{ Tuesday, December 18th, 2018 —>  -4˚C / +24˚F – grey and just barely snowing in New Brunswick @ 10:58 am Atlantic Time }

moe - march 2014 - perched on our porch

– Moe – March 2014 –

— Moe, perched on the shelf I covered with carpet and hung on two brackets I got from a Home Depot – then disassembled and brought with us when we moved from the Ottawa area to New Brunswick in 2013 – We put the shelf – with its carpet still attached – on a slight angle on top of a desk on our porch between the kitchen and the driveway. Here the cats could sit and gaze out through the big porch windows at a bit of yard that had a lot of grass and a stone wall, several trees and a hill. Chipmunks lived in ‘nooks and crannies’ of the stone wall, ground squirrels and grey squirrels ran around the hill and a couple neighbourhood cats slinked through the yard from time to time – and birds often flew down to land and look for food or nest-building materials. Moe loved that spot and made it his own.


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— I had an uncle who explained his philosophy concerning pets to me several times. I never argued with him, never mentioned the fact that he was repeating himself.

— He started with a statement that, “Prostitutes in Paris walk around with pampered French Poodles as a trade mark – to signal to those in the know that they are prostitutes and ready for business.” – He then went on to explain that he believed that a pet had to have a purpose, to contribute something – herd sheep, protect sheep from predators – contribute something – so as not to be nothing more than a drain on a family’s economic resources.

— But the thing was –  This uncle regularly rifled through every drawer and closet in the house to discover where his wife and children hid their lunch money – and any other money they didn’t want him to steal and use for his gambling addiction. So, when he complained that pets were a drain on a family’s economy he was ignoring the fact that he was a much bigger drain on his family’s economy – and what he really meant was – their pets cost money that he could have stolen and thrown away on some hunch he had as a gambler.


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— Jassper —

Moe & Jssper conspiring-2018

– Moe and Jassper – Conspiring? 2018 –

— My sister had a poster, some time around when “War is not healthy for Children and other living things” was popular.

Children Learn What They Live
by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte


— The version my sister had included a line that went something like – “If children live with pets, they learn to to be caring and nurturing.”  { <— Not a direct quote, but close enough? }


Jim on the floor with Jassper.

– Me on the kitchen floor with Jassper, two days after we brought him home – December 8th, 2007 – just west of Ottawa city limits. –

— Jassper peed on the floor the first time he saw us. – We had to fill out a questionaire to prove we weren’t stupid, abusive or neglectful – and understood the value of a pet and the commitment required to live with one –  and then we had to wait a couple weeks to be sure he passed all his health checks. He wanted to ride in the front seat with us – we had a tough time keeping him from climbing over or between the seats. He was six months old, gangly and affectionate when we brought him home. He’d been born in Montreal and brought to Gatineau, Quebec and then abandoned to an S.P.C.A.

— At the SPCA they’d called him “Jake” –  named after a rescue dog who had played a large part in trying to get people out of the rubble of the twin towers in NYC after September 11th, 2001 – I dreamed he told me his name was ‘Gaspar’. Cathi wrote down several variations of ‘Gaspar’ and read them aloud with her son, my step-son, happily in attendance and when she read “Jasper” he perked up and enthusiastically wagged his tail.

— We had recently heard a Numerologist in a radio interview talk about “Life Path Numbers” and how much they could influence relationships. Cathi’s Life Path number, and her son’s Life Path number, were both “7”-s – and when we added the weight of the letters in ‘Jasper’ and came up with “6” – which could prove difficult for them to get along – we decided to add a second ‘s’ – & that changed the weight of his name to a “7” –  & “7”-s get along fine with each other – and I’m a “5” – and Cathi’s daughter is a “5” – and “5”-s and “7”-s get along famously – so he became “Jassper”.


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 – It took Jassper less than a week to ‘love that duck to death’ & then he carried a piece of the ear around with him until Cathi found it unattended and was able to get rid of it – That’s Cathi on the couch hugging Jassper who is showing off his duck. –

— The duck squeaked,  we had no trouble knowing where Jassper and his duck were until he shredded the duck a couple days after this photo was taken.

