The Joy of Pets

Wendy in the back of Walt’s Land Rover, 1988
I grew up with dogs and cats, but my parents didn’t have a fenced-yard, so most of the dogs were killed by cars either because they wandered into the road or because they liked to chase them. Some were killed outright, some lingered, and one dog survived but half his face was gone. My parents were typical country people in that they wouldn’t take a dog or cat to a vet because dogs and cats were free and because they were seen as yappers rather than as pets. When one of my many dogs named Sassy was hit by a car, he ran into the yard, collapsed into my arms, and gazed into my eyes until he died. My father was very moved by this, but not enough to build a fence.

Mike was my first dog, and he was old when I was born. He was such a devoted car chaser that the mailman had run over him several times. The only thing I remember about Mike was him lying on the ground and flapping his tail while I peed on him. I considered this so funny that I could barely pee for laughing, which is probably why I remember it. As tolerant as he was of me, Mike would threaten any stranger who got near me, and this allowed my Mother to let me play outside my family’s country store without worrying about my safety.

A cousin who lived near Chattanooga gave me a cat named Smokie (or maybe it was Cinder, Blackie, or some other clever name for a black cat). She loved that cat, but he would rub against her legs (women wore dresses back then), and her legs would break out. I took the cat home to south Mississippi, which was a distance of 450 miles. Two days later, he left. My cousin and I would talk on the phone from time and I dreaded the day she asked about her cat, but she never did, and I never told her he was gone. About eight months after Smokie ran away, my cousin called, and the first words out of her mouth were, “Smokie came back.” She said she had heard a cat crying and scratching at the front door, and when she opened the door, Smokie ran past her to where his food bowl used to be. When she was a child, Peggy had a dog that came home from across town, but that was the first and only long-distance journey that I knew to be true.

For nearly eighteen years starting in the mid-seventies, I had a schnauzer named Wendy who was the only dog I ever knew who didn’t like to be petted, but she was completely devoted to me and went everywhere I went. When I worked as a remodeler, Wendy spent her days in gutted houses. When I worked as a roofer, Wendy would sit on the highest point of the ridge and either nap or watch the people going by. When I traveled the country checking out communes, drug parties, and orgies, Wendy checked out communes, drug parties, and orgies (as a non-participant). When I hitchhiked, Wendy hitchhiked. When Peggy and I went on vacation (being teachers, we would travel all summer and for two weeks in December), Wendy went too. Anywhere I was, Wendy was, and she always seemed content except for when we stayed at the Hare Krishna headquarters near Moundsville, West Virginia. The sights, sounds, smells, and behaviors of the hundreds of people at that place so weirded her out that she was enormously relieved when we left. 

Twice I left Wendy with other people while I ran an errand, and both times, I met her walking down the road looking for me when I returned. Because she went everywhere and scarcely knew what a leash looked like, Wendy had a lot of accidents over her 17-years, the worst of which was when she fell from the top of a football stadium onto concrete. She and some kids had run up the bleachers, and although there was a guardrail at the top, it was too high to do Wendy any good, and, not realizing that she was on the last step, she jumped one time too many and screamed as she fell. It took over a year for her to recover from that, and for the first couple of months, I had to carry her outdoors to use the bathroom.

Twice, she had her side ripped-open by barbwire. Another time, she chased a cat across the street and ran into the wheel of a passing car (the spinning of the wheel caused her to roll a few times, but she wasn’t hurt). One night, she ate an entire box of rat poison. I called the vet at home, and he said to give her hydrogen peroxide until she barfed the poison up. I was out of peroxide so I drove the seven miles into town to get some. When I got to the checkout, I discovered that I didn’t have any money, so I told the clerk I would pay her later and ran out of the store. I got Wendy out of the truck, and sat on the curb right there in front of Krogers pouring peroxide down her throat. She and everyone else who saw me thought I had lost my mind, but I got that poison out of her. (Peroxide only works if the dog recently ate the poison.) She had other accidents too—eating a used contraceptive sponge comes to mind—but these are the ones I remember best.

For some of the time I had Wendy, I lived on eight acres in a house that my father and I built. If Wendy was asleep on the porch, I would sometimes sneak off into the woods, climb a tree, and call her. The woods being open, I could see her searching for me. For some reason, it never occurred to her to look up, so she would return to the tree time after time, and wonder why I wasn’t there. I would wait until she was far away to come down, and then I would run to another part of the woods and wait for her to find me.

During a trip to New York, Peggy and I went to an outdoor Paul Winter concert at a Sufi commune that had previously been a Shaker commune. During the concert, Paul instructed the audience to howl, and Wendy joined in. After Paul thought we had howled enough, he motioned for us to stop, but Wendy didn’t get the message. If anyone in that audience had an inalienable right to howl, it was she, so I let her rip. People soon started looking around for the jerk who was howling, but Wendy was so low to the ground that few people could see her.

