Wednesday, August 28, 2002
The first pet I remember was Speedy. He came to us when I was probably 4 years old. He was a full grown, magnificent Boxer. He was the classic red, black and white, and he was my dog. I remember how he and I would go to the bus stop to wait for my older brother and sister to come home. I do not know how we got him, or why. I do remember what my parents said when he disappeared, though. They told us that a neighbor had shot him with “mustard seed”. Now, I still have no idea what that meant, other than the fact that my precious Speedy was gone, and would never return. I still miss him, but I don’t remember grieving over his loss. Yet, in a way, I still mourn his loss. Maybe that is why my future sister-in-law’s dog, Ringo is so special to me. Ringo is a Boxer who looks exactly how I remember Speedy. By the way, Speedy was named for Speedy Alka-Seltzer, for those of you old enough to remember those commercials.
I remember having numerous dogs as our family moved, grew, and changed. Some of the dogs had very unusual names, like Gozenta. My father named him that, because “Every time we open the door, he “Goes Into” the house”. It seems that we had several dogs with the name “Andy”, but I never missed any or mourned their loss so much as I did Speedy. That is, until I met Archie.
Royal Great Dane was a pedigreed show-dog. His family called him RG. His family was a military family, and they were being transferred overseas. His family knew my sister and her military husband. They had a small home with a fair sized yard that had a fence. If RG’s family could not find a home for him, this marvelous creature would have to be “put down”, because he was not able to accompany his family overseas. He was about 3 years old, and Great Danes generally live no more than 6 or 7 years. My sister agreed to take him. Her daughter was only a little older than RG, and she had a hearing deficit which caused a slight speech impediment. RG soon became Archie. He lived with my sister and was a wonderful addition to her family. When the message hit the streets that there was a pedigreed male Dane in the neighborhood, they was flooded with mating calls. Archie became a father to 11 of the most amazing little pups. I do not know the details of his offspring or where they are now, but I do know that 2 years later, Archie came to live with me and my family.
My sister’s family was being transferred to Florida, and would be living in an apartment complex. Exorbitant pet deposit notwithstanding, they knew that it would be cruel to confine this enormous dog to a life in a small apartment. We agreed, and he became a member of our family. We already had a few Eskimo Spitz dogs running around our 20 acres of isolation. Archie got along splendidly with his new human and canine family, but he especially liked one young male named Spike. We could not have cats during this time, because neither Spike nor Archie would tolerate them.
Archie lived with us an unbelievable 5 years, making him 11 years old when he died. Archie was what I call an indoor/outdoor dog. He chose where he stayed. He mostly stayed out. He loved romping through the wooded areas as much as the deer, and he also loved roaming the garden area. As Archie aged, he developed the habit of sleeping on our door mat, just outside the front door. Maneuverability was becoming difficult for him, as his hips developed arthritis. I never understood how debilitating that could be until last year. The last half year of Archie’s life was difficult for all of us. He’d sleep on the doormat, and found it increasingly difficult to move out of our way in the morning, so we had to step across him. It’s not easy to move a dog that weighs 180 pounds, so stepping over him was our best option. By this time, both of my sons were long legged teens so we did not have any real problems. I felt bad for Archie, because he always wanted to move out of our way. His big, brown, expressive eyes locked onto mine and I could feel his frustration. He so wanted to be young and energetic again. After the sun warmed him some, he would usually romp with Spike like two old pups. Archie rejected any blankets we offered, except on the coldest nights, and he refused to come inside to sleep. Archie was a very smart dog, but I did not grasp his full intelligence until the morning that we found he had died.
Around 3 AM on a Friday night, I was awakened to the sounds of my beloved Archie moving away from the front door. He was so massive that when he leaned on the door for support, it creaked in a very distinctive way, so I knew what he was doing. I went and offered him the couch, but he turned his back to me, and walked down the steps. Incontinence, I suspected. After all, if he were a man, he would have been almost 80 years old. I heard him come back to the porch and flop down, but I did not hear him at the door. I was too drowsy to worry about that, and soon returned to my dreams. When we awoke that Saturday, we were faced with the truth of Archie’s nocturnal activities. He had died, but he seemed to know he was dying, and was kind enough to position himself on the very edge of the porch, away from the door. What I found amazing was that he was at the edge where my flowers hardly ever grew. Archie seemed to understand that it would be easiest to pull the truck to that area and then we could slide his body into it, to take him for burial. My boys would not let me come with them, they told me that they had already selected a space for Archie’s final resting place, and they wanted to be alone as they told him farewell. Archie used to walk through the “woods” with both of them, and I believe the three of them had found a sort of secret garden that belonged to them exclusively. I granted their wish, cried, and vowed that I would never own another dog again in my life!
