I believe there are exceptions to every rule, even Biblical ones. I don't think God had my family in mind when he gave mankind dominion over the lower creatures. It's not that we don't like animals. For the most part, we do. We simply don't seem to possess that necessary trait that announces "I am your indisputable superior, and you'd better fall in line." So far, no four-legged creature residing in the Shelby domain, seems to have received any such message. None of them has ever appeared to regard us as more than a meal ticket.
Of course, it's possible, by some cosmic coincidence, all the lesser life forms which found their way into our lives were hopelessly deranged, and therefore can't be held responsible for their strange behavior, thereby excusing us as well.
I guess you can't expect much from a gerbil, so I won't dwell at length on the fact we never found a cage capable of containing one for long. The losses were minimal, if you take into consideration that I really wanted to replace the bedroom curtains anyway, and the jogging pants weren't at all new. I really did miss the skirt to my black suit though. I never did understand why this rat-like creature, which slept by day and gnawed by night, felt my skirt pocket was a more suitable home than the multi-level plastic-dream-castle we provided for him.
I could get into the cats in our life, of which the number is legion, but cats have never been creatures who have a lot of respect for their superiors. Our cats have not been exceptions. Their personalities varied, but all were independent. They all wailed and prowled at night, knocked over ceramic pieces, left hair on the sofas, and scratches on doors. Still, you can't really feel like a failure if your cat disobeys. It isn't their nature to cater to the whims of the human population.
So as not to totally slide over all of the Shelby felines, I think I might mention Tiffany, who although more aloof and independent than the other cats, took things a step further by refusing to step into a litter box, which had been used more than once, and showed her disapproval, with whoever happened to be on her list, by seeking out their personal possessions on which to defecate. Despite her impressive pedigree and the fact she had been de-clawed and had her food served on a silver platter by her previous owners, this disgusting behavior earned her the title of "Outdoor Cat."
It seems to me, you should be able to expect a little more from a dog, especially since they are reputed to be "man's best friend." Theoretically, dogs are supposed to be fearless, intelligent, loyal, and obedient. When I think of dogs, a parade of Shelby canines comes to mind, none of which possessed any of these characteristics.
First there was Grendal, the registered German Shepherd pup. We had high hopes she would grow up to love us and to protect us from all things that go bump in the night. Our hopes concerning her bravery were shattered the first time we took her walking. She was terrified of every animal, person, or object she encountered. This cowardly animal trembled, whined, and tucked her tail at the sight of a fireplug, and I thought fireplugs and dogs were naturals. Her only talent lay in her ability to bury things. One by one, she managed to capture and bury my children's three half-grown Easter chicks, even though they were in a separate pen. We never figured how she managed to get them. Her next project was a bigger one. It involved a 10 x 10 workshop building my husband had constructed. Luckily, we discovered the pit beneath it, before it disappeared into the ground forever.
Then there was Blacky, the little Jack Russell mix, who came with the house we bought in New Orleans from the Norwegian lady. He couldn't have been all that loyal, because he never seemed to notice the change in ownership. The problem was he ate nothing but rice, and since I seldom cooked rice, he took his meals four doors down the street. At least, he was low maintenance. He hated bicycles with a passion, and tried to bite the wheels off of every one that passed. He earned himself a home in the country, when we overheard a neighbor threatening to call the pound, and complaining that some people don't try to control their animals.
My daughter, Carol, brought the next canine into our lives. By that time, we were in doubt of our ability to be responsible pet owners, and had to be persuaded by much pleading and promising. This dog would live inside her room. The experience would teach a fourteen-year-old responsibility. His care and training would be solely hers. At last, we gave in. Bimbo, a Poodle mix, was an adorable fluffy pup. He stayed that way about a month. By that time, he had gnawed trenches in the legs of Carol's furniture, eaten her shoes and stubbornly refused to be paper-trained. He also proceeded to shed all of his hair and looked as though he had been on prolonged chemotherapy. The few hairs remaining were about the consistency of those of a pig. Aside from the fact he was hideous, he pounced on everything that moved. Everyone avoided going into that room, except poor Carol, who had to live there, and she was rapidly becoming catatonic.
