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We Do Love Our Pets

As my children grew up we always had an outside dog and cats that presented us with litters out back in the big old barn way too often. We started with a tiny bowl with gold fish and moved on to aquariums. We had hamsters. One in particular could get out of its cage and run around at night. One could hear his little skitter here and there and we would capture it the next morning and put it back in its cage. One night it got its leg hung up in the cage, could not get lose, and simply chewed it off. We bandaged and medicated his leg and he chewed that off as fast as we put it on, but the leg did heal. A little piece of bone stuck out at the bottom so at night when he got out of his cage and began running through the house, we would hear his little skitter as “skitter, click, skitter, click, skitter, click as the bone struck the floor.


My mother brought a tiny Chihuahua one day, to the children’s delight. She knew I did not want cats or dogs in the house, but, oh well. She had heard that Chihuahuas could help relieve asthma symptoms, which three of our five dealt with daily. She also thought that hanging an Asphidity bag around my neck would ward off polio when I was a child. I was the only one in my class wearing one hidden under my blouse, desperately hoping no one would notice or smell the pungent odor.


Our little brown Chihuahua, Pepper, would come to my bed every night begging to sleep with us. He never did, I did not want a dog in my bed, but he never gave up. One of the kids would grab him up at bedtime and whisk him off to his or her bed, but he would end up whining at the side of my bed before morning.


Daily he would come to me, stand in front of me wherever I was and look up with those big sad brown eyes. “Make her leave me alone. Make those kids leave me alone,” he would plead. If we began to dress, get ready to go somewhere, he would go straight to the carpet in the living room and leave us a present. No matter how many times we punished him, he pooped on the living room carpet when he thought he was going to be left alone. Of course, Randy, the trickster, had to get a false poop and occasionally put it on the carpet, just inside the doorway off the hall so that one of us would see it and exclaim, “Oh no, Pepper’s done it again,” and get the family all worked up.


One visit to our family physician’s office I mentioned that our little Chihuahua had developed a hernia. Our doctor said, “Bring him by. I’ll fix him up,” and he did. Joe and Randy took Pepper to the office one Sunday morning and brought him home a little groggy but all better.


One Monday morning, we were all dressed for work or school and having breakfast when Pepper came to my chair. He was coughing and coughing and shaking and weak with his little legs splayed out. Randy put him in his car to drop him off at the vet’s on his way to work. The others left for school and I was driving to work when Randy called crying. “Mom, he died. He died before I could get him to the vet.” He was sobbing. I was sobbing. We hung up and I called him back when I could speak. Our little Pepper, who had been with us for so many years, had died of heart worms.


Through the years we had other beloved dogs, along with baby ducks and chicks and all those cats. Cats were to stay outside because Anna had quite an allergy to them. Whelps developed on her eyeballs when she played with them, but how she loved those cats. I would come in from shopping and see those swollen eyes.


“Anna, I have asked you to keep the cat outside.”


“Oh, I don’t bring them in Mother,” she would say. It’s freezing outside so I know she has not been in the yard playing with the cat.


“So, the cat hasn’t been in Hu?”


“Nope, I wouldn’t do that.”


“Well, that’s good, we wouldn’t want you to have itchy eyes.”


Randy’s huge aquarium with its many colorful fish was something we all enjoyed for a couple of years, but after the fish, he acquired a big Iguana that he kept it in that aquarium in his and his brother Mike’s bedroom. He would take the thing out for a walk each day on a leash and harness. It was very strong and desperate to get away so dragged Randy all over the house. It would try to climb into my pots of ivy or crawl under the sofa. One wintery night the weather forecast had temperatures dropping into the twenties and the aquarium was on an outside wall so Randy put a light bulb in the aquarium to keep the lizard warm. The cold front did not come through as anticipated and that poor creature was roasted the next morning. Oh geeeze.


In addition to our own animals, we boarded horses in our back lot on Cravens Road. One day I looked out the kitchen window to see Monday, a fat mare that stayed with us for a while, lying down with her legs up under the back gate, struggling of course. Our property backed up to a large, wide-open space owned by the Boy Scouts and the elementary school grounds were across the street to the north of us. My hair required a lot of “fixing,” to look presentable. I could not just jump out of bed, run a comb through and go about my day. It really was thin fine hair that took products, curling iron and spray after my shower and shampoo to measure up to that Texas Big Hair look back then. Well, there simply was not time for that each morning as I got breakfast, made lunches, and ironed hair or clothing. The kids walked or rode bikes to school most mornings or drove themselves once in high school, but there were days I drove them to school, so, I found this Petal Cap. This stretchy, soft turbine style cap with hundreds of silver dollar size petals cut from a stiff white fabric sewn on all over. Donning my petal cap that morning, out I went, thinking, “How on earth did Monday get in that position. Moreover, how do I get her out? If I open the gate, it could scrape the skin off her legs and I certainly cannot drag her back into the lot.” She calmed down a bit when she saw me. I stroked her head and talked to her and decided my only option was to open the gate. I just couldn’t see another way to free her. The gate was a long metal ten-footer so there was no way I could press down her legs as I opened it so I just took the plunge and lifting with all my strength slowly pushed it open. She began to kick and thrash and as soon as the gate cleared her legs, she jumped up, turned towards me, ran right through that opening and galloped off towards the school grounds. I will not repeat my thoughts at that time as I followed her to the school. She grazed contentedly until I got about two feet from her then she would run a short distance and begin to graze again. I finally realized how cute I must look in my morning robe in my petal cap chasing that horse around the school ground. I went home to call her owner and suggested he come get her.


When my three daughters and I lived in my little house in Meadowbrook, Peggy got a very young, gangly, romping puppy. He jumped up on everyone and barked and was a pain to be around. One day as Robert came into the house, the dog was all over him barking and being obnoxious while Peg was complaining about the dog and apologizing to Robert and he said, “I can fix that for you.”


“What? How?”


“I’ve trained all my bird dogs. I’ll teach him to behave.”


“Wonderful! Do you want to take him with you for a week or so and train him?”


“Naw, we can do it right now.”


“OK,” she said, a little skeptical.


Robert put the leash on the dog and took him to the back yard. When the dog did not do as Robert commanded, he would yank the leash, hard. The dog would howl and yelp and sounded like he was being dismembered. Well, Peggy just came unglued.


“Oh Robert what are you doing?”


“I’m not hurting him, he’s OK.”


Another yank. Another yelp, but by the third yank when Robert said sit, the dog sat, when Robert said stay, he did not move. Robert said, “See, he’s a smart dog. You just have to show him what you want him to do and make a point with consequences when he ignores the command. He’ll be a little gentleman in no time. He’s learned a couple of things today and I’ll be glad to teach him another each time I’m here, but Peg you can do that. You saw how I did it. You can teach him.”


Well, that never happened. Peggy could not stand to make the dog yelp and she made sure Robert never got the chance to make him yelp again so the dog just stayed a mess.


Pets, we do love our pets.

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