– Here we can all see how much personality this guy had. –

—  Jassper dropped his bone when he came inside and some animal stole it – Next time he went outside – Jassper went to the spot where he dropped that bone and seemed lost until I realized what had happened, felt terrible and played with him. Jassper played “Kangaroo Dog” and tried to invent a “Kangaroo Dog Dance” that had me busting up with laughter. Then he’d smile at me – more or less communicated , “Hey, this is fun”– I swear that guy could read minds.


-Jassper being ‘terminally cute’ wearing his blue bandana on our porch in Arnprior – before we moved to New Brunswick. He still had a lot of his puppy-ness as I think this was just before Jassper’s first birthday. He was born in July, we gave him my step-daughter’s birthday – after we asked if it was okay and she seemed delighted to share her birthday with him  –

— I know it’s really hard to think about celebrating a life that was much too short. I probably moaned too often that all pets should be immortal – so you can probably guess that I could not easily take his sudden absence from our lives in stride.

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—  Any pet can be a close family member. You really can’t measure how much pure love and joy they give you. And I’m sure they can contribute immensely to your self esteem – { I’ve seen that happen with people I knew were suffering from a lack of that commodity. }  – There’s a reason that people who are suffering with PTSD are often offered a ‘Comfort Dog’ or other pet to help them cope with lives that have been shaken, if not shattered.

— I remember reading in a post office propaganda ‘informational newsletter’ type magazine – they posted an article about the events in a life that deliver the most health-threatening stress to anyone. The jerks that wrote that article wanted to impress upon us the idea that having a conflict with a supervisor was more stressful than it was worth – So of course we should ‘bite the bullet’ and take any of their b.s./egotistical/economic warfare type orders in stride and do as we were told without question.

— But in that article they included the information that – more stressful than arguing with a supervisor – is the death of a close family member and especially a spouse.

— So maybe a pet isn’t as important in your life as your spouse or life partner, but they’re danged close – and when they’re suddenly not there any more and that incredible source of love and companionship is gone… – man! that can rip you inside out.

— One discussion I remember with a Yoga Master touched on the idea that ‘friendship’ was a higher form of love than romantic love. { You don’t expect your friends to take out your garbage, cook your meals a certain way at a certain time, complete all sorts of chores you don’t particularly enjoy without you asking – and if a friend tells a woman that a dress she thought was the height of fashion or extraordinarily beautiful didn’t look that good on her – that wouldn’t cause as much of a melt-down as a spouse taking one look at her in that dress and laughing – or saying, “What were you thinking? That makes you look like you gained thirty pounds and aged ten years.” – Friends can tell you things you’d never want to hear from a lover. } And almost every pet I’ve ever heard of offers pure friendship along with the love, attention, and boost to your self-esteem and other factors that influence your state of mind. People with pets live longer than those without them.

— Our puppy went bounding off into the spirit realm without a whimper at about 3:30 am last Saturday morning.

Cathi's post "Puppy, my puppy"

– And this was Cathi’s immediate reaction. –


— But the universe hates a vacuum – and it is a real spiritual law that when one loved one leaves your life – another one will step in and not fill that void exactly, but bring a new source of love and inspiration to you. — Can I quote Tom Petty? ‘The waiting is the hardest part.’

— I’ve been deep in the twilight zone for a couple days, too deep to function on any usual level. I had a very strong impression that Jassper came to see me shortly after he made the initial stages of his transition to his next stage in life and didn’t understand why he didn’t feel the same when he jabbed me in my elbow with his nose. He was happy that his arthritis wasn’t bothering him, and I think he wanted to go for a walk up and down the street the way we used to before his Labrador Retriever health quirks twisted his hips out of their normal configuration. I had to tell him he’d graduated to a higher level and could now go bounding off to new worlds and find his mother and brothers and sisters and a whole new huge extended family in the happy puppy romping grounds. — He perked up and took off to try that out. He’s still out there romping, barking ecstatically at anything and everything who’ll pay attention to him over there.

— And we’re still back here in the material world crying our eyes out, wondering why we’re not greeted by a happily wagging tail and a look that wants to know if we brought him anything to eat.


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Moe in his cape.

