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Revised 20 April 2011

An Affinity with Animals

(Carol & Katie and our collie puppie. The dog later had to be destroyed because the local paper boy and town bully tormented it to the point that the dog bit him. He would stand at the point where the dog could not reach him (we had to keep him chained to his dog house) and would kick the dog in the face. One day he came to the house and the dog was not on a chain. The dog chased the terrified bully all the way down our back hill and finally caught him and got its revenge. It only missed the boy's family jewels by inches. I never spoke to that young man again.)

My sister and I always loved animals. Throughout our lifetime, we had a varied and sundry collection of critters staying at our home. Carol also loved to pick up and cuddle the little creatures whether they enjoyed the experience or not. Her biggest problem was that she didn't know her own strength and a couple of times it literally backfired on her.

The first experience that comes to mind with Carol regarding the need to hug them, and love them and call them George, was when she picked up the cat at the local gas station. She simply adored that cat and petted him and loved him whenever she could catch him. On one particular occasion, I also wanted to hug the cat, but Carol simply did not wish to share its affection. I was, at the time, wearing my favorite cowboy shirt, a shirt which was an essential part of any wannabe cowboy's wardrobe. It was a special gift from my Uncle John and Aunt Ruth out in Wyoming, so of course, took on a special sense of authenticity towards being a real cowboy. When I reached for the cat for the umpteenth time, Carol let out a screech of NO! and squeezed the cat a bit harder to keep it from scratching her and running away. At the same moment, the cat left a more indelible reaction to being squeezed and pooped all over her. Being a healthy, normal, bratty little sister, I burst out laughing, which enraged her even more and she marched straight over to me and wiped the kitty remains all over the sleeves of my favorite shirt. I was outraged and ran home to tell mother that the shirt had to be thrown out because it was now blemished forever. No amount of coaxing would convince me that a mere washing machine could restore this shirt to its former glory. The only way my mother convinced me the shirt had a redeeming quality was to cut off the offending sleeves and throw the marred portion away. After that, I wore it until it fell apart. But never again did I try to remove a kitty from Carol's clutches.

Not to worry, dear reader. Carol never learned and I once again had a good laugh at her indiscretion when she picked up a baby pig out on one of the farms. She ran to the piglet and picked it up. It squealed mightily and left a trail all down the front of her dress. She began the chase with...."Oh you cute little thing you.....and then dropped the offending piglet with...."You disgusting animal you." And she had to wear the offending dress home with the admonition that she was not to touch anything or get her dress up against anything and listen to me cackling the entire trip home. Yes, my friends, there is retribution and a price for ruining one's favorite cowboy shirt. Sacrilege is not to be tolerated when one is seven years old.

We are definitely dog people in our family. We had several growing up. They seemed to follow us home like a metal chip to a magnet and we invariably cried, "Oh Dad, can we keep it." His usual response was that if it was still there in the morning, and its owner did not show up, he guessed we could. We were not breed snubs by any means. We had a terrier, a collie, a set of twin miniature dobermans, several nondescripts and Lord knows what else through the years. The only time Dad balked was when I brought home the Saint Bernard puppy, who was obviously lost and wanted to come live with us. I was very saddened when learning the next day that it had disappeared in the night. I found out later in life that Dad had paid one of the local farmers to take the beast out to his farm so we wouldn't be eaten out of house and home. Some of our puppies just came naturally to our door, although I must honestly admit that a time or two, they were coerced with, "here puppy, puppy," followed by an innocent look to my father, "but daddy, he followed me home." My father never could look into our childish and begging eyes and say no.

Over the years, each dog shared its personality with us to our amusement and our joy. Snip and Snap were the two miniature dobermans. Dad and my brother, Don, were driving down a country rode and saw a sack in a drainage ditch that appeared to contain something alive. They stopped to check it out and out came bounding two of the cutest doberman puppies you ever saw. These two had a world of patience with children. They even allowed us to dress them up in our big doll clothes and played house with us. That is, until I put a pair of jeans belonging to my favorite doll on one of them and, you guessed it, the dog did what dogs did and mother made me clean it up. That was the last time the dogs were transformed into living dolls.

One dog had the ludicrous name of "arfy". Arfy developed a bad habit of chasing cars. He was black, homely as mud and had a short, stubby tail. We kept our piano in the garage because there was no room for it inside. When Carol would sit down to play, Arfy would sit by her feet and howl along to the music. The racket would get so bad that Carol couldn't play for laughing. Arfy was finally cured of his bad habit of chasing cars though. One day he got too close to the car the wheel skinned what was left of his tail. Arfy when yipping around the house at a full run, dived into the garage and peeked out from behind to door trying to figure out what bit him. Poor soul apparently broke his tail bone and for days after, whenever he tried to sit, he would slowly lower his behind to the cool floor, yelping every time it touched and would finally manage to roll his rump over to one side where it did not hurt and sigh a huge groan of relief.

When I came to California, we turned to birds. I went with my grandfather to the Camp Pendleton Rodeo and won a parakeet at a dime toss. I was terrified to take it home because my parents were adamant that we would have no more pets. And once again, they were wrong. That little ten-cent bird chirpped its heart out happily the entire bus trip home. My parents bought it a cage and I was told it was my responsibility to clean up its leavings when it was out. By this time, we were living in Sonora in my cousin Elmer's rental house. This house had a back screened in porch and that became Peetee's new quarters. Once he was trained to come (or not) when called, he was allowed to run free in this room. I would listen to my music (always classical) and Peetee would chirp along to the music, which he also appeared to enjoy. Peetees greatest delight, though was when my father came home. My father was extremely ticklish and Peetee would wait until Dad took off his work shirt and was enjoying his tee shirt. As soon as the work shirt came off, Peetee would take a fly directly to Dad's shoulder and run across it from one side to the other, while Dad writhed in agony, then would fly off cackling to himself at yet another good joke on his human housemate. The one thing you must remember at all times about birds is that they love sugar. You had to watch yourself if you were drinking coffee when half awake because likely as not, if you turned your back, your next sip would be a mouthful of birdie behind from a dirtie little birdie who sneaked over to lick the sugar out of the bottom of the cup.

There is one last little dog that I must mention--Squeeky. She was a miniature doxie who looked more like a terrier than a doxie. She has short curly hair and a habit of doing a little dance any time you offered her a cookie. Squeek got into everything and usually ate it. One one occasion, she ate some plastic wrap and for days, all of her poppie came out gift wrapped., on another occasion, she chewed into a tube of numzit, baby teething lotion and spent the afternoon running her face up and down the carpet because she couldn't feel her mouth. But the funniest trick of all was when she ate the bar of French milled soap and then drank a large quantity of water to get the taste out of her mouth. In the ensuing gas that her tummy developed, she had to run for the door, blowing bubbles out of her bottom as she ran like a Lawrence Welk bubble machine gone mad.

A pet, no matter how much work is involved in their care and upkeep, is one of the most trustworthy of friends you will ever have. They ask little in exchange for the unconditional love they give. They will love you when nobody else does, will play with you for hours on end, and will snuggle with you and treat you with utmost devotion all for a simple meal and a place to call home. I never want to go to an old folks home or convalescent hospital that does not allow my dogs to come visit. It just won't do. A dog will continue to love you and watch over you long after human beings have given up on you for good. They don't need to be expensive and they don't need to have a pedigree. Love requires no paperwork to be genuine and no amount of money in the world can buy that gift of love. I know. We have four of them living with us even now. They are rescue dogs who came from the pound. Each has its own specific personality, gives its own special gifts and wants nothing more in exchange than your undivided attention.