Again we turned to the country. Believe it or not, there are people living in the country, who seldom say "no" when offered a dog. However, I think it might have taken some real salesmanship on my husband's part, in the case of Bimbo, in order to convince them he truly was a dog. As for Carol, she was cured for years of any desire to be a pet owner. Back then she regarded all animals as carriers of fleas, rabies, plague, and other dread diseases.
Nick was next. If I'm not mistaken, Nick is a name, which some use when referring to Satan. His stay was so brief, I'm not sure I have all the facts straight. He was a full grown, beautiful, but hyper, Golden Retriever. My son's construction boss gave him Nick as a reward for doing a good job, or maybe punishment for doing a poor job. After meeting this animal, I think my son must have had "sucker" written all over him. This was the most undisciplined animal I have ever encountered. I tried to take him walking once. He dragged me for five blocks, during which he became engaged in three serious altercations with other animals of his species. I was a nervous wreck by the time I got him home. He was a large animal, and his favorite greeting was to leap up and place his muddy paws on your chest and lick your face. His appetite was phenomenal. We ran an ad, "Free, to good home. Beautiful male golden retriever." Because he was handsome and friendly, we placed him with no trouble. Less than a week later, I noticed the same ad running again, this time with a different phone number.
Several years passed before we tried again. It's funny how time makes even bad experiences hazy. There is nothing cuter than the friendly face of a white cuddly Spitz puppy. This dog would grow up to be smaller than the dogs we had before. Surely, this might be the animal for us. Originally, we thought Kokomo would be a house dog. This pup didn't take long in making us aware that destruction comes in all sizes. Since we didn't want to replace all our furniture, shoes and carpet, my husband decided the time had come to build that fence, he'd been wanting.
In addition to a six foot fence, he was gracious enough to build this ungrateful pup a spacious dog house with real wooden shingles on the roof. I am not exaggerating when I tell you, this animal consumed the roof and one side of this lovely structure within the first month. After that he started on the deck on which it sat.
When he was a few months old, we almost lost him. He developed Parvo, a dread canine disease which is usually fatal. The vet bill was enormous, but in the end he pulled through. I don't know if Parvo causes brain damage or just intense anger. From that day on, he was a vicious dog. He hated just about everyone, even the people he saw on a daily basis.
My husband and I were exceptions to his hostility, and even that was subject to what we were wearing. He snapped and growled at us if we dared dress up to go out. Either he disapproved of our taste in dress clothes, or he was too dumb to know who we were, if we changed garments. His toys were tree limbs, which he dragged up on the deck to do battle with. At times, I think he tried to breed them. At least, after he finished teething, his appetite didn't involve houses. He showed his distaste for our visitors from the outside of the glass patio door. His favorite trick was to wag his tail and open his mouth in a friendly way. When someone walked to the door saying, "Oh what a cute little dog!" it was Kokomo's cue to transform himself into Cujo. He would leap to the top of the six-foot door, snarling and baring his teeth, as they shrunk back in horror.
Our acquaintances and our children would shake their heads in disbelief, wondering why anyone would choose to own such a psycho animal. Unfortunately, we were stuck with him. It seems we had run out of friends in the country.
|Author Notes||This essay was written several years ago. I will probably be writing a more updated version soon encluding some later pet disasters, and at least one success story. In spite of negatives, some these animals did capture my heart.|
After Kokomo entered our lives, we assumed we had been educated to the fullest on pet egocentrics, and we had evolved to the point that we should be able to handle whatever abnormality any animal chose to toss our way. Actually Kokomo remained a part of our family until he reached the ripe old age of nineteen. When he was about ten we gained another dog who was under sentence to face the firing squad, due to his being party to gang violence.
Cody was an Akita blend. He had been purchased as a pup for my grandchildren, who having inherited the Shelby DNA, were not adept at handling pets. Cody wasn’t a bad dog, but being allowed to roam free, he’d fallen into bad company. He had enough blood stains on his white chest hairs to place him at the scene of the murdered emu. The lady who owned the emu was threatening to sue, if the owners of all the dogs involved didn’t get rid of them immediately.