– On Halloween night in 2006 – I think it was the first or second Halloween that Moe was with us – I ‘dressed him up’ in an old purple cape that one of the kids had outgrown. I wasn’t sure how he’d take it. But maybe he saw us fussing over Cathi’s son and the kids who came to our door all dressed up, and who knows what a cat really thinks – but he appeared to enjoy the cape. – He happily strutted around with that cape dragging out behind him for at least an hour and even posed for a couple photographs,including this one, on the basement floor beside the clothes dryer. –



— Moe —


— I will have a lot more to say about this cat, but right now, I can’t – All I can do right now is add Cathi’s poem on the passing of our ‘Cat and a half’ – Moe.

Magical Moe Heading

An orange face peers out
From a hole in the wall
Where were you my boy?
Where did you go –
Oh there you are
Looking for mice between
Ceiling and floor in the
Basement closet and
Somehow you found a
Way up from the top shelf
Through a broken tile
How did you get in there
My magical mysterious Moe.

Everyone’s a friend
Cranky visitor cat
Giant Black Lab
Timid Tall Bengal Cat
Strangers who come to the door
Bosses with wide shoulders to jump on
Kids selling cookies or
Asking for Hallowe’en candy
No problem there
He could sport a purple cape like
The best of them and wear it proudly
Our magical mysterious Moe.

He would sit on a sofa near the
Bottom of the skinny stairs
Yet at the end of my climb
There he would be
Laying comfortably at the top
I have no idea how he could do that
And yet he did
This magical mysterious Moe.

He could purr away any ill or pain
At 528 Hz and suitably kneaded
I could drift off knowing
I’d been at least healed at a
Soul level
By magical mysterious Moe.

So it doesn’t surprize me
That on a long Easter weekend
When vets offices were closed
And snowbanks were blocking
A favorite catnip spot in the garden
He spent it close by me in the living room
Beside a fire warm and comfortable
He seemed to feel fairly well on my birthday
Then slipped away in the first clap of thunder
Of 2018 when nobody was looking the next day


I know someday soon these tears will
Turn back to smiles for our
Big marmalade mischievous man
But forgive me if
I just can’t get over
The suddenness just yet –

You Magical Mysterious Moe.

(c) Catherine M. Harris – April 2018



—  In the first couple lines of the above poem. Cathi is referring to an incident that happened shortly after we got Moe and brought him home and quickly learned that we had to be careful and hyper-vigilant any time we opened the door. An orange blurr would shoot past us – and usually, he was happy to bolt about two yards ( or meters ) from the door, off the porch – sit in his favourite spot of grass and smile at the world { A half Cherokee friend of ours who is sensitive and may even qualify for the title of Medicine Man told us that the spot Moe ran to was where two lei lines crossed. He wanted to sit there and soak up the energy that our friend said was very positive. } And… half a dozen big yellow earth moving machines had come into our neighbourhood and Cathi voiced her concerns, she like all mothers, worried incessantly about her kids and our pets – she was fighting off visions of what used to be a happy orange cat mangled beneath the tank treads of a bulldozer.  Back then we were trying valiantly to zoom from the Ottawa area to west of Toronto { up here, that’s pronounced “Torranna” } to leave Cathi’s son with his father for a couple days, borrow Cathi’s daughter for a couple days, zoom a little bit farther down the road to my travel trailer and pretend to relax until it was time to zoom back, swap the girl for the boy and zoom the rest of the way and collapse for a couple hours before we had to face reality and all that nasty real life stuff. —> Well, this one zoomy day, we were all set to go and we realized we hadn’t seen Moe in a couple hours. We did a quick run around every room in the house and especially checked his most frequent hiding places. No Moe. We walked around the house a second time, calling his name  { He actually more or less answered to his name – the name we adopted after Domino – our rescued Bengal Cat – called out ,”Moe-” and he came smiling out of nowhere – } —> on our third or fourth trip around the house we were really beginning to worry, and looked into places we didn’t think he could possibly get into. —> In the basement – about as far as you could get away from the stairs that led down from the kitchen – one of the previous owners had built a cedar closet. If I remember right – the closet had two sets of bi-fold doors and a very high shelf – I think the shelf was maybe six and a half feet above the floor. We had a lot of ‘stuff’ in that closet, big plastic totes, boxes piled up – and we’d had to make sure Domino couldn’t get in there before, because there were a couple times that Domino had gone into hiding and gotten up on top of the washing machine and dryer in the basement and made the prodigious jump up to a heroic landing between the ceiling and the main floor’s flooring- where nails were sticking through the floor up there about an inch or more, and we didn’t want Domino impaling himself by accident, so we’d tried to cat-proof the whole basement. { good luck with that one } Anyway, we opened the doors to the cedar closet and this incredibly happy smiling orange face popped down through a gouge in the edge of one of those ancient cardboard ceiling tiles – He didn’t say anything, did not treat us to any one of his amazing vocabulary’s pronouncements, he just smiled with kind of a “Gotcha!” look on his face. —> We were so happy that he wasn’t mangled under the wheels of a truck somewhere that of course we forgave him for bringing us to the edge of anxiety and back.


