What a Dog

From my earliest memories there was always a dog in our family. My mother was a great animal lover and she passed that quality on down to me, a quality that wasn't particularly shared by the males in the family. That surprised me, too. My dad was the gentlest, warmest, most affectionate and lovable man I've ever known, but he didn't like animals -- something I've always had trouble figuring out. How can you not love animals? Here are the dogs I've known and loved.

I don't remember life before "Lady". In fact, I hardly even remember her. I don't know where she came from, or why my mom wanted a Dalmation, but I do remember playing with her in the back yard when I was about four years. One day she bit me and that was it. My dad found her a new home.

My uncle Wes (not really my uncle) was a beautiful, black-haired, blue-eyed dancer in Hollywood films in the 40s and 50s. Let's just say he was a bit flamboyant, which was no big deal with my show biz family. He was a member of our family, having even moved from Kansas to California with the family in 1948. I loved my uncle Wes. He was a lot of fun (probably only 22 or so at the time) and he babysat me in the afternoons when my mom had to work. He had a thing for little dogs and gave us a black American Cocker Spaniel when I was about five. He named her "Skibow". Don't ask because I don't know. She was a great dog, though not too smart, and she peed whenever she got excited. My dad called her "Knot Head". She eventually went deaf and died in her sleep when I was 16.

When I was about 10 a friend of my mom's was given a Miniature Poodle puppy as a housewarming gift. Great friend, huh? She didn't like dogs, so she kept him in the garage at night and on a rope in the back yard during the day. Whenever we went to her house I beat a track to visit "Pierre" (whose AKC name was "Joyful Jacques"). He was as smart as they come and always loved seeing me. Recognizing the mutual affection we held for each other, my mom's friend gave him to me. He and Skibow got along well, but Pierre and I were soul mates. He always amazed people with his intelligence. In the late 60s he got a kidney disease and had to be put down. It was very difficult for me.

Sometime after Pierre died, my dad brought home a forlorn little Cockapoo named "Shadow". She'd lost both of her elderly owners and needed a home. It took her a little while to get used to life without them, but once she made the transition she was a jewel of a dog. This was Joel's first dog, and they loved each other. She wasn't very bright, but she was sweet-natured and even won over my dad. Except when she peed on his new avocado green carpet. That's when he installed a pet door. Shadow grew deaf as she aged and her barks turned into hilarious siren-like yelps. And she got so ancient that she smelled. We called her the "Stink Pooch" or the "Choop Knits" (choop ka-nits) behind her back. She died one summer afternoon while napping in her favorite spot in our back yard: under the apple tree in the soft, green grass.

Somewhere in there Joel, Micah and I lived in a house on the east end of Ventura and I got the brilliant idea of getting an Old English Sheepdog. I count this as one of my life's dumbest ideas. A single mom of two little boys (2 and 6) has no business owning such a high-maintenance dog. We had him for about a year and then I gave him to a good family with little kids. His name was "Sebastian". The family called me frequently to tell me how happy he was with them and how much their kids loved him. That's a happy ending.

Then came "Cleo", or "The Lug" as we called her, because she was just a big old lug. I don't think there's a sweeter-natured, more patient dog than the black Labrador Retriever. In her mind the boys were her puppies and she happily let them maul her and roll all over her. She was never more in her glory than when she had kids all over her. Everyone loved The Lug, and she died after as long and happy a life as a Labby can hope for.

Last, but definitely not least, there was Fritz, a Yorkshire Terrier. I worked for a groomer one summer and fell in love with the little tea cup Yorkies that came in there. Later, when I told a girlfriend that I wanted to get a Yorkie, she bought me one that was 9 months old. But he wasn't the tea cup variety, he was larger. At first, I had trouble liking him. Don't ever buy a dog for someone! That's as stupid as an arranged marriage! In a little time, however, Fritz really grew on me. Soon, we were absolutely inseparable. Finally, he became my dearest friend and counsel while I was my dad's primary caretaker during the last year of his life. Fritz saw me through a lot of sadness and grief. And talk about smart! If dogs reincarnate, then he had to have been Pierre; he was even smarter though. Everyone who knew Fritz swore there was a little man living in him. When I moved here to Stillwater I left him in Denver with my mom, who adored him, and then when she had her stroke he stayed with my brother and sister-in-law who loved him, too. I lost track of Fritz, but I suppose he's gone now. I miss him every day of my life and I wish things would have turned out differently. And this is exactly what he looked like. He never suffered the indignity of little bows and barrettes. He wouldn't have it. The only groomer's accessory he liked was a bandanna tied around his neck. Hey, it was Denver and in his mind he was a man.