On a hot Minnesota day, I took her to some other outdoor entertainment, and as we left, Wendy was lying on her back in my arms with her head hanging down and her legs splayed out. Someone asked if she was okay, and I said, “No, she’s dead, but it doesn’t matter because she was old anyway.” Years later, a woman said she was moved by Wendy’s loyalty to me, so I offered to sell Wendy to her, and named a price. The woman looked horrified and said that she could never buy my dog, so I kept dropping the price until she went away mad. 

Baxter in a customary posture, 2009
Baxter was also a black schnauzer, but he weighed almost twice as much as Wendy. Sometimes, he would eat used dental floss, and we wouldn’t know it until his shit came out like a rosary. Because the floss never came all the way out, his shit would follow him when he walked away, and this would seriously wig him out (as it would any of us). Peggy would then pull the floss out of his ass while I acted like I didn’t know either of them. I always left it to Peggy to do things that were gross or embarrassing, what with her being a nurse and all. Every now and then, she would decide that Baxter’s ass needed wiping, so she would take a Kleenex and wipe it. I hated it when she did this in public. (When our cat, Brewsky, washes his ass, he makes a face like that of someone who just tasted a dill pickle for the first time.)

One day, Baxter was in the back of my van with the groceries (it’s never a good idea to put food where a schnauzer can get to it), and broke into a large bag of carob chips. He vomited for a long time, but it was nothing compared to when we were camping in Arkansas, and our Irish Setter, Patty, got bit by a copperhead. She was too swollen to walk, so to cheer her up, I gave her a tin of sardines, which she threw up all over our bed. When Peggy said I should have seen it coming, I said that any man would have done the same, and she agreed.

Schnauzers are more flexible than most dogs
We have a lot of raccoons in our neighborhood, and they can be aggressive, which makes them scary in the dark when you can’t see them. One night, I let Bonnie and Baxter out to pee only to realize that there were eight or ten raccoons in the yard. The dogs exploded, so after thinking the situation over, the raccoons crossed the street and went into a culvert that emptied into a canal eight feet below street level. Baxter ran in after them, and there soon followed a cacophony of snarling, growling, and screaming (Baxter doing the last). Having nothing else at hand, I ran across the street in my underwear with a plastic tennis-ball throwing stick and slid down the dew-covered grass to the mouth of the culvert just in time to see Baxter exit the culvert with a raccoon’s teeth in his ass. Being on a steep and wet slope with nothing for a weapon but a plastic stick, I worried that the raccoon might attack me too, but he finally went back into the culvert. By then, Baxter was at home finding comfort on Peggy’s breast.

On another occasion, Baxter ran right up to our neighbors’ two huskies and barked in their faces like he expected them to run. They looked at him with a pleased expression that said, “Oh, happy day, we get to kill us an annoying moron.” One husky hit him from the front and the other from the rear, a situation that caused Baxter to lie on his back and have a bowel movement. The huskies’ person, Dave, grabbed one dog and I the other. When Dave later suggested that my schnauzer had bitten off more than he could chew, I said that, no, he was in the process of waging chemical warfare, and I had only stepped in to save the huskies.

Bonnie Blue, 2002
My heeler, Bonnie, was a strong and aggressive dog who would bite both people and other dogs, yet when I felt the need to chasten her, even a gentle word would break her heart, so I would always cuddle with her afterwards. By contrast, when Baxter disobeyed, I could scream, curse, wave my fist in his face, and jump up and down, during which time, he would look at me with his eyes wide and his front teeth shining in his black face (his upper lip was too short to cover his teeth) as if he was swearing on his mother’s grave that he would never commit such an outrage again. As soon as my back was turned, he would commit the same outrage again, and I could have screamed at him all day long without it making the least difference. He was much like a cat in this way. Brewsky is so stubborn that unless something is really important to me, I don’t even bother correcting him, and even then treats work better than chastisement.

When Bonnie was half grown, she and I would drive to the hospital at midnight to pick Peggy up from work. One night, I saw Peggy walking out of the hospital before Bonnie did, so I said, “Bonnie, where’s Peggy?” Bonnie looked at me with her pretty eyes while tilting her beautiful head from side to side as she considered the possibilities. Then, she jumped onto the floorboard and looked under the seat! I’ve often been delighted by indications that dogs see the world in a very different way than people. It’s as if they believe in magic.

Bonnie also taught me another useful lesson. People often try to make friends with a dog by letting the dog sniff their fingers. Bonnie would take this as an invitation to bite their fingers, so, instead of offering my open hand to strange dogs, I now offer them the back of my fist because it’s harder for a dog to hurt a person’s fist.

Another thing I learned from Bonnie was that different breeds differ enormously in jaw strength. If I wanted to give Baxter a pill, I could easily pry his mouth open, but Bonnie had such strength in her jaws that I was afraid I would break them. 

She couldn't have been more beautiful
One day, I was walking from the backyard to the frontyard when I passed Bonnie crossing the backyard in the other direction. “Hello, Bonnie,” I said, to which she responded, “You’re the joy of my life, Master” (she used to say this a lot, but I never tired of hearing it). Imagine my surprise when I got to the frontyard and found Bonnie fast asleep in the shade. Since there was a total of four closed gates between the two yards, I either hallucinated a dog, or Bonnie did something weird.