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Me? —> { Digression in A-Minor }


— Astrologically. I was born with the Sun in Virgo, the Moon in Aries, and 4 degrees if Cancer on the horizon. There were three planets in Libra – Mercury, Neptune and Venus – Mercury and Neptune were close enough to be called ‘Conjunct’ the explanation is “Genius or Moron” { and I would include – “Both” } This might also explain why I have had off and on ‘Clair-Sentience’ – Maybe depending on how close I am to someone who has dedicated a lot of time and effort to Yoga – I have been able to feel other people’s physical conditions. I’ve felt something like a nearly physical elastic band inside my chest and I was told that somebody with a heart condition just walked into a house I was in. I felt very uncomfortable, couldn’t tell my stomach to relax and couldn’t move into a position in which my stomach did feel comfortable. My highly evolved Yogi friend grinned and told me that somebody else in the house was in a ‘state of extreme sexual desire’. Other planetary and fixed star indications point to the probability that if I try to retreat full time into a shell and hide out comfortably away from dealing with people in the outside world { or ‘real world’? } – I would encounter difficulties in all sorts of areas of life that might not make any sense in a ’cause and effect’ frame of reference. I was born on Leo Tolstoy’s birthday { translated from the old Russian Julian Calendar to our more ‘modern’ calendar – } and I share a couple planetary positions and/or aspects with him – which might explain why it’s hard for me to write a short story — or anything I’m interested in trying to communicate with the rest of the world – in less than 100,000 words. One aspect I share with Leo says I could have perfect pitch… I don’t think so. I’ve had some interesting audio experiences – heard things in the hypnopompic { ‘waking up’ } and hypnagogic { ‘falling asleep’ } states that I was later able to verify was a ‘real life’ radio station’s signal ‘leaking’ through the speaker of a Sears brand clock radio that was plugged in but turned off at my bedside.  { And not a hallucination – many {{ closed-minded }}  skeptical science-worshiping types would like to assure themselves that anything they haven’t experienced must be a hallucination – and a lot of them have subscribed to the idea that near death experiences and cases of half awake people being able to ‘tune-in’ on conversations their loved ones are having thousands of miles away —> ‘Have to be’ hallucinatory. — Quantum physics calls this stuff quantum entanglement or ‘spooky reactions at a distance’. Real scientists know the value of keeping an open mind – The type of individuals who set out to disprove something regardless of the facts are “de-bunkers” – negative propagandists – not scientists.

— A Psychologist friend, Jim Briggs in Connecticut – told me his colleagues explained that quite a few ESP tests were rigged – that when test subjects scored higher than average when describing the characteristic cards they couldn’t see – IF they received positive feedback for their correct answers – they got better and better. If they received no feedback – positive or negative – their ‘batting average’ went lower and lower until their score fell into the realm of ‘Normal’/average – statistically within the realm of ‘everybody has to get it right sometimes’ –

— Numerologically I was born on a 9 day in a 9 month in a 5 year. This is supposed to give me a “Life Path” of “5” – “Fives” are described as ‘Freedom Freaks’ and/or ‘Drama Queens’ { I will endorse the ‘freedom freak’ explanation. } We’re also supposed to be egalitarian in outlook / non-judgmental – and apt to experience several different lifestyles in their lives, kind of like ‘serial-experientialists’. We also get along best with people with a life path of 7 { seekers } and 1 { Perfectionists? } – the ‘love of my life’ – who actually loved me back – has a 7 life path.