I haven't had a dog since 1999, and it's hard for me. When we can get a dog, Nettl and I have decided on a Miniature Schnauzer, but I'd also like to get another Yorkie. If I had a large property I could easily have several dogs and be perfectly happy. I love cats, but I really love dogs.


  1. im jealous.. ive been battling the wife over getting a dog in the house... i was brought up the same way.. i had a dog my entire childhood (sometimes 2).. i'd love my son to have one now..

  2. I feel your pain too.

    I just don't think bringing a dog into our home would be fair to the cats. Syd gets along with ever creature, but Sammi would be in the closet all day only coming out to eat and crap. Not fair. And I saw the cutest kitten for adoption the other day. So the cycle may continue.

  3. Dogs are cool. Most of you know I am a "Crazy cat lady". So I have 4 cats in the house now and a feral pride in my back yard that I care for and feed. This now includes 13 8 week old kittens. (Help!)
    My personal belief is that dogs require too much attention and when the humans are away from the house 40 to 50 hours a week, it's not fair to the dog. Then we wonder why Fido ate the Ficus.

  4. Slyde: Fortunately for me, Nettl was raised a vet's daughter, so she loves animals as much as I do. She just doesn't spoil them like I do...

    Earl: When we get a dog it'll have to be a wee pup so that our cat can get used to it gradually and not lose her seniority, and so that the dog will grow up knowing who's the boss.

    Ville: I get angry at people who don't consider that having a dog is much like having a child. They're pack oriented and require attention that cats don't. Nowadays it seems that young women think of dogs as the current fashion accessory. When that Chihuahua is no longer the fad it'll most likely end up in the pound. Makes me want to smack 'em.

    I also agree with you: I wouldn't consider a dog if I had to work out of the house.

  5. all the pics were adorable but Pierre and could almost see their little personalities jumping off the page and right into your lap..I too am an animal lover...dogs mostly but in my OLD AGE...(lol) I'm beginning to develop a fondness for cats. Never thought that would happen.

  6. I've always been a cat person, although I have nothing against dogs. I had a couple of dogs when I lived on the carnival, but things didn't go very well with them. It was better to be petless in those days. I think Jim would prefer to have a dog, but he knows they're a lot more work than cats and wouldn't put that on me, since I'm home and he isn't.

  7. Wes was a Hollywood dancer? We need to know more!

  8. Okay. I'll see what I can dig up.

  9. I popped over from David's (Authorblog) to read this post.

    I have happy memories of the dogs that have shared my life but after losing our beloved 'Guinness' ten years ago I haven't been able to even think about replacing him. :(

  10. David sent me wonderful to have photos of all your loves...the Old English caught my attention immediate...our Old English (which we actually got in England when we lived there) lived to age of 13...we adored her...her name was Digby. We recently lost our 19 year old cat, Ariel and my husband is lost without her. You say your Dad didn't like animals...but he must have liked them well enough to bring home the one who'd lost her previous "parents" and to allow you to have to have any at all...great post!

  11. I agreee with David, and would love to hear more about your beloved dogs and your adventures with them!

    My brothers, sister and I fervently longed for a dog. My parents never considered getting any, even though we lived in the country. They were concerned that so many little ones (we were eight children) would be too much for any dog.

  12. I love animals just so long as they don't live with me.

  13. HorusJay: I knew that would stir up some happy memories.

    Akelamalu: It has taken me about the long to get over Fritz, too, but now I'm really missing a dog in my life.

    Sandi: Well, these aren't photos of my actual dogs, but I selected the pictures very carefully, wanting only those that looked just like them. The only one that isn't quite right is the Poodle: we never groomed him like that; we always gave him a lamb cut. I like small dogs, but not frou-frou dogs.

    Merisi: Okay. Will do!

    RW: You old poop.

    Thanks, David People for stopping in. I can't believe these silly posts of mine are making his Post-Of-The-Day lists!

  14. Next time I'll scan actual pictures!


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