Friday, June 13, 2008

Our Four-Legged Family Members

I grew up with Shep, a full-breed German Sheppard. To this day, my dad and sisters call her Sheppy. My parents bought her when I was only a few months old and she died when she (and I) was 12. I can still see her on the living room floor. My sisters and I were upstairs and my parents were telling us not to come down.

I have no photos or memories of her as a puppy but there are other images in my mind. I don't know when the above photo was taken but here is Shep with my Dad at the Massapequa, NY house. I remember when there was a thunderstorm, my grandma Bessie would come in from her room to sit with us. Shep didn't like thunderstorms either so she would go to sit next to Bessie. I still see them sitting there together trembling. I remember the hairy indentation on the sofa...Shep would sneak up there when we weren't home.

Here is Shep with my sister Judy (I think that's the top of my head on the left). I can remember one time Shep was lying in the same position and my cousin Lance fell asleep on her. You could see on her face that she wanted to stand up but she wouldn't because it would disturb him. I also remember a time when my parents were out and my sisters and I were home alone. We were taking turns jumping off the stairs and there must have been a loose wire somewhere because, on one of my sister Judy's jumps, the power went out. We left a note for my parents and went next door to a neighbors' house. My mom said that when they got home, she saw Shep was ok so she knew we were ok because she would have given her life to protect us.

Sometime in the mid-1970s we brought Whiskers home. Yes, I know, it's a cat name but my mom's friend selected it. Whiskers was a light brown terrier mix. I remember a time when we looked out in the backyard and Shep had Whisker's head in her mouth. Shep thought she'd caught herself a cat. Whiskers was small so she was carried around a lot. Being young girls, we also used her for dress-up. I can still picture her dressed in our undershirts or with a plastic barrette on top of her head (poor dog). Whiskers didn't like thunder, fireworks, etc. If she was scared while she was outside and couldn't get our attention scratching at the back door, she would squeeze through the space between the gate and the fence and try scratching on the front door. She loved grapes, which you had to break in half for her to eat, and somehow she could eat the yolk out of a hard boiled egg without breaking it apart.

Shep had one litter (fathered by some stray dog) of 3 puppies. She gave birth in the hall closet which my dad had cleaned out to give her an enclosed space to make her feel safe. We kept one female and, being a creative group, called her Puppy. When we were out of the house, Puppy would stay in the laundry room except for the times when she was able to open the door by turning the doorknob. She had 2 litters. We kept the one black male in the group. He grew into his name...Porky. My dad kept Puppy in Brooklyn in a store he used for storage. One time someone broke in and cut the side of her face open. Another time someone broke in, she disappeared. We never found out what happened to her.
Here is a photo of Porky and Whiskers in our lovely 1980s decor. I can still see Porky as a pup learning to climb stairs and his first time out in the backyard when he chased after my sister Judy and tackled her. He could eat an entire bag of bagels without getting sick and did a pretty good job on a bag of dry food he managed to open. He didn't have the patience of his mother when trying to get out of the laundry room...she worked the doorknob and he just tried to eat through the door. My dad used to take Porky into work with him in Brooklyn to keep on eye on the equipment in his van. When they would get home, Porky loved to splash around in his little plastic kiddie pool.

After my sisters and I moved out of the house, my mom bought Baby, a Pekingese with a lot of attitude. My dad always said that she wasn't a real dog but you could often find him on the floor behind the sofa playing with her. He kept her after my mom died.

I attempted puppy ownership 5 or 6 years ago. Unfortunately I found the training too stressful and gave her back to the friends I bought her from. She was a Sheltie that I named Kelsey. I think she was too smart for her own good. She knew I was calling her but she preferred to sit outside chewing on pine bark nuggets. I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with visiting my sister and her new puppy Sophie and with memories of our long gone four-legged family members. I'd add them to the family tree but that might confuse future generations.

1 comment:

wendy said...

I really enjoyed reading about the antics of your four legged friends! Thanks for sharing!