— In terms of Jungian personality theory – I’m an introverted-intuitive-feeling-perceiver {{ INFP }} – { after taking several Myers-Briggs-Temperament-Idicator {{ M.B.T.I. }} tests } – And the “Love of my life” spouse I mentioned in the previous paragraph also scored as an INFP. M.B.T.I. testing works with four polarities : Introvert / Extravert — Intuitive / Sensing — Feeling / Thinking — Perceiving / Judging. Combinations of those four polarities can split into a total of 16 well-defined groups – with a bit of possible confusion where the individual taking the test scores in the middle of one or more polarity as in 50% intuitive / 50% sensing – or – 50% judging/50% perceiving. ( etc. ) Many people who have taken these tests have found the information that is revealed to be empowering as it explains that not everyone can be ‘hard-wired’ to want to be a hockey or football hero and people can discover that their temperament is fine for a fulfilling and rewarding career in a profession other than one that their parents and/or guidance counsellors wanted to steer them toward.


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Me & Pets


— If you’re still with me – let me go into my history with pets.

— Lady.  – The first pet I lived with was an aging terrier of some kind with white fur and one or two black spots – “Lady” was a bit cranky and my mother warned me never to go anywhere near her while she was eating. We lived in a ‘project’ – with several identical duplexes on dozens of streets named after local industries in the Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.A. area. There were actually two designs – Brick single story duplexes and wood framed two-story duplexes. I think either choice came with a ‘Crawl Space’ – no basements. And I think we all had coal furnaces, at least prior to 1959 whenwe moved out – I remember all the houses being basically the same colour, with all the brick duplexes having green painted wooden trim and all the wood framed houses having a kind of khaki coloured paint. All of these houses had been built in a hurry at the onset of World War Two as housing for the workers needed to crank up production for the defense of the ‘free world’/war machine. – We had a two bedroom home where the rent was $35.00 per month – I remember neighbours gathering outside to complain and wonder if they could effectively protest when the municipal housing authority wanted to raise that rent a couple dollars. There were no ‘leash laws’ in those days. Lady would walk to the back door and look to one of my parents when she wanted to go outside, and would roam around the neighbourhood  – pretty much minding her own business – and either come back up onto the low back porch { more like a small deck } in our postage stamp back yard of the single story brick duplex that was the first home I was aware of enough to remember all my life so far. If Lady seemed to be out too long, my mother would open the back door and call out. “Here – Lady Lady Lady — Here Lady Lady Lady -” and she would show up in a minute or two.


— In January of 1959 – we moved into the house we would live in as a family, if all of us were not there all the time, for the next 43 years, into an older two-story sort of halfway between a Cape Cod style and a Chalet style home that had started its life as a Meeting House where one of the oldest neighbours had taught Sunday School in her youth. This house had asbestos shingles on its exterior and was painted white with green asphalt shingles. It had an attached garage and over the decades, several do it yourself owners had added a breezeway, converted that to a second – downstairs bathroom with a floor that was never up to code- plus a couple porches and one ‘back room’ that had probably begun its life as a porch and had been closed in with minimum insulation in the walls and none between the floor and the outside world. The yard was technically one third of an acre and shaped like a long thin wedge of pie – or a triangle? There was a highly overgrown hedge almost halfway back and an outbuilding that had once been a chicken coop. We heard stories that the person who had kept the chickens had mistakenly applied some kind of ‘agent’ to all of his chickens in an attempt to keep some disease from spreading from surrounding farms to his flock – and whatever he did to save his chickens killed them all.