I have a neighbor who’s phobic of dogs. One day he was in my yard while Bonnie was out, and he started trembling when he saw her, so she naturally ran across the yard and bit him on the ankle, which inspired him to squeal and throw himself to the ground. It wasn’t the kind of thing that one man should see another man do. Our mailman was also phobic of dogs, so he would approach our house with his hand on his pepper spray.

I watched a skinny little blond girl of seven who, upon seeing Bonnie, ran away screaming and waving her arms in the air in a textbook illustration of how to behave if you want to be bitten by a dog. Another time, a woman was determined to make friends with Bonnie, so she gave her treat after treat until she ran out of treats. Thinking that she and Bonnie were now friends, she stuck out her empty hand, and Bonnie snapped at it in contradiction of the belief that a dog won’t bite the hand that feeds it.

I only saw Bonnie back down twice. On one occasion, I had a weight-bench and some other things in the driveway that I was hoping to sell, and I was in the garage looking for more things to put out. I trusted Bonnie to let me know when I had a customer, so imagine my surprise to find a huge, heavily muscled, and gruff-voiced man standing right there beside me. I immediately looked at Bonnie as if to ask, “Why the fuck didn’t you say something?” and she looked at me like she wanted to melt into the floor. The man said he was fresh out of prison and looking for a weight bench so he could keep up his exercise regimen. 

On the second occasion, Bonnie and Peggy and I were camping in ranch country. Peggy likes to take a walk in the evening, and on this occasion she and Bonnie wanted to walk more than I. It became dark before they returned and, cowdog though she was, Bonnie had never seen a cow, so when all these big bovines started walking toward her and Peggy in the darkness, Bonnie took off running and didn’t stop until she got back to the van. Peggy is afraid of cows too, but she couldn’t run fast enough to keep up with Bonnie.

I had two rabbits named Becky and Buster who I would allow to wander around the backyard during the daytime. Becky was bad about getting out of the yard, and one day she escaped into an overgrown vacant lot. I tried and tried but couldn’t catch her, and during all this, Bonnie was at my side begging, “Let me do it! Let me do it! I can do it; I promise you that I can do it. Please oh please, let me do it.” Finally, I said, “Bonnie, get Becky, but don’t hurt her,” and within seconds, Bonnie had Becky penned to the ground with one paw over Becky’s back.

Once, Peggy and I were biking on country roads with Bonnie and Baxter when two big and strong dogs came out from a house and crowded Peggy in an effort to wreck her bike. We got past them okay, but on the trip back they became more aggressive, so I got between them and Peggy, and told her to take Bonnie and Baxter and go on ahead, which she did. As the two dogs and I stood staring at one another, I realized that Bonnie had returned and was pressing against my leg. For awhile there was a stand-off as the two dogs waited for us to leave, presumably so they could attack us when our backs were turned. I had a can of pepper spray, so I got off my bike, pointed it at them, and starting walking in their direction, all the while cursing and threatening in a deadly serious voice. Then, the strangest thing happened. At the exact same instant, they turned in unison and walked away, and I’ve always wondered how they communicated their intention to do this. I’ve remembered those dogs many times over the years, always with an appreciation for their seeming intelligence and the harmony with which they worked together. Since then, my dogs have been twice attacked by pit bulls, and I even had to beat one off Baxter with my fists. I have come to despise pit bulls. 

Friendlier than he looks, Brewsky at 16.5 lbs
As Peggy’s cat-loving sister warned us when we finally got burned-out on the work of having dogs and got a rescue cat, “You’re dog people, and a cat is not a dog.” The second half of her statement is true. Unlike dogs, Brewsky doesn’t want to go on adventures. He wants to stay home, eat, sleep (in the same places at the same times everyday), have deep-tissue massages, kill spiders, and gaze out the window at passing critters. Most of the time, we have little idea what he’s thinking or feeling because his expression doesn’t change much, yet he is obviously attached to us as can be seen by his desire to be near us, the sweet way he greets us at the front door after we’ve been shopping, and the fact that he becomes upset when we’re packing to go somewhere (he even stops pooping while we’re away). Still, I can’t feel the rapport with him that comes so easily with dogs. For example, Peggy still cries over Bonnie and Baxter, although they’ve been dead for years, and a couple of weeks ago, she was crying while holding Brewsky, and instead of being supportive, Brewsky became annoyed and bit her lightly on the neck. No dog would have done that, and it reinforces my belief that, at the very least, Brewsky is oblivious to social cues that are easily understood by dogs and humans.

