As a child, my family lived in an upstairs apartment over my grandmother and grandfather Larsen’s big corner home. Black walnut trees hovered like giants over my head, and two tall pine trees spread their prickly branches killing any vegetation beneath. It was a great place to hide once I found entrance.
I was not allowed to have a pet except gold fish, but I didn’t let that stop me from dragging home every stray cat in my neighborhood, but I’ll save that for another article.
My first experience with a real pet was as a young mother when a chiwawa named, Penny, spent six winter months with us. My two toddlers were delighted. Penny was my Uncle Wilford’s best “bitch.” He was a breeder, and called me one day saying that Penny was in need of a rest and would I mind watching her for a few months.
I knew Penny from my visits at my aunt and uncle’s house Southwest of town. This was more than a hobby for them, it was a second job that both devoted time and love into. I agreed reluctantly as our tiny rental home was already crowded, and the cement floors in winter were moist and cold.
Penny turned out to be a delight and never any trouble whatsoever. She slept on our enclosed back porch which was freezing cold, but she snuggled in a box full of blankets and seemed to sleep warmly, even though we could see her breath and ours before she came back inside.
Skipper came next, a free rescue dog we obtained in Phoenix that was part Schnauzer and part unknown which became apparent later when he turned into the ugliest, scraggly haired dog I’d ever laid eyes on. By this time we had four kids who loved every bone in his scrawny body. Unfortunately, a new job in New Jersey and a long move across country demanded that we give him to another loving pet owner.
Lady and Buttons joined our family several years later in Kansas City. My husband found two strays running along the highway and fearing for their safety brought them home. It was love at first sight for the children. Lady was a white and black spaniel and Buttons was a mix of terrier and mutt. They never had accidents in the house, but spent much of their time in the backyard.
One day while picking beans in our small garden, I noticed that the pods were covered in dog hairs. The dogs had been chasing squirrels and black birds out of the garden while I praised them, but in the process had ruined the produce in the process. Have you ever tried to wash dog hair from a fuzzy green bean? It’s almost impossible and requires each bean be washed separately.
My husband wasn’t pleased. He was also disappointed in the children who were supposed to learn responsibility by taking care of the dogs. He never gave them a warning or a second chance, just stuffed the dogs into the car and took them to the pound, leaving me behind to explain their fate, mop up my children’s tears and comfort their hearts.
A cruel and thoughtless move I felt. Those of you who know and love dogs will understand. I’m surprised the children were given another chance to experience animal companionship. But after another move brought us to Minnesota, the door was opened for yet another waggley tailed pup that wound itself around our hearts.
My son, Chris, won a Soap Box Derby at a Cub Scout event, and the prize was a little black puppy; part of a litter from a Lhasa that belonged to a friend. My youngest son, Quinn, who cried the hardest when Lady and Buttons were sent away, adopted the pup immediately. They were like two peas in a pod.
He called the dog Buttons after the one he had lost. Buttons was smart as a whip. He’d jump up in the air to catch popcorn and seemed to understand many human words. He was lovable, loyal, and playful. He followed Quinn everywhere.
One day, Quinn was playing outside. Buttons knew he was out there and whined and whined to be let out. By chance, Quinn’s dad was working in the garage and accidently left the kitchen door ajar as he went back to work. The main garage door was open. Buttons slipped through the door and ran to where the sound of his beloved master played. A car going down the street at just that moment tried to brake, but it was too late. Buttons was injured beyond repair and died instantly.
We all mourned that beloved pet. We tried a replacement with Pooky, a tiny Shih Tzu, but Quinn refused to bond and continued to mourn Buttons for a long, long time.