The recent escape of a captive rhea in Hertfordshire (of all places) has made me wonder - amongst other things - why anyone would want to keep such extravagant birds as pets.  They can, after all, decapitate you just by looking at you.  And it can’t be easy to replicate the endless pampas ranges of South America in deepest commuter-belt Harpenden or St Albans.

When I was at school, the family of one of my classmates kept two pet hedgehogs, which - to a boy whose family had kept only the regulation hamster (‘Titch’), a blue budgerigar called Billy, and a ferocious Jack Russell cross called Bos’un (which had eventually to be put down) - seemed strangely exotic, though a trifle unnecessary.  Even odder, though - and still a cause of bemusement to me - was that they couldn’t be told apart and were therefore both called Pickles.

These creatures remained the most unusual pets I’d personally come across until a Blue Bus listener brought in a sandwich box with two tarantulas in it.  Fearlessly, I insisted that he stand 100m away in a sealed lead box behind a wall.

He also brought me - as a gift - a dead tarantula in a lidless Summer County margarine tub.  Unaccountably, I kept it.  I recently rediscovered it amongst some BBC memorabilia in a box under my bed, where it had probably been terrifying my cats for a decade.

Just as exotic, and much more charming, is the pet Belgian hare kept by a friend of mine.  It’s a beautiful, deep brown, shiny and wonderful animal the size of a house-dog and just as affectionate, although you can’t exactly take it for a walk.  At least, I don’t think you can.

All this is by way of saying that, in the last few days, this list has been blasted clean out of the water by news of the most utterly inexplicable pet I’ve ever come across.

An otherwise admirably sensible friend told me - over a cappuccino and a chocolate brownie - that someone he knew kept a ‘hissing cockroach’ as a pet.  He countered what must have been my self-evident disbelief by showing me a photograph much like this one…

The need human beings have to keep animals as pets seems to be irreversible and unassailable and I can understand the comfort and companionship we get from dogs, cats, budgerigars, mice, rats (well done, Lawrence) and rabbits.  I start to baulk a little at tortoises, lizards, snakes - and rheas.

But my fecund imagination is defeated completely by the thought that, not too far from Robinson Towers, a hissing cockroach is being stroked, talked to and fed by its adoring owner.

The heart, though, has its reasons.  And I’ll be smirking on the other side of my face if that cockroach-owner grows into a world famous entomologist and presents programmes about them on BBC Four.

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1 comment:

Vivienne said...

Hi Folks!

I'm having a really frustrating time with my laptop, which seems to have developed a mind of its own! It keeps taking me to pages and adverts which don't interest me at all...why?.......... I've just had to 'kill' six pages to continue this message.

Last season we had two wonderful Rhea at Cherryburn. Chris (Rhea) had a particular liking for cameras and ran off with at least four from visitors who dared to get too close. His antics have unfortunately banned him from returning this season! Poor chap was just bored. He just wanted toys with which to play, but no one would listen to me! I also met a wonderful giant cockroach called Billy while attending an animal communication workshop at the Llama Karma Kafe near Penrith. He was such a brilliant teacher....oh! I forgot Ian, you don't believe in such things as animal communication!

My latest news is that I fractured my wrist three weeks ago. That will teach me not to potter in my garden in the dark after a few glasses of wine! The good news is that I've had a metal plate fitted and only had the plaster on for 9 days! I'm being careful not to overdo things, but have recovered virtually all movement in my hand and wrist again.

I hope everyone else is keeping fit,

lots of love,
Vivienne xxx