This doesn’t mean I’m sorry I have a cat or that I would prefer to have a dog, because cats come with some very attractive features. For example, the litter box feature, the self-cleaning feature, the clean-smelling feature (Bonnie had a wonderful musky odor, but this is rare in dogs), and the fact that, instead of needing a walk when the weather is crap, he would think we had lost our minds if we tried to take him. So, while I feel less of a connection with a cat, decades of caring for dogs has led me to a place I never imagined I would reach, that is I have come to value convenience over connection. Still, not a day goes that I don’t miss having dogs, but aside from the trouble and expense, I also have to consider how Brewsky would feel, and I’ve no doubt but what he would feel betrayed. Humans tend to expect pets to adjust to whatever we throw at them, but sometimes they don’t, and this can be a drag for everyone concerned.

I could go on with pet stories for quite some time, but whatever I wanted to achieve for myself with this post, I think I have, so this seems like a good place to stop. No, I have one more story.

We have a gas furnace in our laundry room and because it is noisy, I built a wheeled plywood surround with vent holes. Brewsky was forever knocking his toys under the plywood, so I finally took off one of the vent covers so he could retrieve them. The furnace soon became his special place, and he would stay there for hours every day. When I discovered that one of the things he was doing in his special place was chewing insulation, I put the vent cover back on, and, god, but did this ever piss him off! He stomped around mewing loudly in a way that could only be interpreted as profanity, and this made me feel closer to him because I could relate to his  frustration at being unable to hold onto something that was important to him. My pets have given me a window into species other than my own, and Peggy and I both miss some of the dogs we’ve lost more than we do our parents. I don’t trust people who don’t love animals. Sometimes, a person will come to my house and, when greeted by my pet, look at him or her in silence, as if a dog or cat has no more feelings than a knick-knack. Once that happens, a distance is created between that person and myself that will never be breached. If someone should ask me who I am, near the top would be: a person who loves animals.


stephen Hayes said...

There's something wrong with anyone who can't love or at least appreciate animals.

Elephant's Child said...

My life would be seriously incomplete without an animal to share it. I grew up with dogs, cats, turtles, fish, birds.
I learned to walk hanging on to our German Shepherd's tail, and I am told he would just about cross his legs so as not to pull me off my feet. I teethed on the same dog's ears (and still feel guilty). That dog was trained for 'man work'. My father used to give exhibitions wHere Harris would do his best to tear apart men staging attacks on him. The attackers wore protective clothing. And needed it. And father finished the act by tossing Harris's lead to his toddler daughter.

Helen said...

Your post is immensely enjoyable ~~ I love pet stories ~ and animals. Growing up in rural Illinois, spend summers helping my grandparents on their farm reinforced that love. There were dogs and cats that came .. and left, Butchie the Beagle my favorite. Two horses Dobbin and Belle, four cows which I had the pleasure of herding to pasture in the mornings, bringing them back in late afternoon in time for nightly milking (which I was quite good at) slopping the pigs, pitching hay from the loft to feed the horses, gathering eggs ~~~ you have managed to resurrect all of those wonderful memories, and more! My first pet was Snowball, a white Persian. Dogs and cats followed through the years, the last cat we had I rescued from life on the street. Now we are pet-less and that's OK ... I watch my daughter's dog and cat when she is out of town. Thanks for so many delightful pet stories. Happy weekend to you and Peggy.

Tom said...

I agree, Bonnie is one beautiful dog. I think we all like our dogs because we're always imagining them saying “You’re the joy of my life, Master.” But then, they are often the joy of our lives as well.

Charles Gramlich said...

Guess we lived much further out in the country. I lost only one dog that got run over, and that was when my dad actually backed over one of our dogs that had laid down under the wheels of the truck.

Snowbrush said...

“There's something wrong with anyone who can't love or at least appreciate animals.”

A lot of very bad people have dogs and/or cats, so I’m hardly saying that we animal lovers are the salt of the earth, but when someone tells me he “hates cats,” (and it is always a he), I immediately wonder if he runs over them when he gets a chance. Or when someone ignores an animal that is asking for recognition, that alone keeps me from wanting that person as a friend.

“And father finished the act by tossing Harris's lead to his toddler daughter.”

What could be more attractive than a combination of strength, fierceness, gentleness, protectiveness, and trust?

“ My father used to give exhibitions wHere Harris would do his best to tear apart men staging attacks on him.”

It’s my understanding that the training is brutal, and I can but hope I’m wrong. On a related subject, I strenuously object to training dogs for war. During WWII, people in this country were so het-up with “patriotic fervor” that they donated their dogs to the war effort. To me, their’s was case of doing unimaginable evil with the best of intentions. When Vietnam was winding down, we didn’t even bring our dogs home, but gave them to the Vietnamese who had a fondness for dog meat. We don’t deserve dogs. They are a perfect illustration of what our species is capable of when we have power over other lives combined with the belief those lives (be they “Gooks” or critters) are less than human. I read a first-hand account of the WWII island-hoppers, and the author said that the most nightmarish thing he witnessed (and this is really saying something), was Dobermans killing Japanese. I can only imagine.

“Your post is immensely enjoyable ~~ I love pet stories ~ and animals.”

