Friday, February 23, 2007

In A Nutshell

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer 201 autobiographical questions
from a mother for her daughter. This may take awhile...join us if you like.

26. We had these pets or access to other animals growing up.

When I lived in the trailer with my parents, we moved around too much for a pet. I remember a billy goat my father got for me which we kept at my Grandmother Hunt's place -- until Billy butted Grandma while she was hanging out the wash, and that was it for him.

When Mama and Daddy were first married, we rented a house in the country outside of Stockton that came equipped with a Cocker named Bows and Daddy became quite attached to him. As much as Forrest, Colleen, and I would love an animal, it was obvious that Daddy really was the one who was absolutely hooked. Anyway, Daddy really liked Bows and was sad when we moved to Puerto Rico and couldn't take him with us -- both because he belonged to someone else and because of quarantine. Other than my not very successful experience of buying tropical fish and having them all die, we didn't have any pets until we moved to Roswell, five years later, and when we decided to get one, Daddy looked through the want ads for a Cocker pup. Which is how we got Rubio, Spanish for blond, which he was, although Cocker he wasn't. Rubio grew to very large proportions, with gangly legs, short hair, huge feet, and a kind of square, sight-hound face. He had been sold to Daddy by the mother of a soldier who was overseas and Rubio's mother was certainly a purebred Cocker. The soldier's mother promised that the next time her son was home on leave he would get the papers for us -- liar! However, Rubio was a wonderful dog, friendly and easy to train and we really liked him. And then, one day someone opened the fence and we never saw him again.

So, when we moved to San Mateo a few months later, Daddy still wanted a Cocker but he wasn't paying for one this time. We went to the pound and picked out a black pup who's mother was a Cocker and a little gray kitten. The pup we named Heathcliffe and the kitten Miss Pettibone. Well, Heathcliffe was no more of a Cocker than Rubio had been, but at least he had been free. By the time he was full grown he could stand on his hind legs, put his front paws on the shoulders of a six foot tall man, and look down into his eyes. Daddy (the ex-jockey, remember) used to introduce him to people as, "my little Cocker spaniel." The thing with Heathcliffe and Pettibone was that they were both very young when they came to us, and they bonded to each other. We never knew if he thought he was a cat or if she thought she was a dog, but whatever it was, they recognized no differences between them. And the ridiculous thing about it was that she was the runt of the litter, so we had this huge black dog and this tiny gray cat who were always together. He would pick her up and carry her around by the head. The first time this happened we took her away from him, and she ran right back to him and he picked her up again.

When Pettibone got pregnant, Mama sat her down and told her that was just what she should expect, carrying on that way. We kids thought that was hilarious, although I was the only one who understood how she had been carrying on. This was the mid-50s, so these were outside animals. When my parents got up in the morning and went to the kitchen to make coffee, Pettibone would hang from the window screen and meow and they would let them in for a good morning visit. One morning, there was Pettibone with a kitten in her mouth, and when Daddy opened the door, the other kittens, with Heathcliffe guarding them from a tomcat, were under the window. All of the animals stayed in the house most of the time after that, and the kittens climbed all over Heathcliffe, sleeping under his ears and between his front paws.

Sadly, just after we had moved into a new house and given away the last kitten, Heathcliffe was killed. Miss Pettibone went crazy. She yowled without cease, refused to eat, ran up the drapes, and shook like she was freezing to death. For days and days. Daddy took her to the vet and there was nothing that could be done. Losing her kittens and her brother so close together with moving to a totally new territory was more than she could endure. When Daddy gave permission for her to be put down, he cried and said he couldn't afford to love another animal, it was too painful to lose them.

Until the day, about six months later, when he was driving home and saw a group of big boys tormenting a small dog. Daddy stopped the car, opened the door, made that smacking noise dog people call dogs with, and the bedraggled creature shot into the car like a bullet. He was a funny looking little guy, like a rag mop without the handle, all mud and cuts. Of course, we took him to the vet to have his wounds tended, and it turned out that he was a Lhasa Apso . (Everything they say about these dogs in the Wikipedia article was true of this one.) We put ads in the paper, but no one answered them. We had our small, curly-haired purebred dog.*I named him Kal, after Superman. Kal hated men and boys, except for Daddy and Forrest. He didn't even like women who wore slacks, and would worry Mama's hems when she wore jeans. After I went to live with Auntie, he became Forrest's dog. Forry would ride off on his bike, Kal in dogged pursuit, and come home with Kal in the basket, his tongue hanging out and ears flying in the wind. Lhasas, although small, are not lap dogs. They need active attention and one adventurous 11 year-old boy gladly supplied it. They were a team. The vet had told us that Lhasas were hard to keep alive in the summer in California, coming from Tibet, and so come summer, Daddy trimmed him to look like a little lion, with his feet and head still long-haired but his little body short. It was the first time we knew how small he really was, and how broad his chest.

When I lived with Auntie, we had a large, orange cat named Punky who Auntie had rescued from the highway when she was just a tiny thing. Punky was very affectionate, more than willing to sleep on a lap and purr by the hour. Auntie credited her with having kept my great-grandfather alive for the last years of his life by providing him with an interest and something young to love.

* Considering that this was the mid-50s, and Lhasas were very rare in the US at the time, we had our very expensive, small, curly-haired, purebred dog for free! He more than made up for the cost of Rubio.

1 comment:

kenju said...

What a great story! I love to read of dogs and cats being friends. I had a pair back in the 50's and 60's who were fast friends.