There is certainly no shortage of animal lovers out there. If you have a question, just take a few minutes to look at Facebook or Instagram, or any other of the social media. And the cute kitties and stupid dog tricks will overwhelm you.
I’m not really different from most of them. I, too, share plenty of photos of my “pets.” Notice how I cleverly put the word pets in quotation marks? That’s because I’ve never really owned a pet. In my adult life, or during my marriage of 32 years, my husband and I have raised two human children and have adopted four four-legged ones. Since I’ve written copiously about my two legged children, I thought maybe I’d spend a few minutes reflecting on my other children. Some of the latter have behaved better than the former in a lot of ways, but they all had a way of making themselves right at home.
Had the internet and Facebook been available to me early on, I could have shown you how Blacky, our white Boxer, protected our children, stole entire loaves of bread (and then hid the wrappers in the corner under a chair), and pulled the covers off of my husband when she wanted to go out for a walk. Blacky hated when the kids went swimming, and hated taking a bath herself. She was strong, husky and aggressive toward anyone who seemed a threat, yet would belly crawl across the floor to a baby who was playing on a blanket in the living room. She allowed my daughter to put dresses and tiaras on her, but would tear through a rawhide bone in three minutes. Blacky was truly a member of the family. (This is a substitute photo. It is actually a Blacky look alike named Hector.)
Our second adoption came three years after Blacky left us. My husband was in no hurry to have the responsibility, nor the expense of another “child.” Sophie, however, was in dire need of a home. Her original family had a new baby who was violently allergic to her. They were also not aware of the fact that cats eat when they’re hungry, but dogs eat when there’s food. Consequently, Sophie was a prime candidate for Woof-Woof Weightwatchers. We put her on a diet, and after losing 30 pounds, she was sleek and slim. She was still lazy. Sophie required emergency surgery four months into her stay with us. Six huge bladder stones and $2,000 later, Sophie made herself right at home. She found her spot on the couch, and while Blacky didn’t care for the aluminum foil placed there to keep dogs off furniture, Sophie just kicked it off and got comfortable. Unlike her predecessor, though, she liked water. In fact, she liked it so much, she would climb in the shower with me.
When it was time for Sophie to go, I had convinced my husband, that the best way to replace the emptiness of losing a four-legged family member is to get another one. Enter Goyo. This old man was seven when he came to live with us, and he did so because I was afraid nobody else would adopt an old dog with existing medical issues. He wouldn’t let me leave the Humane Society without him. He barked until we took him, and then never said another word. And he showed up just in time. Soon after he came home, I lost my job. We really needed each other during that time, because not only did I have no place to go during the day, but both my kids were away at school, so I had that empty nest thing going as well.
Goyo must have come from a different generation. I say that because he had better manners than most people I know. First, he would sit with his legs crossed, paw over paw, like a true gentleman. Second, when he was finished playing with his toys, he would put them away, and I didn’t have to tell him to do so. Years and years of asking, begging and cajoling and my children never learned to put their things away until they moved out and had to live with other people. Maybe that was my fault, as I eventually ended picking up after them. Goyo, like Sophie, was satisfied eating ice cubes and carrots for snacks. None of our canine kids got table food as a general rule. Goyo did, however, become my spaghetti tester. He never told me if the pasta was ready. He just kept asking for another and another and another strand of whatever pasta was being served. Goyo was not only my food critic, my exercise partner and my therapist, he was my best friend. Goyo and I made a pact. He was in pain from arthritis and was losing his hearing and eye sight. He promised to let me know when it was time to go, and I promised not to make him stay one minute longer.
Only two weeks after we had to put Goyo down, I was already at the Humane Society where I met Alexander for the first time. Again, my husband wanted a break, but I was devastated over losing my Goyo. I wrote about him, I sang about him, I drew pictures of him and I talked about him constantly. When I met Alex, I was told that he had been at the Humane Society for almost a year and a half. That broke my heart, and for the next two months, unbeknownst to my husband, I was visiting this boy. I was bonding with him, and trying to figure out a way to bring him home. We had agreed to wait until Labor Day, when we could spend a long weekend getting him used to our home.
I couldn’t wait. I made arrangements with our vet, and with our dog-sitter, because we already had plans for a long weekend away. When that was accomplished, I brought Alexander home. This boy really needed (needs) a lot of love and patience. He had a tragic beginning. He was so skittish that even after several months, he still hides his head when he sleeps.
Alexander is no dummy, however, and has figured out who does what and when in our house. He knows where the treats are, who gives the best scratch behind the ear and when to hang out in the kitchen (I’ve gotten softer in my old age, so Alex gets bits of chicken when I make soup). Alex was extremely particular about what he ate in the beginning, and got very attached to his bowl. In fact, he takes it wherever he goes. He just picks it up with his teeth (and it doesn’t matter if it’s full or empty) and carries it to a place in which he feels more comfortable.
While doing some cleaning and downsizing, we left a pile of linens, pillows and blankets in the hall that we were going to donate, however Alex, in no uncertain terms, has told us that HE would like one of the blankets. He dragged it out of the pile and just plain took it. He pulled out one of the pillows, and used it like a toy (needless to say that one ended in the garbage). Ultimately, he decided that the energy expended wasn’t worth it and made the whole pile into a bed for himself.
Last but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the presence of my grand-doggy, Harvey Richard Fisher. He was given the middle name by my daughter, although it is my son and daughter-in-law who adopted Harvey. Harvey, wherever he goes, walks around like he owns the joint, and although I love him very much, he doesn’t give me any attention. He is, in no uncertain terms, his father’s son. I hope that if and when my children have children, they do a better job with table manners than they have with Harvey. That’s all I’m saying.
I imagine these stories, if told about my human children, wouldn’t be as amusing as some of the others I’ve written. I love my children first, but it is my four-legged children who will forever leave reminders that they have been there. We are still finding Blacky hair, and she’s been in doggy heaven almost 15 years. (What does that say about my housekeeping?) It says that they all made themselves right at home.