For All The Dogs And Cats And Birds And Rats I Used To Know

Abby, Glossy, Hobo around 1982. Arnold Arboretum.

Each morning as I watch my 13-year-old dog Lily fading into the next phase of life I can only hope she will make it easy on me in the end. She is suffering from dementia. Yea, you think only humans have dementia, well you are incorrect. She is eating well and taking her business outside. It is her fogged, confused look, which is very painful to see.

 I have always had a dog. Growing up we had our first family dog, Peachy, (imagine giving a pet that name now) a Fox Terrier. We bought her at Puppy Haven, a dog mill on Route One in Saugus. Funny thing, it was located about fifty feet from where Hooter’s now stands.

She was a great dog, only bit me once, then my father bit her. She never bit anyone again. She was also my best friend who died when I was about 13. One day we were all sitting on the front porch and I saw a rodent walking across the street.  Peachy was off and running. Little did I know it was a rat? Peachy knew and practically jumped over a four-foot chain link fence to grab it, snap it up and down, till my father was able to corral our dog and take her home. I was always told that terriers were tough and she proved it.

Our rat project!

When my daughter Molly was in elementary school we ended up with two white rats from her school project. Our pets only got to drool over them as they watched them in our rat aquarium. It was lots of fun holding them to clean their cage, ugh.

After that we had a Cocker Spaniel we called Sparky. He was crazy and kept taking off or should we say running away. Sparky had an ID on him so we would always go and retrieve him. He always ended up with families with kids. The last time he ran away my father saw how happy he was with a house full of kids.  He went home, got Sparky’s bowl and dog food and said good-bye.

My next dog as a kid was Tammy, a Wirehair Terrier. What a great dog she was. She lived till I was in my late 20s. Once again my father had to take our dog to our vet Dr. Barry to take her out of her misery.

In 1975 I got my first dog as an adult. I had seen an old friend, Michael Weisberg walking a litter of Golden Retrievers on Revere Beach. I asked him about them and three months later I picked her up during the long Thanksgiving weekend. What fun! When I went to bed that night I looked down at her lying next to my bed and told her when she is ten, I will be 40.

I named her Glossy (like in pictures) and without her I would never have met my wonderful wife Debbie. I used to take Glossy to the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain every morning. Glossy was a very smart dog and fell in love with a puppy named Abby. Lucky for me at the other end of the leash was Debbie. Now I am at the other end of her leash. What a find Glossy made.

Glossy and Abby around 1983, Arnold Arboretum.

We had to put up a kid’s gate to keep these two large dogs from sleeping in the bed with us. The day we took Glossy to the vet for her last visit we were so sad we went out and bought a new car. What the heck, we were sad, no kids and two jobs, why not soften the pain?

32 years and many pets later we still have too many pets. At one time we had four dogs, Abby, Glossy, Hobo and Candy. Hobo arrived at my door one fall afternoon and I could not shoo him away. About 4:30 that afternoon I got a call from someone at the Herald where I was working, telling me I had hit the bookie for $4730.00 on the daily number.

I went outside to see if that dog was still there, picked him up in my arms and gave him a big hug. Next day we went to the vet, found out he had heartworm. I gave the Vet a bunch of 50-dollar bills and asked Dr. Duka to try and cure him. He would and the wonderful dog we named Hobo was with us for many years.

The only problem with Hobo is when we had babies and they moved too fast he would attack, not bite but grab their pant legs or whatever they had on, it was like a dog chasing a car. He hated the baby walker as Molly used to buzz around the house with Hobo chasing after her.

When were able to keep the kids in a playpen Molly would share her bottle of milk with him. She hung the bottle out for him and he would grab onto the nipple, the same one she was drinking from. If we ever told anyone about that we probably would have been charged with child endangerment.

Molly’s first bottle at home with Candy not letting go of her prime position.

Then there was Candy, a Toy Poodle, who we got from my sister Renee after she moved into a complex that did not allow pets. Candy was 8 years old but lived till she was almost 17. Before kids Candy was Debbie’s baby. She would bark till Debbie carried her around in her arms. We owned a two family house at that time; both of us worked and one day our tenant said, “what are you going to do to keep that dog quiet?” I said, “nothing, we own the house,” and suggested they bring her to their apartment during the day.

Eventually I had put all four of them to “sleep,” in a 15-year span. My good friend Nat Whittemore once told me to bury your dog in your heart and get another one. We never have to rush to get another one, as we always seem to have multiple dogs.

