My First Pet

Originally published February 24, 2012

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love animals – particularly dogs.  But the first pet that I ever owned wasn’t until my last year of high school in 1968/9.  My family had moved to Georgetown that summer, but I decided to stay – because I was in love – hopelessly in love.  

I was working part-time at Agnew-Surpass Shoe Store at the shopping centre and figured that I could make enough money to pay the $12.00 per week for a room at Mrs. Simpson’s place.  Meals weren’t included, so there were a lot of  days that I had little or nothing to eat.  Fortunately, my girlfriend’s dad owned a restaurant in town.  She worked there as a waitress – after school and on weekends.  After finishing work at the shoe store I would walk to the restaurant and get a plate of chips or a hamburger – in exchange for doing the dishes in the kitchen.

My room was actually the basement of Mrs. Simpson’s home.  It had a bed, couch, small table and chair, hot plate and an old shower stall.  There was a small mirror over the laundry tub, which is where I shaved and brushed my teeth.  It wasn’t much but it was my place – and despite the hardship of living alone, with little or no money – I was very happy.

“But Danny, what’s this got to do with getting your first pet?”, you’re asking.  Be patient Spanky!

Anyway, my girlfriend and I went to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) in Toronto for the day during that summer.  I only remember two things about that day – going on the Ferris wheel and winning a game of Bingo.  In those days, the Bingo hall was a popular place – one of the great landmarks of the “Ex”.  And what made the place so unique was the huge, floor-to-ceiling cage containing hundreds of colorful budgies.  The other prizes were items such as lamps and small appliances.  But when I yelled out “BINGO!” and won the game, I remember going directly to the bird cage and choosing a blue budgie.  The bird came with a fully-equipped cage and handles on the side for carrying.

On our way home on the Greyhound Bus, I chose a name for the bird – Wally.  I always liked the name Wally, probably because I didn’t know anybody with that name, except for Wally Cleaver, the older brother on Leave It To Beaver.  It was a cool name and it was always going to be the name of my first pet – regardless of whether it was a dog, cat, bird or gold fish.

I really loved that bird – he was seldom in his cage.  And while I was home (as my room had become), Wally would fly around and then land on either my head or shoulder.  And even though I could never get Wally to speak – I’m sure there was a meaning to his frequent chirping.  Mrs. Simpson really liked Wally and she would often invite both of us upstairs to keep her company watching TV.  I’m sure that while I was at school or work, she would be at Wally’s cage, trying to teach him to speak.

I had to part with Wally in August 1970 – but gave him to a good friend – who I know took good care of him.  I never had another bird for a pet.  But sometimes when I’m in PetsMart, buying food for my dog Holly, I’ll wander over to the bird section.  And if there is a blue budgie, I’ll smile and whisper “Hi Wally!”

I haven’t been to the CNE since the summer of  ’68 – wonder if they still play Bingo there?

 Hugs,

Danny

Budgie (same as my Wally)

Budgie (nearly the same as my Wally)