Predictably, neither family nor dog kept to the bargain. Daisy is a disobedient, jealous thief. She cannot fetch a ball, is constantly whining for attention, and runs away the minute you suggest a course of action she may dislike. I may as well have had an extra child; at least I could have bribed them to care for me in my old age.
The family continued to nag for nature, and the following Christmas saw the arrival of Barbara and Margot, two chickens. Initially delighted, the dog chased them around the garden, until Margot fluffed up to her full height, shrieked like a banshee and pecked Daisy hard on the nose. I like Margot. However, although my chooks keep the dog under control they take mud baths in my flower bed and eat my herb garden. No matter how often I threaten them with the oven whilst shaking bulbs of garlic in their direction, they continue. Haughty and beady-eyed, they couldn't care less about the wild-haired woman at the back door. They are messy and destructive and nosy as hell.
Last year brought with it Cookie, Toffee, and George, three guinea pigs whose cage and run cluttered my tiny garden further. I was assured they'd live happily together, being brothers, but since they hit puberty Cookie and Toffee have begun a campaign of hatred against George so vicious that I've had to buy another cage and run and keep him in solitary confinement.
And so our menagerie has grown. My house is filled with creatures that scuttle and peck and bark. That shed hair on my pillow, lay claim to my sofa, and lay waste to my garden. But despite this, I feel I've done my duty. My children are learning about responsibility and ownership and death. Some good has come from the herbless dust of wasteland I once called a garden.
And then the doorbell rings. Enter friend, animal lover, and owner of rescue centre for unloved dogs.
Huge brown eyes, liquid, nervous, peek out from a cage door. A squeak, a pitiful gaze, and the family melts. My dictatorial protests are heard by no one.
Just for a while... She'd be good company for Daisy... Only a little... Phrases wash around me but I'm not listening. Really, is there any point?
I sigh. I open the door. Little black and tan paws patter over the floorboards. Flighty ears, like butterflies, flicker past and down the hall, home at last.
Welcome to the mad house, Poppy!