Vanilla, Molly and Lewis, Hannah and Lily around 2000.

Another day my mother in-law Barbara told us about a beautiful Standard Poodle named Vanilla, who needed a new home. What a handsome, smart dog. He loved the kids and us but developed a bad skin infection. So there I was bathing him in the bathtub at least twice a week.

Before that we adopted Cindy, a Greyhound, who could not catch the rabbit at the racetrack so instead she caught us at a weak moment. Sort of a nice dog, very fast, not exactly a lap dog. She also had terrible breath and we had to remove some of her rotted teeth. So Vanilla had a smelly body and Cindy had bad breath, no wonder other dogs did not want to play with us.

Lewis trying to get to Twinkie.

Somewhere in between cats and dogs my father got a parakeet. My father was sickly and wanted to make sure my mother had company after he passed on. His favorite desert was Twinkies (they are about to be gone also) thus she was named Twinkie. After my father died my mother gave us Twinkie. Whatever cats we had at that time lusted after Twinkie as did the dogs.

One day on my way to work Debbie called me to tell me Twinkie was gone, lying on the bottom of the cage. I raced home, grabbed her, a shovel and went out to the backyard. It took at least two weeks before either of the girls asked where Twinkie was.

Sable, Molly and Hannah around 1990, in Marblehead.

I had seen a Shar Pei on the TV program NYPD Blue and fell in love with their wrinkles. I had hit the number again; actually I hit it three times that week, no not for a lot of money about $600.00 so the search was on. Many calls later I ended up at the southern tip of Rhode Island to bring home Sable. I brought her home and we put up a gate to keep her away from our babies. First night over the gate she goes to get to the kids. No problem she was just another baby girl in our house.

When Molly was six she convinced us to get a cat. The deal was if she would stop sucking her thumb for a month we would bring a cat into the house. His name was Jessie, (now called Lewis). Great first cat, had very little to do with us till we brought our second cat Pumpkin home.

Pumpkin knew about affection and Lewis learned from her. But of course Pumpkin never came out of our bedrooms as Vanilla cornered her one-day while trying to play and scared the heck out of her. Whenever she would hear the dogs bark she would hide under a bed. She usually slept with us, nuzzled against Debbie’s neck.

Sometime after Sable and Cindy were gone we all made our way back to Rhode Island to get another Shar Pei, our Lily. Lily liked to chase cats although now she doesn’t chase much of anything anymore. But it was constant effort to get her to leave them alone. Now that she has slowed down the cats like her

In another weak moment after Vanilla was gone we got Jack. Jack is a Golden Doodle, who loves everyone. Plays with the cats, used to wrestle with Lily every morning after breakfast and walks with me everyday.

Last year we lost Pumpkin. We woke up one morning and she could not get her head out of the water bowl, almost drowning. She had some kind of major body failure and once again I had to stand there and hold a pet while she was put to sleep.

Our dominant cat Sophie or as I like to call her Mean Sophie!

Don’t worry we replaced her with two kittens who were not used to dogs or other cats. They were rescued from two different locations and ended up together at the shelter and had to be adopted together. We could not resist. We kept them in the family room with the doors closed to keep the other animals from them for almost four months. Another reason was to keep our dominant mean cat Sophie from torturing them. Oh yea, we got Sophie during another weak moment.

Chloe waiting for breakfast.

The good thing about Zoe and Chloe is our daughter Hannah is going to take them once she gets an apartment where she can have pets. Of course she will have to ask the cats if they want to go. Zoe and Chloe are still very shy although Zoe follows me everywhere and Chloe runs whenever she sees me. Lately she is letting me pat her but that is when I am going to feed her.

If there were a nursing home for dogs Lily would be in it. She already lives in assisted living. Every morning when I get up Jack and the cats greet me. I have to wake Lily up, shake her, and then make sure she watches me so she knows she is going out. She is stone deaf, I am only hard of hearing so I sort of know what she is going through. Then she forgets which way the door opens and is always in the way.

It doesn’t look like a good year for a couple of my pets. Most days I have to massage our 17-year-old cat Lewis’ hips as he drags himself around the house with his hindquarters dragging. Then Lilly is a state of confusion but continues to eat and play once she figures out where she is, but the confusion grows.

Painful to look at our aging pets then look in the mirror and realize I am aging along with them. No one ever said life was easy!





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