It’s long so I didn’t know if anyone would actually read it. Apparently you did, so I’m joyously warm and fuzzy. For some reason, I thought of you as I was writing it.

“you have managed to resurrect all of those wonderful memories, and more!”

I promise to read YOUR upcoming post!

Snowbrush said...

“My first pet was Snowball, a white Persian.”

Why not Soot or Cinder?! Where’s you creativity? I think of all those dogs I had as a kid, everyone of which (after Mike who I didn’t name) I named Wolf, Sassy or Tippy. Why, why why? What WAS I thinking? I named Wendy, and when she died, Peggy decided that she wanted to have a part in naming our future pets. Well, to find a name we could agree to, given how important pets are to us, was quite a chore. For example, Peggy very much wanted to stick our heeler (who became Bonnie) with the name Clair. Well, Bonnie had the beauty for such a delicate name, and she could certainly be gentle, but she was more a brawler/athlete than a librarian/poetry reader, so I insisted that we find a name that reflected both her beauty and her fearsomeness. I still remember the road that Peggy and Walt and I were on when the name Bonnie was proposed (I think by me), and right away, I, at least, knew that Bonnie it would be. Peggy held out for a while, but we agreed to put the matter to a vote among our friends, and Bonnie was the unanimous choice. One reason I objected to Clair was that I would have been embarrassed to have to call out, “Clair, Clair, come here, girl.” Other men would have laughed because they would known right away that a woman had come up with that name.

“I think we all like our dogs because we're always imagining them saying “You’re the joy of my life, Master.”

The sad part is that, so often, we’re their whole lives whereas they’re just one part of ours. And then there’s this whole thing about using them for our benefit with little thought for their benefit. For example, old people are advised to get a dog or cat as a companion, but the subject of what will happen to the dog or cat when the old person dies or can’t care for it anymore in five years or so doesn’t even come up. I’ve also heard that a pet owner should never step in (unless he has a hose handy) when his dog is in a fight because he might get bitten, sometimes by his own dog. Well, damn, what if his dog is losing—he’s supposed to stand there and watch it get killed in order to spare himself a painful bite or two? Everything about how people commonly see dogs is based upon the belief that they’re a commodity rather than a creature of inestimable value. It’s very sad to me to think that, at age 66, if I ever want another puppy, I’ve got to get it soon or I’ll be so old it might outlive me, and it’s not right to knowingly get a pet that will be orphaned.

“Guess we lived much further out in the country.”

Well, perhaps, but although Auburn Road was gravel, it went a long way and was a major connector to other roads and communities. From where I lived to the edge of downtown was seven miles, and even that was too far for me because I was so darn lonely. My only companions were dogs, and a child needs other children.

Elephant's Child said...

I can't speak for other people's training but my father never, ever hurt a dog in training. He chastised them with his voice and I can remember seeing him hit a shepherd (not Harris a later one) with a blade of grass to get his point across.
I agree with you about training animals for war. I wish we didn't. I so wish we didn't.

G. B. Miller said...

I've had a lot of dogs over the years, but mostly now, I'm a cat person. I have no problems with dogs and often have no fear of them, but because cats are, hands down, seriously weird animals, a person who has a cat that owns him is who I is.

Father Nature's Corner

billy pilgrim said...

yes, dogs give us much better unconditional positive regard than any highly paid therapist. nature's cruelest trick is giving them a much shorter lifespan than we humans.

Helen said...

OK OK, I was nine when I named our white cat Snowball ~~ no creativity whatsoever! In my 30s I named our Brittany Spaniel 'Gunner' ~ better? Smiles.

Snowbrush said...

“I can't speak for other people's training but my father never, ever hurt a dog in training”

It hadn’t occurred to me that your dad trained the dog, which is odd because why would a non-trainer do presentations about what someone else had created and why would anyone go to them if he did? What I said came from stuff I saw on TV years ago, and I don’t even remember the program or the specifics, so my opinion meant nothing and I feel stupid for having expressed it.

“a person who has a cat that owns him is who I is.”

Cats won’t initiate much with us emotionally, so we’re left to initiate with them if we want to have intimacy as opposed to simply having a laconic housemate who keeps his own hours and minds his own affairs. I resent this aspect of cats, and I resent always been left to wonder if my cat really and truly gives a rip. I think he does, but since everything/everytime has to be on his terms, I’m not entirely sure. I just know that cats are loners, oftentimes ingrates, and, worse yet, Republicans (I’ve suspected the last about dogs, but I’m certain of it about cats, who, I’m sure aren’t just moderate Republicans, but gun-nut, hedge-fund managing, Ayn Rand loving, Tea Party Republicans. They're probably autistic too).

“nature's cruelest trick is giving them a much shorter lifespan than we humans.”

Yes, and cats too. I sometimes look at Brewsky and think that if someone were to me as I am to him, that person might have known my ancestors all the way back to the time of Christ if not a lot earlier. I also wonder what, if anything, cats and dogs think about death. I know that corpses sometimes arouse their interest and curiosity, but I have no idea what’s going on their heads in the presence of death.

