Why am I writing this now? Well, it’s spring and in case you didn’t know, in Pet Rescue Circles, Spring is known as “the killing season”. Hundreds of thousands of kittens, cats, dogs and puppies are put to death each year, but the number doubles during the spring due to so many being born. It’s time to ask yourself: is your pet a member of your family? Would you get rid of your child or your mother because you were moving, and the apartment or house didn’t allow them? If the answer is yes, you don’t deserve to have pets. Sorry if this offends you, but it’s my opinion and I’m not ashamed of it.
I’ve always been a pet person. I grew up a pet person. Not an educated cat or dog person, although I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Does this mean I never went to School? On the contrary. What is a “pet person?”, an “educated pet Person? A real pet person greets a cat upon entering a house; if a human is out walking the dog they usually speak to the pet first; they remember who the person is by what kind of dog or cat they live with; and above all, they would no more dream of getting rid of a cat or dog because they were moving and it was inconvenient to keep them or because they suddenly didn’t match their decorator scheme, than they would get rid of Old Aunt Hattie because she makes horrid apple pies. An educated pet person is pretty much the same, but an educated dog person can also tell you what a puppy mill is, how to obtain information about dog breeders, they may even have the phone number of the American or United Kennel Club and not be too intimidated to use it if they want information. An educated cat person doesn’t let their cats risk their lives out of doors unless they are supervised.
Growing up we always had a dog and usually a cat. The cats were useful; they diligently hunted vermin, and no mice or rats ate the rubber fittings of any washer or dryer in a garage where they held sway. They were regarded as an extension of family; the dogs were—er—dog-kin, as it were. The cats were too sure they were superior to be kin to us.
I was born into a home with two dogs; a lovely, russet cocker spaniel appropriately named Lady (short for Lady Bug) who belonged to my mother and stuck like Velcro to her. We also owned a handsome German Shepard named Colonel, who my father had obtained from another worker at Douglas Air Base. Despite his military name, our Colonel loved children and had to be removed from the room if my mother wished to discipline me for some childish infraction. He once refused to let a stranger into the front yard when I was playing there (the stranger later proved to be my father’s long-lost younger brother whom he hadn’t seen since the brother was about five).
Our dogs slept in the house, or in the case of my grandmother, in her bed. She claimed a warm Chihuahua kept her blood pressure down and prevented arthritis and lowered her blood pressure. My father would retort that there was no scientific basis for such a claim and that persons who lay down with dogs got up with fleas. He has since been proven wrong about the blood pressure; Doctors now agree that stroking animals DOES lower blood pressure. It’s too bad Granny is no longer with us to rub it in to my father (also passed away—so I can suppose she does this in the afterlife) that she was right, and he was wrong.
I believe my parents aversion to having the dogs sleep with them began with my mother, who once had the unenviable task of assisting my 9-year-old self to remove the residue when I decided to emulate my Grandmother and take one of her Chihuahua pups to bed with me. Since the puppy wasn’t yet housebroken, was too small to get down off the bed, and I didn’t wake up to put her out as I’d promised, you can imagine the messy, smelly result.
My mother’s Chihuahua was brown, with seal points and great dark eyes. She slept in a box by my mother’s bed on a heating pad, whose cover was lovingly washed each week with the household laundry. During the day, she slept on my mother’s lap when she wasn’t eating. Minimal activity and a voracious appetite soon meant that Fifi lost her girlish figure and resembled and overstuffed balloon. She also put my mother’s legs to sleep.
My father’s oversize red Chihuahua, Jiggs, had a divided allegiance. By day he was my father’s shadow on construction sites, going fearlessly up ladders onto roofs, drinking cold coffee out of my father’s cup when he wasn’t looking, and fiercely defending the open windows of the work truck when he was left on guard if my father had to enter a store where dogs weren’t welcomed. By night, he joined my Grandmother and his father and mother in a snoring contest.
As I said, although we loved our pets, we weren’t educated enough to confine our cats to the house, or to get our male (a handsome black cat named Merlin) neutered (my father, doubtless in mistaken sympathy refused to have this done because he thought it would make Merlin less of a tom), so the dogs in the neighborhood lived in fear of Tabby, whose father had been the terror of the neighborhood in his day, and Merlin sired countless kittens, thus contributing to the untimely deaths of his progeny.
Between Colonel, Lady and the Chihuahua’s came the very first dog who considered himself mydog. He was a Sheltie my father rescued from the local dog pound. I was persuaded to call him Laddie once I was convinced that it would be wrong to name a male dog Lassie. Little did my parents or I know of the great cross-dressing hoax perpetrated on unsuspecting America by Hollywood, that the real Lassie was, in fact, not a lassie at all but a Lad. I remember Laddie as the most loving of companions. He would sit patiently through my 4-year old attempts at brushing him. He put up with sand crabs from the beach being given a ride on his back, and herded me back from the water if he thought I was going out too far. He also lent an industrious paw to the excavating of various sand castles.
Despite the parade of Chihuahua’s and other small dogs that my family collected, I didn’t find another dog who accepted me as his person until after I graduated from High School. He was a Terrier/Poodle mix who was born to my mother’s pocket-size terrier. I christened him Maxwell because his personality reminded me of a naughty computer in a science fiction book I was reading at the time. Max had medium-long, soft red fur with a blond fuzzy undercoat. He was a true terrier; determined, fierce in battle, always ready for adventure, and endlessly faithful. For the next 17 years, he was my constant companion. Max loved to play fetch. He once wore the pads of his feet raw chasing a stick thrown by my husband’s younger brother. As far as he was concerned, any dog bigger than he was had better be able to prove it. Surprisingly, he never got even a scratch out of all the fights he started. Like all terriers, he obeyed me only when he thought it was warranted. When I got married, he took to hunting with my husband as if born to it; flushing pheasant out from under bushes and chasing ducks at the slough.
His influence was great; I once decided a potential boyfriend just wouldn’t do because Max didn’t like him. If the truth be told the feeling was mutual. Max expressed his displeasure by attempting the hike his leg on the young man at every opportunity, and when the young man had the audacity to state that dogs belonged outside it was the end. Max was tenacious. When he laid a tooth on a stick, you could literally lift the stick off the ground with him attached if he wasn’t ready to let it go.