I wonder if what I am about to write is really a reflection specific for Sydney, or are my observations just common to most big cities. I think growing up in a small town and later living in Edinburgh gives me a specific perspective, from which all the features of big cities seem more exaggerated. But this reflection is supposed to be about pets, not big cities, so let’s move on.
On my first day in Sydney we were taken on a campus tour. As we walked across the university grounds, we have encountered strange white and black bird, to which as I found out later, people here refer to as “ibis”. None of my fellow exchange students seems to be particularly bothered by the presence of a strange creature, but I found it absolutely fascinating since it was like nothing I have ever encountered in Europe. I think this fascination for strange creatures, bizarre Australian fauna and flora is a common theme in my experience. The thing about pets however as opposed to wild animals is that my Australian friends do not run after me shouting “Don’t touch it!” whenever I try and approach them.
I think the first pets I have made acquaintance with were goats that I have met just outside of the city. One interesting thing about Australia is how many people make a statement out of not wearing shoes. I do not think I have ever met anyone who would refuse to wear shoes on daily basis before. And even more so, someone who would refuse to wear shoes on daily basis and who would be so attached to their pet goats. I remember meeting rather grumpy goat-mum and her numerous kids named after different types of flowers. The most interesting thing about this random encounter was however conversation with the shoe-less goat owner, who explained to me not only the various benefits of having goats, but also what intelligent and affectionate animals they are.
However, as expected men do not usually have the space and resources to keep goats in the middle of the city. Instead, they seem to keep black cats. I have met a guy named Ahmed in a bar and he immediately told me all about his cat. He described his cat as old and fat and three-legged. From this description one can wonder how long have they been living together and what adventures did they have on the way? It turns out Ahmed has only adopted his cat about two years ago. He has always wanted to keep a cat, and when he decided his life was stable enough to do so, he went to the shelter and asked for cats that are considered unadoptable due to old age, illness or other defects. He told me that the animals that are normally rejected are the ones with the strongest personalities, peculiar habits and many memories and therefore keeping them as company is very interesting. So, once Ahmed saw the cat with three legs that has reminded him of an old pirate, the decision was already made.
Another strange pair I have met was Jack and Omen. In contrast with Ahmed’s cat, Omen is quite a young kitten and still does not have an understanding of how much he ought to bite and scratch humans so they are still willing to feed him. Jack has told me that he has always thought that at some point in his life he will have a black cat named Omen. Therefore, when his friend has given him a black kitten his first though was “That’s Omen. We have finally met”. I have tried to ask Jack why he keeps Omen, however he seemed to think it was a silly question, and said to me: “Well, it’s more like he keeps me”.
I wonder to what extend the people I have spoken to and their pets actually fit into general trends. However, I found the close relationships they create with their animals very sweet. They are especially interesting in the context of current state of affairs, where new dog breeds appear and disappear very quickly and buying exotic animals is part of fashion. It’s good to know that there are people who give their non-glamorous goats, disabled cats and abandoned kittens, unconditional affection.