“I named our Brittany Spaniel 'Gunner' ~ better?”

I really didn't mean to be critical, but instead humorous. Gunner....I look forward to photos in which he is sound asleep with an AK-47 cradled in his arms and a “Joy of Firearms” magazine nearby with a bikini-clad cat surrounded by long-barreled guns on the cover. I failed to mention that Peggy and I found agreeing on pet names so odious that we agreed to name all of our pets with names that start with the letter B (we had no special reason for choosing B). Since then, we’ve had Becky rabbit and Buster rabbit, and Bonnie Blue Dog and Baxter dog, and Brewsky. People sometimes ask if Brewsky tipples, but the truth is that I’m the only one in the family who drinks beer and it’s rare for me. Because of this post, I’ve been wishing that my nickname was Tip or Tippy.

Mim said...

love your writing, love your stories Snow

PhilipH said...

An entertaining and epic post dear chap. Your pet subject of course.

How the heck could a cat travel hundreds of miles to get home again? It is almost unbelievable, unless, perhaps, a bit of train hopping was employed by this determined moggie.

We've had a few dogs, and cats, over the years. Two gorgeous Boxer pups that never seemed to mature. A lovable mongrel, a small dog, who was so easy to train and please.

Cats ... so independent yet loyal. I once travelled miles on a Saturday evening to find a vet after our poor moggie had been injured by a road vehicle, probably a motor bike. Against all the odds I found a vet at about 10 p.m. and the lady answered my urgent knocking on her office door. She told me what I think I knew, Candy's back had been broken. Only one humane thing to do - and I was in tears when my thoughts were confirmed.

Now we have no pets, and have not had one for about 20 years or so. I am lucky in that my daughter Clare is a dedicated dog lover. She has had boxers in the past but over the past few years she has owned large mastiffs - Dogue de Bordeaux. Marley sadly had to be put to sleep about a year ago. Clare has a small shrine to him, with a box of his ashes. She now has a younger DdB named Bob and he is the same breed but so different in various ways. I love him and he goes bonkers when I go to see Clare. Such a strong boy too, but not scary.

Thanks for the memoirs Snowy.

All Consuming said...

I loved this post. It's probably my favourite that you've written in all these years. I ran a gamut of emotions as I read through, and your descriptions and stories had me as though I were right there watching each of those furry friends. I envy you the amount of relationships with animals you've had in your life, I've come late to the table, as I was never allowed a pet as a child, and would not have had one as an adult, due to my lack of energy and general ill health (cats were not even a consideration because I was so allergic to them, though they always seem to adore me. The years of steroids cured my allergy, a rare good side effect), but Bill pretty much forced Lardy upon me, and made me promise to at least try her for two months (my fear was letting her get attached then passing the poor mite on yet again, having her feel abandoned bothered me enormously). Myself and Lardy went from sideways looks to her loving me and me loving her within those two months and it's the best thing Bill ever did for me. I shall have another dog eventually, when my Lards has departed, and it is the imminent departure that counters the envy I have for how many of those wee bods you have loved, for you have lost them too. So much of what you have written shows the deep caring soul you have Snow. The following is an example of why I love you so much too -

"On a hot Minnesota day, I took her to some other outdoor entertainment, and as we left, Wendy was lying on her back in my arms with her head hanging down and her legs splayed out. Someone asked if she was okay, and I said, “No, she’s dead, but it doesn’t matter because she was old anyway.” Years later, a woman said she was moved by Wendy’s loyalty to me, so I offered to sell Wendy to her, and named a price. The woman looked horrified and said that she could never buy my dog, so I kept dropping the price until she went away mad. " - HAHAHAHAHAHA. brilliant.

Every time I look at that picture of Bonnie I well up. X

Winifred said...

That was a brilliant post. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I know what you mean about cats, your relationship is different with them. I couldn't have another dog after I lost the one I grew up with. Just couldn't face losing one. It's hard enough losing cats. My husband won't let me have any more because they would outlive us. The house is empty though, I miss my cats.

Brewsky certainly looks a beautiful cat. Let's see more of him.

Sparkling Red said...

From the sound of it, it's not only cats that have nine lives; your dogs certainly managed to survive many mishaps! My ex had a cat called Shadow who used to love to eat curling ribbon, so he would also suffer from butt-poop-string problems. We tried very hard to keep curling ribbon away from him, but sometimes he managed to sneak into the tree room at Christmastime, and before you could say Bob's your uncle he would be producing his own, stinky decorations. This same cat once ate an entire fabric softener sheet and then pooped it out. Why did he eat it in the first place? We will never know.

I would love to have the chance to experience a relationship with a dog, but I don't foresee that happening in the near future. 1) My husband is allergic to everything with fur and feathers, and doesn't believe in "hypoallergenic" pets. Maybe I'll challenge him on that when we're retired, but 2) I would never take responsibility for a dog and then leave it at home alone all day every weekday. If I didn't have a job, like yours, where you could bring a dog along, it wouldn't be fair to the dog. Even when I had two cats they'd get upset if I left them at home all day in each others' company, so I can only imagine how much a dog would suffer.

