At some point in our lives, most of us have experienced the joy of owning a pet. Likely our ancestors also had pets. A dog, a cat, a hamster, goldfish, or for those who experienced the 1970’s, a pet rock. Pictured to the left is our current pet, Chuck, a poodle-shitszu mix who guards Ellen day and night but whom I like to think of as my genealogy administrative assistant. Chuck is also a 21st century kind of dog, a fact evidenced by Chuck having his own Facebook page (one of the kids set it up for Chuck although I still got blamed for it).
Growing up, my family had an ongoing assortment of family pets – from Tim and Tom, the almost identical Persian cats to Murdoch (my grade 3 teacher’s suggestion for a name), the beagle. Andy was our fun loving but too big St. Bernard who would drag my sister by the hood of her winter coat through the snow in the backyard of the family home – much to my sister’s protests and displeasure (and maybe just too much to my delight). Andy was also responsible for ‘eating’ my father’s willow tree. This was really not Andy’s fault though as he honestly thought the small willow tree was a ‘chew toy’ planted for his amusement.
I am aware that my ancestral family had pets, at least on the Hadden side. My great grandfather, Alexander Shand Hadden, and his son, my great uncle, Alexander Gauld Hadden, both loved German Shepherds. My great grandfather’s dog, Queenie, is in every photo that I have of my great grandfather.
Perhaps the strangest pet that my family possessed was Benjie, the Spider Monkey. Yes, the Spider Monkey! Benjie came to our family on loan. My mother was working as a nurse at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto where a doctor that she worked with was looking to find a good home for Benjie while the doctor was away on a two year assignment. Needless to say, having a small spider monkey swinging from your drapes is a bit of a novelty in the neighbourhood, well, at least in my neighbourhood. The addition of Benjie to our household certainly added humorous moments to remember, especially as a result of visits by nervous neighbours whom despite reassurances just could not get comfortable with affection being shown to them by a monkey. I liked Benjie although he seemed to just tolerate me. The person in the family he really related to was my brother, Bob, perhaps because he was the youngest and therefore at the time the smallest family member who might not have been seen as a threat. Bob developed a ‘call’ of “Benjie, Benjie, Benjie, Boy!” that signified their special bond. Eventually, after more than the two years agreed upon, the doctor returned and Benjie left the family although just mentioning his name still brings smiles of recollection to the faces of those of us who knew him and remember his antics.