We felt Cody didn’t deserve to die just because he’d fallen victim to peer pressure, and we agreed to take him, since we had a large fenced yard containing no emus. We’d hoped he and Kokomo would become friends, but we had to settle for the fact, that at least they didn’t fight. They simply chose to ignore each other. Cody was much bigger than Kokomo, weighing over ninety pounds as opposed to about thirty-five for Kokomo. The amount of food this new addition could consume would make a dent in our grocery budget.
As long as we continued to live in the house with the large fenced backyard, he didn’t give us serious problems. Evan was proud of Cody, and he was a beautiful dog. When we moved to a different location without a fenced yard, things changed for the worse. He remembered his days of freedom and became an escape artist from the smaller fenced area, electing to go on regular walk-abouts in another subdivision. Cody always came back home to us eventually, after he'd satisfied his need for adventure, but not until Evan and I had spent hours running through the woods and up and down the steep hills, calling him until our throats were dry, and we’d both concluded this couldn’t be good for our chances of long-term survival. Usually by that time, we really didn’t care if we ever saw him again. If Cody was on an emu hunt, he wasn’t able to locate one.
Kokomo, on the other hand, continued to show his temperamental side. At one point, he slipped into the house when the door was open for a few seconds, and seeing our daughter, Connie, sitting on the sofa, he raced over and jumped into her lap. If it had been any dog other than this one, there would have been no cause for alarm. It might have been a sign he was interested in being sociable, except that if she dared move in any direction, Kokomo let out a threatening growl and showed his teeth. Connie turned white and sat motionless, fearful to breathe. I finally managed to rescue her, without anyone being seriously injured.
When my dad came to live with us, he was in a wheelchair, and for once in his life, Kokomo gave us an unexpected surprise. When Dad saw his wagging tail, he decided to let Kokomo inside. To everyone's amazement, Kokomo walked over and laid his head in Dad's lap. Dad and Kokomo became good friends, and he never showed a sign of aggression around him. This change of attitude didn't apply to those who walked upright on two legs.
About this time, still another dog came into our life. My daughter, Carol, brought this young puppy into our lives. Mitsy was born a runner. She looked barely old enough to be weaned, and she had evidently escaped from her owner. She was moving through a parking lot at such a fast pace, Carol was unsure what she was. According to Carol, she was hopping like a rabbit. The tiny Chihuahua appeared to be a purebred. She was long-haired with a black with white chest and the most adorable little apple shaped head and face ever assigned to a dog. Carol gave chase and managed to grab her, rescuing her from being hit by a car. No one around knew where she came from. Carol left notices at the surrounding stores for anyone who might be looking.
When I first saw this adorable puppy, I fell in love. After many years of convincing herself that she wasn’t a dog person, Carol had turned over a new leaf and reinvented herself. She now owned a toy Poodle and a Maltese. Carol would have kept the new pup in a heartbeat, but her dogs didn’t care for the new addition.
I prayed the owner wouldn’t come looking for her, and my prayers were answered. Carol finally agreed to let me have her. With our, less-than-stellar track record with pets, I had to do a serious sales job with Evan, but he knew he was fighting a losing battle. From the day she came to live with us, keeping her became a problem. Mitsy continued to be a runner, and she would be one all of her life. If our front door was opened for just a heartbeat, she was there, ready to take off like a race car. She didn’t look in any direction; she just ran, not caring which way she was headed. It became obvious I would not need to join a gym to get my cardio-vascular workouts. Mitsy would take care of that.
There is more to the story of Mitsy, and I recognize this could become too long. There are still a few other pets in our future, so I’ll let my readers rest for now, while I go about adding part three to the saga of the pets which have managed to make our lives fuller and more chaotic, all at the same time.
For those of you who haven't read the original "Perils of a Pet Owner, it was written over ten years ago, but I rereleased it and it is on this site and is still active, so I hope you read it, Part two is new. I hope to post part three.
Although the Long Haired Chihuahua puppy my daughter brought into our life was evidently pre-programed to run at every chance she got, she seemed to adapt well to her new home. She slept with me at first, but since she always ended up at my feet under a ton of covers, I feared she would be smothered and made her a bed of her own.