Linda said...

This post was by turns poignant and hilarious. I laughed so much tears came, especially about the dead dog in your arms, trying to sell your dog and the floss story.

Our dog bit me when I was two, so I have been fearful of dogs since then. Besides, I just like dogs "over there." I have never petted a dog that did not leave with a fungal reaction on my skin. I am still fearful but allergic, too. Same for cats! I don't fear them, but am highly allergic.

Every home I visit with a cat that never comes out for company, has a cat that comes repeatedly and jumps on my lap, purring like I am a long-lost friend. People are amazed.

My chickens are my pets. Fancy's death left me shaken and depressed for about a year. I take care of my chickens and worry, but I never loved one like I loved Fancy,

Emma Springfield said...

I had so much fun reading this. We have always had pets too. Each one has a different personality and quirks that distinguish it from all other animals. I know I will enjoy the rest of your posts as well.

Wine in Thyme said...

Trouble (grey cat), Runt (black mutt), Trotsky (brown/white mutt), Bailey (best golden retriever to have ever roamed the earth), Mica (terrier mutt, sweet heart), Sadie (mini-golden mutt) and Rascal (black lab mostly). Sadie and Rascal share our home with a new cat, Cleo. (in-between a couple of the dogs there were turtles, fish and my opinion, not worth much on the scale of good pets to have) Life without critters is not nearly as interesting as life with them. Glad you are a person who loves animals too.

rhymeswithplague said...

Dear Tippy,

I noticed all those B names and was going to mention it but you took the wind out of my sails by mentioning it yourself in the same comment reply where you revealed you wished your nickname was Tippy.

Your wish is my command. Tippy it is. Tippy was also the name of my first childhood pet. He was a black-and-white Border Collie. All three of my childhood pets (Tippy, Sandy the Shepherd-Collie mix, and Friskie, ditto) were killed by cars at the age of three. After marrying the missus we have had Koko (Manchester), Gigi (black poodle), Tasha (Afghan-Irish Setter mix), Cricket (grey poodle), P.J. (short for Pierre Jean-Jacque Dubois, white poodle), Rudy (short for Rudolph Valentino, dachshund), and Jethro (cream-and apricot Havanese), but we have never had a cat. Odd, as my three childhood dogs shared the house with Kitty (original name, huh?), a yellow tiger-striped long-lived wonder. I also had an unnamed goldfish and an unnamed turtle along the way, and even a rabbit in a hutch. Now we make do with the grandchildren's pets - Sharpie (a black Lab), Chester (a chocolate Lab), and Gracie (spitting image of Kitty except she's grey and seems to like me, although I may be imagining things.

It's been very pleasant wandering down memory lane with you, Tippy. I think our pets are what keeps us sane, if in fact we are sane.

Snowbrush said...

“How the heck could a cat travel hundreds of miles to get home again?”

Maybe cats have a magnetic sense or a solar sense. Of course, it also took a lot of luck and resourcefulness, which makes me think that such attempted trips might not be uncommon, but that while the pets who set out upon them have the directional sense, they’re lacking in either luck or resourcefulness.

“I loved this post. It's probably my favourite that you've written in all these years.”

Thank you! Since you’re somewhat new to such things, I can but assure you that when Lardy dies, it will be easier to find another good dog than if you had had a cat. Peggy always said that when such-and-such a dog died, we would never find another so good, but we always did. Now, I dread the same with Brewsky. As you know, we are keeping a dead friend’s Persian, but that poor thing can’t even bathe himself, so as sweet as he is, Peggy doesn’t want to keep him because she only wants one cat at a time, and I’m hesitant because I would very much hate to have to bathe a cat because the self-cleaning feature is one of the things I love about cats. Also, too many cats have too many personality problems, and while Smokie is free from those, there is the hygiene issue.

“husband won't let me have any more because they would outlive us.”

But why get a kitten? There are cats of all ages at my local shelter, and the ones that won’t outlive old people aren’t easy to find homes for, so you would be saving a life by taking one, and a lot of them would make very lovely pets.

“We tried very hard to keep curling ribbon away from him, but sometimes he managed to sneak into the tree room at Christmastime”

I’ve found that it’s very hard to thwart a cat, but then I couldn’t even thwart a schnauzer. Peggy and I each blamed the other for not putting our used floss in the trashcan (I’m certain she was at fault because she leaves her floss out all the time). I’ve found that both dogs and cats like to have floss pulled through their teeth.

“Every home I visit with a cat that never comes out for company, has a cat that comes repeatedly and jumps on my lap, purring like I am a long-lost friend. People are amazed.”

I think I mentioned that Peggy used to be cat-phobic and is mildly allergic too. She didn’t want cats anywhere near her, so everywhere she went, all the cats wanted to sit in her lap, as if to win her over to being a cat-lover.

