One of my 2021 goals, as the sole remaining keeper of the family stories, is to write out my memories of my family and friends. This post is looking back at my favourite furr-family members.
Cleo – A Chesapeake Bay Retriever: I barely remember Cleo as I was age 3 or 4. My parents got her when we moved to our house in Hanover, Ontario. The family story was that Cleo was very protective of Allison and I. Our house backed onto a lake and my mom, not being a strong swimmer, was terrified that we might drown. It turned out that Cleo recognized the danger and protected us. If we got too close to the water, Cleo would grab us by our shirts, haul us back and bark at us till we cried. My mom would come running over and pet and love up Cleo, while chastising us. My mom used to say that we acted offended by her rewarding Cleo.
Sadly, Cleo died trying to protect us from a dump truck that came down the road close to where Allison and I were playing in the front yard. Apparently, Allison and I both witnessed Cleo’s end, but thankfully, neither of us remembered that moment.
Lassie – A Scottish Terrier: Lassie was our dog when we moved to London and was the dog Allison and I had growing up. She shared all of those summer long camping trips. She was the ‘great hunter’ and spent her time chasing, but never quite catching, chipmunks and squirrels. One day, when we were camping in Quetico National Park, we were all gathered by the campfire when Lassie suddenly charged out of the campsite after a chipmunk barking as she always did. For the first time that we had ever witnessed, she actually caught it in her front paws. We all collectively held our breath expecting to bear witness to carnage. She looked at the chipmunk, look around to see if anyone was watching, and then let the chipmunk go. She happily barked and chased the chipmunk away. Great hunter, indeed! She was the pet of my childhood and lived almost 18 years.
Frodo – A Shitzu: Frodo was an unexpected addition to my life. Without going into details, my ex-wife came home with Frodo one day, not long before we divorced. Despite, the claim that Frodo was for the kids, the dog was clearly bonded with her. Post-divorce, Lisa and I had tried to introduce Frodo with her dog, Rosie. It was our first lesson on how to not introduce dogs to one another. I brought Frodo for a visit and all seemed to start well. Suddenly, as Frodo was exploring Lisa’s condo, Rosie freaked out and lunged at Frodo sounding very ferocious. Shocked, we pulled the dogs apart and saw blood on Frodo’s neck. Upon investigating, we discovered that Rosie had broken a tooth on the floor as she had lunged at Frodo. It was her blood on Frodo and not from a wound of Frodo. As Rosie sat under a table licking her the space where her tooth was, I took Frodo back to St. Thomas.
We never did try to bring those two together again. You could say my ex-wife got Frodo in the divorce. Tragically, Frodo ran out into the road and was run over by a car a couple of years later.
Rosie – A Cockapoo: Rosie was Lisa and Julian’s dog when I met them. Rosie was the childhood dog Julian grew up with. Julian and Rosie were very close – a boy and his dog. I got to know Rosie in her later years.
One of my favourite memories of Rosie was during a camping trip to Inverhuron Provincial Park. Rosie had a damaged ACL and was already slowing down due to her older age. When we took her to the Lake Huron’s waters edge, she acted like a puppy frolicking in the water chasing ducks. Even Chase wasn’t keeping up with her. It was a special moment. She was a true water dog!
Shadow the black Cat (honorable mention): Shadow was Lisa and Julian’s cat. Originally, Lisa’s brother, Steve, had tried to convert the then nearly feral baby Shadow into a house cat. Shadow objected and kept escaping outside. Eventually, Lisa adopted Shadow and allowed her to come and go as she wanted. I remember in the early days of Lisa and I, while Shadow was trying to nuzzle me for petting, Lisa asked me if I liked cats. I said that I was actually allergic to cats. Her response, “Too bad. She was here first!”. So, with daily doses of Reactine, the cat and I bonded. One of the most surprising things about Shadow, for me, is that she would stealthily follow Lisa and I as we walked our dogs around the neighbourhood. She would ‘shadow’ us.
She is now 17 years old and spends most of her time sleeping now, but she remains an affectionate member of our family.
Chase – A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Chase was the first dog Lisa and I got together, as a couple. Along with Rosie and Shadow, Chase was an adorable and playful addition to our family. He filled a deep maternal need in Lisa, for which I am ever grateful. He was definitely ‘Lisa’s’ puppy. He was affectionate, but not cuddly. He didn’t want to be a lap dog, but always needed to keep us in sight. No matter where we went, he was our shadow. His big, moist, brown eyes were always watching us. Sadly, we only had Chase for eight years. As with a lot of pure bred dogs, he had the congenital heart value issue common to his breed, and died much earlier than we expected. We have a tree in our backyard with their ashes for both Rosie and Chase.
Piper – A Treeing Walker Coon Hound: While we had Chase, we discovered Paws United from one of the sale reps at the local Pet Value. At that point, we knew Chase was on the decline and we wanted him to have a companion. Piper was originally Daphne, but we liked Piper for her more. Actually, Piper was the name of another Paws United rescue dog that we looked at, but she was rough with Chase and we didn’t find her a good fit, but we loved her name. Our Piper was found wandering north of Exeter, Ontario and no one claimed her. Paws United estimated that she was 3 years old. Paws United labelled her a Walker Coon hound, but she is clearly a mix breed. We fell in love immediately and she was kind and gentle with Chase when we introduced them (the right way this time). She is our princess and she was ‘daddy’s girl’. She was also the biggest, and most high energy dog both Lisa and I have ever had. That meant at least two long walks a day, plus space to run around in the backyard. Shortly after we got Piper, she had a grand mal seizure. That scared us spit less the first time, but the veterinarian assured us there was no damage. She has about 2-3 seizures a year and we know what to do now. She keeps us happy, healthy and loved. Piper, now 8, is family.
Bones – A Black and Tan Coon Hound: After Chase passed, Lisa started following the Paws United posts once again. Bones was a ten month old owner return. Apparently he began regressing after being house trained and the owner returned him. Lisa fell in love with him almost immediately.
Bones has his challenges. Bones has the classic hound baying howl – you either love it or not. He is also reactive (he gets fearful) with other dogs on walks, so on walks we ‘thread the needle’ taking routes to avoid direct contact with other dogs. He also has a particularly stinky trait — an occasional leaky anal gland when he gets angsty. It takes a special kind of people to take on a dog like that. The truth is Bones is very good for the soul. He is loving, affectionate, and likes to cuddle. He is ‘Lisa’s boy’. Oh, he has issues and probably always will, but he has personality for days. We love our Bones, our Bonies, our Bone-ess, our Bobo, and our boo-boo.
In these crazy days of the Covid pandemic, our dogs have given us a great amount of joy and love. Lisa and I are definitely dog people and we will always likely have a dog at our side. They make our house a home — sorry Shadow.