Mitsy was a lap dog. She was terrified of thunder or loud noises, but fearless when it came to other dogs. Because she wasn't afraid, I could put her in the fenced area with the other two dogs to do her business. I don’t know if they recognized she was a dog, but seeing as she didn’t fear them, they stayed clear of her. If one of them happened to be in the house and ventured near her food bowl, she would pierce their ears with her sharp yelps, until they would slink away with their tails tucked between their legs. She was so tiny compared to them, they feared her much like an elephant might fear a mouse.
My daughter, Christi, had a friend who came over for massages. He really liked Mitsy and enjoyed picking at her. She adored him. The second he walked in the door, she would become so excited she would pee all over herself. She was very choosy about her friends. She either loved or hated people instantly. More than once she bit people with no provocation. She was an ankle biter, but if I happened to be holding her to prevent her escape when they came in the front door, she would aim for their nose. My cousin from Texas who I hadn't seen for 20 years came, and when I tried to hug her, she got a severe nose injury.
When Mitsy was teething, in spite of all her chew toys, she preferred electrical cords, which meant I had to unplug everything in the house to keep her from getting electrocuted. I still have boxes full of small appliances with loose wires hanging from their cords.
Before Carol introduced the Chihuahua pup into our lives, my dad lived with us for two years after Mom passed away. When we brought Dad home, we also gained a cat. He was Mom’s pet and it wouldn’t have been right to leave him behind. I knew Dad was attached to him as well. This 14 lb. animal was a cream and yellow mix with blue eyes. He must have had a name, but it has slipped my mind if such a name ever existed. For want of a name, I’ll call him Claws because that is the thing which stands out the sharpest in my mind. He certainly knew how to use them. The trip from Dad’s place to Chattanooga, which normally takes five to six hours, was made to seem ten times that length, by trying to control a pitifully yowling wild cat, that had never been in a car before. I know they can be tranquilized, but it hadn’t occurred to me to expect that any animal could be so freaked out by a car. Thankfully, after a few weeks my injuries healed.
Claws spent a lot of time in the room with Dad. Since his room was on the first floor and ours was upstairs and too far away to hear if Dad needed anything, I left an intercom open between the rooms. Dad couldn’t seem to remember that we could hear everything that went on in his room. He was a person who, when aggravated, was prone to using some very colorful language, which wouldn’t do to repeat. When Dad was petting the cat, it was possible to tell the second the purring ceased and the claws dug in. Dad's conversation went something like this, “Ahh… you’re Daddy’s sweet kitty. You’re a good cat and I love you. DAMN YOU! Get down you &#%!@?!. I’m going to hang you by your tail and skin you alive.”
I have no idea where Claws picked up the fleas, but he got a bad infestation. I had the not-so-bright idea that the quickest way to get rid of the fleas on him was by a chemical dip. It was about the dumbest idea I have ever had. Picture trying to dip a tiger convinced you’re attempting to drown him, and his only chance of survival depends on doing you in first. The trip to the emergency room for a tetanus shot and to patch me up was all it took to convince me there has to be a better way to deal with fleas.
Time passes swiftly, and sad to say, Kokomo, Cody, and Claws all crossed the Rainbow bridge. Our Pet Cemetery was growing. We talked about getting another outdoor dog. I found a Blue Heeler, which is a type of Australian cattle dog, on Craig's List. She was a year old, had been spayed, and was up-to-date on vaccines. Her owner was willing to part with her, because she liked to swim in both a ditch filled with muddy water and his swimming pool. Roxie came with us willingly, and never gave any indication she missed her previous owner. She was the most high-energy dog we'd ever met. She seemed thrilled with her new home, but she politely declined to be penned up.
We quickly learned that she had no intention of leaving our yard, or going any further than the small gold fish pond for her daily swim. We had nineteen acres of mostly woods, but she had no desire to go on a walk-about unless she was accompanying one of us. As long as she had a frisbee or some other toy in her mouth, she was a happy dog. She could play for hours all by herself. Since we had no cattle, she was content to herd squirrels, mosquitoes or anything else which moved.