Spike was still rumbling around, and he seemed confused. Spike was a loveable creature, but not one of Creation’s brightest. He let me hug him and cry with him until the boys returned, alone. Again, I vowed that when Spike died, we would not replace him with another animal that would cause me to grieve so deeply.
I was wrong. Several months later, without explanation, I found myself standing in the animal shelter, asking about puppies. I did not pick one that I liked. She picked me. A tiny fluff on four feet toddled to the edge of the pen and started sniffing my finger. When I asked to see her, she was the only one who attempted to leave the confined area. With no clue as to her genetic heritage, I had no idea how big she might grow, but did not care. My intention was to make this one a house dog. We had many close calls with death, and the vet started calling her his miracle dog. I called her Dulcinea, after the heroine in Cervante’s “Don Quixote.”. Dulcinea was a new lease on my pet life. She trained easily, but she did not want to be a house dog, in fact, the pup was allergic to my ex! All of her hair fell out from sheer nervousness. We tested her for all sorts of animal diseases, such as mange, but the vet finally decided that she might have had either an allergic or a psychological reaction. This dog knew things that I was too dumb to stop denying, but at the time, I did not know how to communicate with her. She thrived outside with Spike. Good old Spike. For two years, Dulcinea thrived, then she was attacked by some crazed dogs. I don’t know what else to call them. They were not wild dogs in the sense that they had not been domesticated, because some of them had collars. They did not have rabies or any other wild diseases, but many local dogs were mating at that time of year, and these happened upon Dulcinea’s territory. She had been spayed, as part of her adoption agreement. She was not the one sending out the pheromones, but these dogs did not seem to want to leave her yard. Spike’s thick hair kept him from too many teeth, but precious Dulcinea died as a result of her encounter. I was very saddened, because I felt she was trying to protect our property and her family. Spike nursed back to health easily, and then was alone again.
By this time, my oldest son had been in the Navy for some time, and one day, called with a question for me. “Mom, how would you like two puppies?” I adamantly told him that in no way did I want another dog. I could not bear their loss. “But Mom, these are Great Dane/English Mastiff mixed.” He knew I had always felt such a combination would make a great animal, and these did! He brought home two enormous, sweet, gentle, black babies that looked almost identical. We fought over how to name them. I wanted their names to be ironic with their pending size. We settled on Pooh and Eeyore. Brother and Sister grew to look very distinctive. Pooh looked and acted very much like a Dane, and Eeyore seemed more laid back, and wrinkly, like a Mastiff. Eeyore lived up to his lumbering cartoon namesake. These dogs were amazingly intelligent, and grew quickly. They were both very smart, but it was clear that Eeyore was “my” dog. He and I bonded the first moment that we were introduced.
Unfortunately, less than a year later, I made the fateful decision to live apart from my husband, but could not take these enormous babies with me. Not quite a year old, they were already the size of a fully grown retriever and weighed about 70 pounds each. I felt that they would be happier living on 20 acres than they could ever be in a tiny mobile home. I was wrong. My ex was so angry with me for leaving him, that he killed “my” dogs. His explanation for his action was that they missed me so much that they were refusing to eat. Several years have passed and I still miss them. More than ten years have passed since Archie left us, and I miss him, too. I never thought that after more than four decades, I would still miss my Speedy.
Two cats have touched my heart in such a profound way as to make me remember them with equal fondness. Rachel was a long haired calico who was very easy to train. She did not have the aloof character traits that many cats seem to possess. She was a friendly cat. She was in my life before Archie or Spike, so she enjoyed a long, peaceful life. Flower was a silken haired little beast who came to live with me and my youngest son after we set up our own home away from his father. Flower was black and white, so we named her after the skunk in the Disney cartoon, “Bambi”. Flower was a typical cat in most respects, but one. She sensed when I was talking on the telephone or chatting online with the man who is now my fiancé. The most bizarre action she undertook was when I was online with him. She’d mewl and then jump onto the keyboard, and she would march across the keys until he typed, “Hello Flower.” Once she had been recognized and acknowledged, she’d curl up in her favorite chair, and purr. I am still dumbfounded as to how she knew he’d “spoken” to her, but she seemed to know. Flower stayed with friends, in South Carolina, when I moved to Georgia, and is doing fine.
I think these special Creatures had a way of communicating with me on a spiritual level, and we made a deep, bonding connection. I believe this is why I miss them all so very much.