Snowbrush said...

“My chickens are my pets.”

Did you see the PBS show about people who have chickens as pets and can’t praise them enough? They’re like pigs in that most people who don’t have them for pets would be appalled by the thought of having them for pets, but those who do have them for pets love them them thoroughly.

“I know I will enjoy the rest of your posts as well”

I hope it will be so, but I do have a way of causing offense regarding morality, politics, and religion.

“here were turtles, fish and my opinion, not worth much on the scale of good pets to have”

I felt that way about rabbits. If I were to have either one of the pets you mentioned or rabbits, I would go for either fish or turtles because rabbits are no more capable of a relationship plus they’re a lot more trouble, and they poop with every third step.

“you revealed you wished your nickname was Tippy.”

Yes, but I would need to move to make it work, and I might even prefer Tip because Tippy is too close to Tipsy.

rhymeswithplague said...

It might be difficult with the local populace, but I see no reason why your internet friends who are some distance away cannot call you what you wish to be called. For example, if I wished to be called Lawrence of Vestavia (I don't) I would be extremely honored and flattered if my readers complied. I'm just saying.

BBC said...

I don't have a pet here, I just feed those that wander by..


We have a sign at our door: "If our dog doesn't like you, we won't either. He's smart like that."

I've been with you through your last two dogs, and I know how horrid their passing affects those they leave behind. Most humans don't leave the lasting grief that a beloved pet does, because pets don't produce anger, strife, stress, and hateful comments. Just love and trust. Incredible trust.

Snowbrush said...

“I see no reason why your internet friends who are some distance away cannot call you what you wish to be called.”

A problem I have is that bloggers often call themselves one thing and their blogs another thing, so when I want to visit their blogs, I’m often unable to remember the blog’s name. So, I’ll stick with Snow or Snowbrush, but I very much thank you, Lawrence of Vestavia .

“I just feed those that wander by.”

It’s a wonder that they keep wandering.

“We have a sign at our door: "If our dog doesn't like you, we won't either. He's smart like that.”

Oh, my god, you have a new blog?! Okay, here are my thoughts…I have NO such confidence in pets. I instead think of them as being as easily fooled as children. Peggy and I often pets cats when we take our walk each day, and it’s sometimes easier for her to approach a strange cat than it is for me, and it appears that the reason for this is our different genders. Also, researchers who work with wolves report being treated differently based upon gender (the thought is that wolves perceive women as less threatening). I remember having a visitor who loved cats and had several of them, and he was one of the few people that Brewsky avoided, and it seemed more likely to me that this was due to the smell of the man’s cats rather than his character because Brewsky has poor vision and relies heavily upon odor. The few other people he avoided were in every instance big men with bass voices, and he would make the decision to avoid them almost the instant they came through the door. I’ve sometimes met women who had a dog, and if the dog seemed to shy away from me, the woman would often say that the dog had been abused by a man, and was therefore mistrustful of men. I always wondered if this is true, or whether the dog was simply timid and viewed men as more threatening, not because the dog was abused, but because men are usually bigger and stronger than women. I’ve also had the experience of trying to catch a lost dog, and it’s a rare day that, no matter how dire the situation or how pure my intentions, that a lost dog will let anyone anywhere near them. Yet, there are a lot of people who have your confidence in their dog’s ability to judge character.

billy pilgrim said...

off topic, but i've been soaking in a steaming hot bath with a few cups of epsom salts every afternoon for the past week or so and my back feels a bit better.

Mr. Shife said...

Loved reading about all of your pet stories. I grew up with basset hounds and couldn't imagine life without one of those guys in my life. My wife and I firmly believe our first basset together helped prepared for us our two children. Anyway thanks for sharing and stopping by. Look forward to connecting with you some more. Take care.

Snowbrush said...

“off topic, but i've been soaking in a steaming hot bath with a few cups of epsom salts every afternoon for the past week or so and my back feels a bit better.”

Never hesitate because something is off topic. I have tried Epsom Salts by the way, and, like massage, it feels darn good, but the relief is short-lived.

“My wife and I firmly believe our first basset together helped prepared for us our two children.”

I can see that. Right now, Peggy and I are caring for three cats, two of whom have to be medicated, and this caused me to comment to Peggy, “This is like having children.”

Linda said...

I don't think I saw that PBS special. Maybe I can find it. Fancy was my loving chicken. She was the injured chick that got to live in the house for a week and was held so she would not be lonely. Fancy followed me all around the yard. If I talked on the phone outdoors, she came immediately and jumped up beside me, talking the whole time. She was one of my first chicks. She saw me lying on my side in the swing and jumped up and sat down near my stomach. Then, she completely relaxed her body, leaning against me.

Do realize I got the baby chicks for eggs in the future. They were nice, then I grew fond of them. Then, I loved Fancy with all my heart.

Snowbrush said...

“I don't think I saw that PBS special [about chickens as pets].”

Linda, here’s a preview:

And here’s where you can buy it for $2.02: