The Fur Family – 52 Ancestors #51

I’ve been behind all week long.  My 52 Ancestors article for this week isn’t written and it’s Sunday, the day I always post my article.  It’s not even started, and here is why….

Me and Ellie

Her name is Ellie and she is about 11 weeks old.  I never intended to have Ellie, and truth told, I’m “only” babysitting.

My daughter rescued Ellie on Wednesday evening and brought her straight to my house so we could assess the situation.  My kids grew up rescuing animals.  For years we were volunteers for the local Humane Society and a foster home for literally hundreds of animals, one or two (or a litter) at a time.  And yes, it goes without saying that a few of the most needy stayed.  We had quite the group of misfits that we loved dearly.

When my former husband had a massive stroke in the 1990s, my volunteer and foster days ended.  By then, my kids had already spent their childhood on countless rescue runs and endless days and nights of bottle feeding orphaned animals.  So, the “damage” was done and, I’m proud to say, my daughter seems to be a chip off of the old block!

Then why doesn’t said daughter have the puppy?  Great question.  Said daughter and her husband had plans to visit husband’s family, out of town, for Christmas.  Said daughter could not board this puppy who had never seen a vet in her life, and therefore had no shots, and therefore, the puppy got to come and stay with Grandma.

Suffice it to say that babysitting an 11 or 12 week old puppy who has had no structure to her life is much like babysitting an 18 month old child.  They are fully mobile and into everything, except the child wears diapers and, hopefully, doesn’t chew the furniture.  Still, as puppies go, Ellie is pretty good and smart as a whip.

Case in point – she already has Grandma and Grandpa pretty well trained.

Ellie and toys

Grandpa bought her several toys and treats and Grandma made her a puppy quilt.  She loves to lay on things and thankfully, doesn’t chew those…only furniture.

Ellie and quilt

Now, Ellie had never had a toy before so she is an EXTREMELY happy puppy and is very quickly learning what is hers and what is not.

What kind of dog is Ellie?  We don’t know.

When we adopted our animals in the past, we never knew what they were – just mutts or “looked like” a Beagle.

Today, however, you can DNA test your dog to find out what kind they are.  Ellie is supposed to be a boxer mix – and she loved, and I mean LOVED her bath, so maybe some water dog like lab too.  She also has the webbed feet.

I checked into the dog DNA testing by Wisdom, and I discovered that the reviews of doggie DNA testing are pretty much all over the map, just like the ethnicity testing of people.  In fact, surprisingly similar.  I would only have done this out of curiosity anyway, because truthfully, it doesn’t matter what Ellie is…she is a puppy who was in need and that was all that mattered.

And given how many dog chew toys she has enjoyed these past several days, I’m thinking that $79 is better spent on chew toys than on a DNA test!

Those Who Came Before

The last of our herd of misfit dogs crossed over the rainbow bridge just over a year ago now.  While I certainly miss having a dog (or two or three) on one hand, on the other, I certainly don’t miss certain aspects…like accompanying the dog outside.  It’s winter and there is snow.

And, I might add, the cats….oh, the cats….they are requesting an attorney.  They aren’t frightened, just very very VERY unhappy right now.

Ellie, on the other hand, keeps taking her toys and offering them to the cats and play bowing, inviting them in dog language to play.  The cats are having NONE of that and are insulted at the very idea.

Having Ellie here for a few days has brought back such bittersweet memories.

In many cases, we are actually closer to our fur family than to our human family.  I mean, think about it, your dog loves you unconditionally.  You are their life.

I slept with my dogs and now, the cats – at least the ones who deign to grace us with their presence.  I don’t sleep with most of my family.

But then, our fur family leaves us, all too soon.  Even if they come to us as puppies or kittens, their life expectancy is much shorter than ours.  And they leave huge, HUGE, holes in our heart.  I’ve long said that if there aren’t pets in Heaven, I simply don’t want to go.

My first official pet wasn’t even mine.  My brother had a dog named Rex.  He was a mutt of sorts, a reverse looking Dalmation that was black with white spots.  Being a toddler, I just loved Rex, and let’s just say that Rex did not share the same level of enthusiasm for me.  Rex would immobilize me by sitting on me.

Rex and Me

Then there was Timmy.

Me and Timmy crop

Timmy was a Chihuahua that my father had rescued someplace.  Timmy went just about everyplace with him.  I loved Timmy and claimed him for my own of course.  My parents were no longer married by this time, as my father was a bit of a “womanizer,” to put it mildly.

One time, I remember, in the middle of the night, the phone rang, followed by a short conversation.  Mom got me out of bed and told me to get dressed.  Now this was a GREAT adventure – on a secret mission – in the middle of the night.

Off we went.  I’m sure my mother was trying to figure out what to say to me and how.

It seems that my father had gotten himself arrested for driving under the influence.  He had fallen off the wagon, again, and gotten caught.  My Mom was not enamored with my father at this point in her life, especially after she found out about his “other family”…so why…you’re wondering…did she get up in the middle of the night?

Timmy…she went to get Timmy.  Timmy, you see, was in jail too and the jail he was about to go too would likely have been a death sentence.

So, much to my father’s chagrin, Mom bailed Timmy out and left my Dad sitting there in all of his much-deserved misery.  And rest assured, my mother was NOT a happy camper.

My first official pet, when I was about 10 or so, was Freckles.  Freckles was a fantail goldfish with freckles.  I begged and begged my mother to allow me to have a pet, but she said it was unfair to leave a pet in the house all day by themselves when she worked and I was in school.  So, a goldfish it was.  I loved Freckles and changed his water in his bowl faithfully every Saturday morning.  Freckles even let me pet him with my finger when I fed him.

When Freckles died, I had a funeral and buried Freckles in the garden. I’m sure the neighbors thought surely I had lost my mind, on my knees in the garden, digging a hole and crying.  They probably “had a word” with my mother.

My mother had a boyfriend, or a “friend” as they were called then, whose mother died in about 1968 or 1969, in the fall.  By then I was 12 or 13.  After his mother passed away, the three of us went to her house in the country to begin going through her things.  When we arrived, a small white kitten appeared out of noplace, obviously thin and in need.  It was late fall, and very cold – near Christmas.

We found something in his mother’s house to feed the famished kitten.  I knew, we all knew, that if we drove away, it was a death sentence for this creature.   I picked her up, held her frail shivering body close for warmth, and looked at mother.  There were no words of request, but in my heart, I was ready to take my first stand against my mother if I had to.  I was not leaving without that kitten.  I simply couldn’t.  My mother looked at me and Snowball, sighed, and said, “I can’t fight both of you.”  I didn’t realize until later that my mother’s real concern was money – vet bills and such.  Mother certainly didn’t want to leave Snowball either.

Snowball 1970 crop

Snowball 1970 - 2 crop

Snowball, shortened to Snowy, was a cherished part of our family for the next 18 years or so.  Well we cherished her.  She was pretty disdainful of us – unless she needed someone to escape to when taken to the vet.  Then she suddenly knew us.

She survived being an indoor-outdoor cat, a move to the farm when my Mom married (a different friend) a few years later and being integrated into a family with a dog.

I was fully an adult when Snowy passed over the rainbow bridge.  I don’t think she ever liked me as much as she did that day when she was rescued.  Cats are like that!  But she was my special friend and I surely loved her.

In 1970, I lived overseas for awhile.  When I came home, I ran into the house to see Snowball.  She ran right over to me, rubbed around my legs three times, chirped hello…and then stalked off, mad that I had been gone in the first place.  And that was as good as it ever got!

Living on the farm, there was always a dog or cat that needed help of some sort.  In addition, Dad was always bringing some other kind of creature in need to the house too.  A pig, something.  We helped them all as best we could.

After I began my own family, I rescued another dog who had been dumped.  This one had been hit, either before or after.  I opened my car door to her on the side of the road and she jumped in. She was one of the best friends one could ever have.  She was extremely close to me.  I don’t think dogs ever forget a kindness.

halloween

And tolerant, unbelievable what that dog tolerated.  The night she unexpectedly died, I was crying so hard when I called my mother that she thought either my son or my husband had died and she was trying to figure out where she needed to go – hospital, house, morgue, etc.

Thanks to my step-Dad, I began rescuing creatures in need as a part of life.  I really didn’t think anything about it.

One time, I had somehow obtained a litter of kittens without a mother that had to be bottle fed.  I worked in town which was a half hour drive each way, so I couldn’t come home to feed them mid-day.  Dad did the best he could.  One day, for some reason, I came home early to walk into the kitchen to see my father’s huge gnarly hands holding a so-fragile kitten with its tiny bottle.  It would have been so much easier for him just to dispose of the kittens, but the man had a heart of gold and would never have done that unless they were suffering.  That scene is forever burned in my mind when I think of why I love that man.

Time moved on and so did I.  College years and grad school and moving across the country.  Cats move easily, thankfully, and adapt pretty well to just about anyplace where they have food and a litter box.  They might not be happy, but then cats would never admit they were happy anyway!

After grad school, I became involved with the local Humane Society as part of their rescue group and as a foster home as well for orphaned and injured animals.

We were blessed with so many creatures that graced our lives – some for a short while as we found them their forever home and some, forever.  We surely made a difference in their lives, but they made a difference in ours too.

I’d be remiss here if I didn’t mention two incredible Siamese cats that graced our lives, each living about 20 years and spanning about 40 years between them, and both taking care of all of the other creatures in need that we drug in over the years.  The older cat even took care of an orphan goat and puppies, although she thought they were FILTHY and needed constant cat scrubbing.

Casey Jones would capture and hide the orphans when they cried, as it upset her.  And they all cried.  We had to go and find where she had hidden them.  She would be frantically washing them and trying to feed them.  We simply were deficient surrogate cat mothers.  Casey helped quilt too.  Casey, rescued from the pound because she refused to use a filthy litter box, took care of the older cat when she was too old and feeble to take care of herself.  She won my heart right there.  Casey tried to comfort me when the older cat passed within days of my sister’s death.  I still miss Casey.

Casey Jones

In the 1990s, we wound up with 4 misfit dogs, 3 Beagles and a Dalmatian who thought she was a Beagle.  Each of these dogs came from a terrible situation and all of them were not adoptable for various reasons, so they became ours.  All 4 were obedience trained to both voice and hand signals, and believe it or not, I could take all 4 of them out in the yard, at once, off leash, and they were perfectly well behaved.  I know that is particularly difficult to believe, especially with Beagles.

Missy, the Dalmatian, went deaf with age but we never knew it until we realized that she was only responding to the hand signals.

While we think of these dogs as rescue dogs, they also contributed greatly to the family in so many ways.

I was home alone with the kids one time, and a man I didn’t know knocked on the front screen door.  It was summertime, and that door wasn’t locked.  I was right inside in the kitchen.  I heard Missy growl in the living room.  She was watching him intently.  She had never growled at anyone.  Then he tried to open the door.  I say tried, because that dog was up and at the door in split second, all teeth and fangs.  Suddenly, he was trying to push the door closed to protect himself from 50 pounds of snarling dog.  Not to be defeated, Missy then tried to go through the screen.  I yelled at him….”You’d better run because I don’t know how long I can hold this dog and she’ll kill you.”  He ran like the wind and we never saw him again.  The police told us that there was a “gang” of people doing “kitchen robberies” although I shudder to think what he would have done if he was willing to walk right in with me standing there.  My door was forever locked after that.  Missy certainly earned her home.  Missy would also smile on command and loved corn on the cob.  She was also the local volunteer Fire Department mascot in parades, riding in the fire truck.

Missy

In the 1990s, I unexpectedly became single again and never expected to remarry, or even date, for that matter.  Let’s just say it would take a special person to understand that no, I cannot drive by anything and not help it, among other things.  I had known Jim for years in a professional and then a friendship setting, but I never really expected anything more.  Jim became a regular visitor and then, one day I walked in to find this.  I knew this relationship had possibilities.

Jim and dogs

Of course, I couldn’t believe he just let Bagel the Beagle lay ON the coffee table….and we had to have a chat about that.  Bagel ruled whatever part of the house you let her rule.

Which of course, brings us to Bagel the Beagle.  Some of the fur family leaves their pawprints indelibly on our hearts and Bagel was one of my very special friends.  She was a stray at the pound and her days were up, literally.  The gal who worked at the pound called me, at work, and told me that she had a pregnant Beagle and either she was to be sold to the research buyer that day, or euthanized – both a death sentence.  She begged me to take her, telling me how sweet this dog was and that if she were to take her home herself, “my ole man will beat me.”  How could I say no?

I made her a deal.  I would take the dog, but I couldn’t leave work and she would have to drop her at the vet for me and pick up the adoption money at the vet.  Then I called my vet and asked them to give her the money for the dog.  It goes without saying I knew the vet very well.  I think there is a wing of their building named after me.

By the time I got to the vet, after work, I had a pregnant beagle who my daughter named Bagel because she was so very pregnant that she looked like a Beagle in a bagel.  Her name didn’t matter, because she was only a foster dog and would get a forever home after the puppies were born and weaned.  Right????

Wrong.

Bagel the Beagle became ours.  She gave birth that night, cuddled up with my daughter in her sleeping bag on the floor.  My daughter was “camping” by the dog’s bed so she could come and get me if the dog had her puppies.  By morning, it was all over.  Bagel crawled in my daughter’s sleeping bag, had half a dozen puppies and my daughter slept through the entire thing.

By the time Bagel’s puppies were weaned and adopted, she had woven herself into our family and our hearts.  Plus, she had bitten me over a disagreement over a piece of meat she pushed a chair to the counter to steal.  That made her unplaceable.  Extremely smart, but the Humane Society could not place a dog known to have bitten.  So, Bagel became ours.  Maybe she was even smarter than I gave her credit for.  She never bit me again or even tried to.

Bagel lived for nearly 20 years.  She outlived all of the dogs who joined the family after she did.  She was irascible and stubborn to a fault and chewed whatever she could get away with chewing – including a piece of needlework I was working on.  I told her she used one of her lives that day.

Bagel was my special friend who would honk the horn in the car if I went into the convenience store and was gone for more than 2 minutes.  She would go on vacation with us and would “point” to other creatures in need.  Solely because of Bagel, we rescued orphan baby birds, a seagull and yes, a skunk.

For a long time, she was terrified of men and of rough dirt roads, telling me she had probably been an ill-used and abused hunting dog.

If you were “hers,” she would defend you to the death. She did not want unknown men to approach me or my daughter, ever.  And she “explained” that to two different men with bad judgment.

Bagel survived cancer, twice.  Bagel comforted me upon the loss of my father, husband and sister.  She was my constant companion.

She was a master of stealing the hamburger patty out of the hamburger without touching the bun at all – especially in a moving car.  I can’t tell you how many meatless sandwiches I ate.  Bagel claimed she had NO idea what happened to that hamburger.

Bagel camped and hiked with us and loved to go to the ice cream store.  One time she managed to shut herself in the pantry for the day and ate bites of almost everything – and all of some things.  We found her in a food coma when we got home that day – and she still didn’t want to come out of the pantry.  She hid under the shelf.  She spent the rest of her life trying to get shut in the pantry again.

Most of all, she loved to go to see my mother on the farm.  The farm has SO MANY good smells and nasty rotten smelly things to roll in.

After my former husband’s stroke, he was in a rehab facility for about 6 months.  With proper permissions and vet paperwork, dogs were allowed to visit family members.  Bagel went along most everyday and she went room to room, visiting every person in his wing of the building.  She was the hit of the day and everyone looked forward to her daily rounds.  One day, she disappeared from my husband’s room, and she was taking herself on her rounds.  When someone was dismissed, she would sit in their room and cry.  If someone was having a bad day, she would crawl up with them to comfort them.  One time I found her in bed with a patient.

Bagel slept with me every night for 20 years, sometimes after a bath, if we had been visiting the farm, which is more than I can say for any human, at least so far.

Bagel lived to be old, quite old, more than 20, but still left us all too soon.

Bagel

But you know, I think Bagel has a hand in this Ellie thing.  You see, Ellie reminds me a little of Bagel.  She came to us in a world of hurt, but is loving and irascible, chews everything, doesn’t listen worth a darn and makes a loving pain of herself.  Yep – I think Bagel’s pawprints are all over this.

You know, they may need us, but we need them too.  Our lives are so greatly enriched by our fur family.  The gaping holes in our heart when they leave us reflect the great depth of our love for them.

Yep, I can’t wait till Ellie gets here to visit today.  Merry Christmas!