She was perfect for my husband, because he liked working outside, and Roxie enjoyed doing her playing beside him and warning him of anyone approaching. She was an excellent watch dog. Delivery men and strangers were initially afraid of her, but she made friends quickly with anyone we introduced her to. She slept inside at night, but she loved the outside and couldn't wait to get out every morning. I had no complaints about her, except no toy we bought for her ever lasted long. She loved riding in the car but couldn't sit still. She spent her riding time snapping at dust mites, lit up by sunlight. She got along well with all the dogs our kids brought over. She tried to make friends with Mitsy, but Mitsy was a little snob who only tolerated her.
I don’t know if we got better with animals as time went on, but Mitsy and Roxie were certainly our favorites. Maybe we just got lucky. Speaking of lucky, Lucky was the name of our horse. That is an adventure story for another day.
|Author Notes||This is the third in this series. The first was written over ten years ago, but you will find in my portfolio by name as Perils of Pet Owner. Part two will be expiring soon and is also in my portfolio.|
When I was seven, a beautiful German Shepherd dog appeared in our yard. He wore no collar, and since this was way before anyone put chips into a dog, we had no idea where he came from. We lived a mile or so out of town. Like us, our nearest neighbors lived on acreage, so there weren’t many houses nearby. None of our neighbors who lived anywhere near, had ever seen the dog. I was warned to be careful and not get too close, since we knew nothing about him. He looked friendly and I wanted to pet him, but for a day or two, I obeyed and kept my distance.
My grandmother, who was living with us at the time, came out on the porch and waved a broom at him and scolded gently. “Go home! Go on now, Bozo. Go on back home. You don’t belong here.”
He looked at her and cocked his head and wagged his tail. Her tone of voice said she really hoped he’d choose to stay, but at least she’d tried. She didn’t want us to know, but she slipped him a pan of cornbread, mixed with liquid from our latest meal of meat and vegetables.
“How do you know his name’s Bozo?” I asked.
“I don’t, but you saw him wag his tail, so that must be his name.”
Since he was looking for a home, he would have probably wagged his tail at whatever she said, but it appeared she had given him a name and it stuck. We now owned a dog named Bozo.
It was better than letting my parents name him. I was told they owned a mutt, before I was born that they hadn’t gotten around to naming. When the tenant family living down below our house walked by, the mutt came running out snarling and jumping at them. The child they had in tow started screaming in fear. Mom ran out yelling , “Did he bite ya? Did he bite ya?” Forever after they called him “Dittebicha”. So much for creative naming.
Mom and Dad didn’t seem anxious to see Bozo leave either. Dad started bringing bones from the butcher shop, in the grocery store he managed. It didn’t take me long to realize that although I had no friends who lived nearby and no siblings to play with, I had made a friend who would be my constant companion.
When I was at school, Bozo seemed to know what time I’d be home and he was always waiting for me. If I’d had a bad day, I'd bury my face in his hair and tell him all about it. If I was scolded or punished he'd lick my tears away and somehow I was sure he understood and was on my side.
Many areas of our small farm were covered with weeds and brambles. This didn’t stop me from wandering among them to pick berries or to inspect an interesting wildflower. Bozo was by my side keeping his eyes out for snakes or other creatures. He was sure to find them before they found me. He didn’t hesitate to grab a snake by its head and shake it ferociously until there was no life left. He was fearless and was bitten more than once. The first few times, the venom came close to causing his death. His head and neck would swell until he could barely breathe. I don’t know if my family knew that vets could treat dogs. In those days, vets were for cows and horses. They did what they could by dripping water into his mouth and keeping him alive until he could eat again. He would eventually recover, only to grab another snake by the head.
Mother claimed he saved her life more than once, and I believe that was true for me, as well. We began to believe he was a guardian angel in disguise. Nevertheless, he had one bad habit which angels don’t have. He chased cars. We had little traffic on our dusty road, but cars which passed seemed to speed up, when they came near our house. Bozo would run out barking and racing in front of the tires and no amount of scolding worked. He was fast, and for three years, he managed to survive without being hit, but one day, his luck ran out.
A large truck sped by and Bozo was not only hit, but the back and front tires left muddy tracks across his body and head. One yelp and he lay still in the dirt as the truck sped away. I ran screaming from the house with Mother right behind. “Oh no, he’s dead. They killed him,” she said as she pulled me to her, shielding my eyes from his broken body. His head looked crushed and blood was dripping from his tongue which was hanging from his mouth.
I turned and rushed back into the house with tears streaming down my face and sobs choking my breath away. I fell on my knees and begged God to bring my dog back to life. “You can’t take my dog. I need my dog. Please, don’t take my dog,” I pleaded with my heart breaking.
Mom found some burlap feed bags and rolled Bozo over onto them, and dragged him back to the house, so we could bury him. She came inside and tried to comfort me, but tears were rolling down her cheeks, as well. I had perked up by that time. “I told God to bring him back,” I said.
“No honey, don’t pray for that. He’s crushed. The truck ran over his head. Maybe we can get another dog.”
“No, I don’t want another dog. I want that dog. You said God hears our prayers. He has to bring him back.”
Finally, I went to look at my best friend lying on the burlap bag. His eyes were closed and, he was so still. Looking closely, I thought I saw his chest rise slightly. “Mom, he’s not dead," I called. "Come see. I saw him move.” She didn’t believe me, but she came. She gasped when she witnessed the same thing I saw.
“Honey, maybe there is still a little life, but he can’t survive. He’s too far gone. You don’t need to hold out hope. We’ll leave him here in the shade and try to keep him comfortable, but he isn’t going to make it. Go get some water, and we’ll drip it on his tongue.”
When the water touched his tongue, it moved slightly. I sat by him and continued dripping the water onto his mouth. He seemed to be trying to swallow. When Daddy got home from work, he was still alive, but barely. Daddy got him into the garage and tried to clean him up a little. No one believed he would live except me, and I wasn’t sure enough that I didn’t go near him without fear of what I might find. To my parents' surprise, he was still alive the next day. Still it looked as if there was no hope. His eyes were still closed and his breaths were shallow.
I wish I could say a miracle took place, and he bounced back. That didn’t happen, but he didn’t die either. At least two weeks passed before he could open his eyes. We fed him broth and later, tender bits of meat. It was a month before he tried to raise his head and wag his tail. His recovery was slow, but each day he got a little stronger. To our amazement, nothing appeared broken. Eventually, he was up walking around.
The only permanent damage seemed to be a hearing problem. Other than that, he looked the same and for several months, we rejoiced to have our dog back. And then one day, he was gone. We searched everywhere and asked all our neighbors, but no one had seen him. He had disappeared as mysteriouly as he had arrived.
Two weeks after he disappeared, the tornado came which destroyed our home. Mom and I went on an unforgettable ride in the clouds, and we were deposited safely back on the wet soil uninjured. My portfolio is full of stories about that storm. Many things happened that year, defying logic. I’m still thankful we didn’t lose our dog during the tornado. Maybe there was a reason for his final disappearance. I think it was better that his story ended as it did.
“I saw it batter against the glass snarling.” Kimberly stood trembling in my kitchen. She nodded toward my sliding glass door and yelled, “Look! There it is again. What is it? It’s moving so fast I can’t tell.”
“Calm down,” I said. “It’s not an it. It’s a he. That’s Kokomo. He always goes a little crazy when someone he doesn’t know comes into the house.”
“That's a dog? You have a vicious dog? How do you live with that thing? He scared me to death. If I had a dog like that, I’d have him put to sleep.”
I laughed. “We happen to care about that dog. Look, he’s calmed down some. Don’t you think he’s pretty?He’s a spitz. We’ve had him since he was a puppy.”
“Well, please don’t let him in. He's still showing his teeth at me. I think he wants to eat me.”
“You’ll get used to him, if you keep coming over. He’s a little bit crazy, but he makes a nice watch dog. If anyone broke in, he’d surely scare them away.”
We got Kokomo from a friend of my aunt's, who sold spitz dogs. He was the only one of the litter left, and she let us have him at a reasonable price because she had a new litter about to go on the market.
While he was still quite young, he came down with the Parvo virus and almost died. Unless they are well trained, spitz dogs don’t have the most pleasant temperaments. Maybe the virus left this one a little crazier than most. Because everyone was afraid of him, my husband built him a house and decided he needed to live outside. Still a teething puppy, he promptly chewed the roof off the house.
For the most part, he lived on our back deck and threatened anyone new who came around. Occasionally, we let him inside, but invariable he'd steal a shoe and destroy it.
For a small dog, he could leap almost to the top of the sliding glass door. He seemed to feel his calling in life was to make sure no one, other than family, felt welcome on our home.
My youngest daughter, who named him Kokomo after the Beach Boy's song, was afraid of him once she had moved away from home. One day she was over, and he slipped past one of us and came inside. He took a flying leap and landed in her lap. She yelled, "Get off me!", but he glared at her, barred his teeth, and growled.
“Please, somebody! Get him off”, she pleaded. “He’s gonna bite me.” It took a lot of coaxing on my part to free her of this dog without anyone getting hurt.
He had a strong aversion to style. He preferred that we dress casually in his presence. If we dared dress up to go out, we better stay inside, because he would growl threateningly at us if we came near him.
This dog's lifespan lasted eighteen years, and other than my husband and me, who fed and cared for him, he only made one friend.
After my mom died, my dad came to live with us. We brought Dad into the house in his wheelchair. Kokomo didn’t do his usual jumping and snarling act. He sat calmly looking at Dad. He actually wagged his tail and looked as though he was smiling.
“What a beautiful dog,” Dad said. “Can he come inside?”
Caustiously, I slid the door back, and Kokomo came inside and sat by Dad’s knee. Dad reached down and patted him, and he laid his head against Dad leg. For the rest of Dad’s life, he had a friend. Miracles do happen.
When I was a child, I dreamed of having a squirrel as a pet. Maybe that was because my dad used to tell me tales about the pet squirrel that lived in his pocket when he was a child. In retrospect, Daddy was given to exaggeration, and I tend to believe he might have allowed nostalgia to sugarcoat some of his memories of growing up in what he referred to as "the good old days."
There were no squirrels around for me to observe, because country squirrels, in spite of being stupid, have learned that country boys are apt to shoot at anything that moves. Those pictured in my storybooks looked cute and cuddly, and at that innocent age, I hadn't yet discovered how deceptive looks could be.
When I was eighteen, I married one of those gun-toting country boys, and one day, he talked me into accompanying him on a hunting trip. I don't know what I expected, but it certainly wasn't to witness him actually taking the life of a cute little squirrel. He got excited when he saw movement in a tree, and his shotgun discharged before I had an opportunity to shoo the creature to a place of safety. The shot didn't quite kill it, and I wouldn't let him finish the job. I cried all the way home with the limp animal cradled in the tail of my shirt. It didn't live, but I think I managed to cure my husband of any enjoyment he'd ever derived from squirrel hunting.
Later after we moved to the city, squirrels were plentiful. One day, I managed to lure one through the open window of our second-floor apartment by putting a trail of nuts along the roof and into my kitchen. That was the day I learned wild animals don't make good house guests. The squirrel went berserk when he realized he was no longer a part of the great outdoors. After practically destroying everything within range, he finally managed to exit the way he came in.
My romance with squirrels had faded but wasn't completely dead. When my daughter found a tiny one, which had fallen from its nest to my driveway, the urge to mother it was too much. Surely a baby could be tamed. After all, the nest was too high in the tree to put it back. We couldn't just let it die. The memory of the pet in Dad's pocket came flooding back, and common sense took a vacation. For two months, I managed to care for it, but as it grew older, the wildness was still apparent. With no indication I'd ever have a pocket pet, I grew tired of seed hulls and nutshells scattered over my guest bathroom.
My solution was to call the Nature Center. Surely there the little squirrel could grow up and live the good life. Then another animal-lover got wind of my intentions and called me. "Don't dare take him there," she pleaded. "They feed little squirrels to their owls. I'll take him. I've raised squirrels before."
She kept him for two years before deciding to set him free. Since we'd moved to a home on nineteen acres of woodland, she thought this would be the perfect place. I told her to mark him some way so we'd recognize him, but her way of marking was to cut a couple of hairs from his tail. With my bad eyesight, I couldn't quite make out which squirrel was two hairs short. From the minute she set him free, he blended, and his natural instincts took over. However, I suspect he might be a super-stud bent on making up for lost time, because since that day, the squirrel population has exploded.
For me, squirrels in general lost what charm they had left when they destroyed my beautiful new hammock in less than two hours. Either they were just bored or they wanted the cotton string for nesting material.
Fast-forward to the present. My husband enlarged his garden and has become enthusiastic about growing vegetables. Unfortunately, no vegetable is safe from our fast growing squirrel population. They're fond of cutting new plants off at the roots and leaving them to die.
My latest hobby is photographing birds. I set up an area outside my kitchen window with birdbaths and feeders. I was excited to learn how many kinds of birds responded, but what do you think I find hanging upside down on my feeders when I look out? I'll give you clue. It isn't birds, and I've taken enough pictures of squirrel antics to fill many albums. A squirrel can consume a whole cake of suet in an afternoon or empty a feeder of birdseed like there's no tomorrow. It's not that there aren't plenty of acorns and hickory nuts. They're just greedy.
"We've got to do something about this," my loving mate informed me. "We can't grow anything with all these squirrels everywhere. I'm going out to buy some traps."
"O.K., I'm for that, but you're not going to kill them. They're a nuisance, but they don't deserve to die."
"We don't have to kill them. We'll relocate them."
He carried the first two squirrels he trapped to the edge of our property and set them free. But then, we suspected they might have found their way back. "I have an idea," I said. "I'll spray their tails with paint, and then we'll know if they're coming back."
The next one in the trap got a bright yellow tail, and another huge male squirrel got a red one. Sure enough, the big red tail squirrel was back the next morning, and to prove his stupidity, he immediately got into the trap again. If you are unaware squirrels have foul mouths, you should have heard the squirrel curses he uttered when he found himself entrapped again. I'm just glad I don't understand the language, but the message was clear enough.
"We've got to take him further this time," my husband said. "We'll take him to the park. There's miles of roads through there, and no one will see us turn him loose."
I wasn't sure why secrecy was necessary because the woods are full of squirrels. What difference could one more make? My husband was afraid someone might think he was dumping a cat or dog, and he didn't want to be seen. To complicate matters, it wasn't easy to spring the trap door open without risking losing a finger. Sometimes it took several minutes.
We arrived at the park minutes after closing time, and the gates were locked. To make a long story short, we got on a strange road, became lost, and spent nearly an hour trying to find an untraveled spot to free the squirrel. In the end, we brought him back and set him free again on our own property; this time, heading in a different direction. It took him five days to make it back. Within an hour, he was in the trap again.
Every day, we trap more. Now, we've got our act together. We make it to the Nature Park while it's still open and find a private spot for our relocation project. The road through the park is one way and it runs many miles. Some days we have to make two runs. At the current price of gasoline, a dark thought briefly crosses my mind. Maybe we shouldn't have retired that shotgun after all.
Then I think better of it. I'm a softy at heart. They're too cute to kill, but as for pets, I think I'll stick to dogs and cats.
|Author Notes||This was written about ten years ago when my husband was still living. A few of you may have read it back then.|
If I ignore her, will she go away?
Why did my person have to get a cat?
She's stuck up, and she doesn't like to play.
I think I've almost had enough of that.
Her litter box is right inside the den,
but I must go outside for nature's call.
My bed is where I sleep, you can depend.
Cat naps whereever she might choose to sprawl.
A dog can't chase a cat when she won't run
She acts like it's her job to be the queen.
It's obvious she never will be fun,
and I'm not happy when she's on the scene.
I've never cared for dogs, nor noise they make,
and it's not my place to entertain one.
His irritating bark keeps me awake.
There's just no way he'll ever make me run.
I'm not expected to obey a rule.
I'm capable of making up my own.
I don't think Dog's obedience is cool
I must insist that he leave me alone.
My person's duty is to meet my needs.
If Dog needs atta-boys, let him suck up.
There's worlds of difference between our breeds.
I'm royalty, and he's just one dumb pup.
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