Ducks to Dogs

One thing I have noticed: children adapt.

My children took to living in the desert like ducks to water. I never heard them complain. Generally speaking, in the adjusting process, it is not the children one has to worry about.


When we arrived in Africa, Jay was 13, Lloyd was 11, Lee 9, Raymond 7, Clay 5 and Elaine was 3. They immediately began to collect animals. And I must say, some of our best memories are of the pets.

The bird came first. He was tiny and would sit on your shoulder…until he flew too close to the boiling water pot. It certainly wasn’t a bird bath.

The duck was next. He followed the kids everywhere, pooping all along the way. He would rake his beak back and forth along the screen until we let him in.

Our favorite pet and longest surviving was Brownie, our brown dog. He came at Christmas with a bow around his neck. Brownie and Kitty (our other “most originally named” dog) howled all night and slept all day. I will save the how-my-husband-tried-to-kill-the-dogs stories for another time. But Brownie often got a bucket of water thrown on him at night. We all adored him.

Brownie ChristmasThen came Freddie, the monkey, a bundle of mischief. His favorite game was to play hide-and-seek with the kids. He would literally bounce off the walls running away from them. Freddie was smart and liked to eat. One morning he opened the screen door, jumped up on the stove into the skillet of hot gravy, grabbed a biscuit from a pan sitting on the counter and flew out the screen with me chasing him. Sadly, Freddie drowned in a water barrel during our furlough…at least that is what the guard said.

Freddie with his dagger

Gruff, the goat, was my pet. He was so cute as a little goat. He would chase Clay and Elaine through the house. But as he grew, so did his horns. Pretty soon it was a frightening experience to be chased by Gruff. He lowered his head at me one morning as I came out to feed him. Only the food pan crashing on his head saved me from his horns. He went to the market to be sold the next day!

Gruff the GoatJay liked birds. He started with a mom and dad pigeon and we ended up with quite an extended family. Freddie was fond of raiding the nests and throwing the eggs out in the yard. We had chickens, guineas (they were so noisy), and a duck named BBQ who slept with Brownie and gave rides on his back to Freddie. There were two owls named Todd and Charlemagne. They were affectionate and smart but one day just fell off their perch, dead.

The bunnies were next. Elaine liked the little soft bunnies. But bunnies are like billy goats; they grow up. Her first was named Frankenstein. He merited his name. He ran away. Several more followed, all cute and all died or ran off. Elaine had a little graveyard.


The cats came after the dogs. Lilly liked cats. There was Dixie and Meg and Thor and Zeus. Dixie would play with Freddie III. Then came more dogs, more monkeys. Once I bought a one-legged monkey to rescue him from the local children. We named him Long John Silver. He didn’t appreciate being rescued and ran away. Our black Lab, Ebony, was another rescue pet. That rescue involved a four-hour plane ride with Ebony, me and Lilly in the cargo area of a small plane.

EbonyDid I mind the work, the mess, noise and funerals?

The animals added much of the color to our memories.

Yesterday Lilly said, “I really like cats.” I am wondering if I need to make room for one more animal…for the sake of the kids.

Genesis 1:21 “So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

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