Kimberly Gerry Tucker shares this story with us for the Animals & Autistic Lives Series. –Elliott
Hello, I am a person who is 49 now, a woman, with a part time job as a carer, barely making it in the world. I’ve a pretty good life on the surface. I’m able to pass as someone not on the spectrum who may just be “odd” but I suffer inside.
This is about animals.
When I was 8 years old, I was given a poodle. She was a little black fluff in a box. As she matured she would turn silver grey. I named her Suzette. When I was 16 I would learn she was actually secretly a gift from my birth mother because I was adopted, something I hadn’t known. In fact when I first saw the poodle at the age of eight, I’d said, “I want to name it Suzette if it’s a girl, and Pierre if it’s a boy!”
Everyone looked at me weird. (My birth mother, who bred poodles, owned the parents to my little puppy, and she had named the parents to my puppy Suzette and Pierre. We were on the same wavelength.) I grew up with this poodle sidekick Suzy, who adored my little hamster Chip, and treated it like a baby, in fact fell asleep with it and groomed it like a baby on my bed. Suzy died when I was 18.
I compare myself at times to others and that’s where I get into emotional trouble. Otherwise I’m silly and smart and funny and Okay…You see, I don’t do crowds. I …sink… in rooms of people. It’s not called shyness.
I don’t socialize. I don’t even really want to.
I’ve had successes, I’ve published a memoir called Under The Banana Moon (acquired an agent and everything) and I show my art regularly–truly these are my greatest communications but recently I was describing my teen years to someone and they involved animal rescue. (His response to my description surprised me but more on that in a minute…)
You see, I would sometimes have three or four dogs at one time. Oh the pleasure of taking home that matted dog tied to the chain link fence and de-fleaing it. Bathing it. Re-homing it or keeping it until its demise. Or just bathing and grooming my new dogs and watching them acclimate to their new surroundings and settle in. I swear they’d start smiling. The baths and attention and cleanliness and walks and good food and CARE and removal and lifesaving departure out of those cages just saved them.
“They were your friends,” he said.
“They were your friends,” he said.
It was like a mantra when my friend said that to me after i told him about how I spent my teens dog rescuing.
When I told my friend this, I realized for one thing, that I (at the age of 49) had few real life human friends, albeit, perhaps by choice, and I realized that TWO, he’s right! I had never thought of it that way before because I had never compared my teens to other people’s teen experiences before.
Did I go to a prom?
Er, no. I belonged to an after school Jeopardy club for a short time but found it difficult to call out answers aloud.
Did I do “teen things?”
Like what? What do they DO???
I didn’t get a manual. I did get pimples.
I did not get a driver’s license.
I did always have animals and still do.
My friend didn’t.
Even before the rescuing began, when I was quite small, I had an imaginary horse that I galloped around the yard and kept ‘tied’ to an imaginary hitching post; as real to my grade school mind as Wonder Woman’s invisible car.
I was diagnosed with selective mutism and Aspergers and still find communication quite hard. I struggle with neurological deficits like spatial weakness and Broca’s weakness, in particular when tired and I still don’t drive. If I ever do I hope people won’t make a big deal about it. As in, “Good for you!” I can’t stand condescension; and believe me I see a lot of that. Sometimes I close my eyes and pretend I live on a farm. Or that I have a job at a zoo. For now, I completely enjoy my dog and cat.