— Trixie. – A short time after we moved into that house I wondered why I hadn’t seen Lady all day – And when I asked my uncle produced a small black mongrel puppy from inside his jacket, smiled and said, “This is her replacement.” They told me Lady was getting to be too old and she needed to be put to sleep. I was nine years old, they didn’t give me all the details concerning Lady’s demise. But I felt guilty, thinking I should have played with her more often or something.  – I was nine years old, my oldest sister was seven years old. Our middle sister was two years old. our Baby sister wouldn’t be born for another two and a half years – but our little brother was six months old, and could pee a remarkable stream up and into the atmosphere in a wide-ranging arch while he was lying on the ‘bathanet’ – having his diapers changed. When our parents told us we’d get to chose the puppy’s name, my seven year old sister and I decided the puppy’s name should be ‘Trixie’ – probably named after a clay-mation dinosaur we’d seen earlier that week on the Gumby television show. Trixie was a lot of fun to watch as she explored her new home and approached the hot air heat registers in the floor with a lot of caution and jumped back and ran away when the blower came on. I remember the first day she was part of our family she curled up in my lap as I sat on the floor and went to sleep as I petted her. — Somebody had told us that Trixie could be ‘fixed’ when she was six months old. Whether it was misunderstanding or misinformation – My parents did not have her fixed before they were told that it was too late – shortly after every male dog within miles showed up in our yard and Trixie really really wanted to go outside – but we were told no, don’t let her out. She got out and we got a bit of a weird lesson in sex education, “Mommy – the dogs are stuck together -” and one sour faced neighbour came over with a pan of cold water and dumped it on the dogs that were stuck together, and if I remember right, this did not have the desired effect. Trixie had a litter of I think six puppies before she was a year old and they all died. She latched on to one of our then toddling brother’s squeaky plastic barnyard animal toys ( a cow ) and tried to nurse it and growled at us when we came anywhere near it. That was sad. — a couple years later she had a littler of seven puppies and she became drained and spent one scary day walking around stiffly and mom and a friend of hers fed the puppies baby formula and they were really worried Trixie wouldn’t live through that. But she did. And we gave all the puppies away. I think it was a year after that one neighbor came over screaming that our dog was digging in his yard and if we didn’t get rid of her he would do something about it. — My father packed her up and drove her to the dog pound. — I was devastated. We walked by the dog pound several times on a long walk to a new complex of stores that had opened down by the river and when I saw Trixie, pitifully barking in a pen outside the dog pound I began to plot ways to cut through the fences and liberate all the dogs and sneak her home, but when I tried to enlist the aid of my youngest uncle, who was five years older than me – he talked me out of it. I was inconsolable. The authorities at the dog pound were probably going to kill my Trixie and there was nothing I could do about it. — More than two weeks after Trixie had been taken away from us the same neighbour saw me in our back yard, I would have been maybe eleven years old? – and he commenced to scream at me – telling me he had told my parents that we had to get rid of that dog and he saw her that morning digging in his garden again – he wanted satisfaction. I did not call him an asshole. I looked at him and told him my father took her to dog pound two weeks ago. The asshole blinked, but then called me a liar and continued his tirade. — He never apologized, never admitted he was wrong. I never went out of my way to be pleasant or ‘sociable’ toward him.

— Reno. – Later that year, after Trixie was gone forever – my father came home a little more than slightly inebriated – with one of his drinking buddies and asked me if I wanted to ride along – they were going to a veterinarian in the next town to pick up his friend’s dog. This was in the evening. While we were there I asked my father if the vet would know of any dogs up for adoption. And my father, who probably doubted that completely shrugged and said, why don’t you ask? — So I asked, and the vet smiled and disappeared for a minute, came back out of a back room with brown spotted medium to large sized mongrel that was probably part pointer. He handed me the leash and let us outside. The dog raced all around the parking lot and we brought him home. — After the incident with that neighbour screaming about Trixie messing up his yard we kept Reno tied up when he was out side. He would whine or scratch at the door to go out, either my mother, or me, if I was home, would take him outside and tie him to the old telephone pole that supported the other end of our clothesline. – Reno would be happy for a couple minutes and then start barking. He was a loud barker. We would drop everything and go outside, try to shut him up but finally break down and untie the end of the rope and get him back inside the house. I took him for walks up and down the sidewalks beside our busy – sort of halfway main-ish road. On the last day of school – we had a half day – I took him all the way – half a mile – up to the school and was walking him around in the big empty field behind the school when my teacher came out and asked, “Is that your dog? What’s his name?” and showed me a side of himself I never guessed he had by petting the dog and smiling – and then he wished me luck in junior high school. — When I got home my mother was all upset – the same neighbour that had made us get rid of Trixie had paid her a visit and screamed that he worked nights and he couldn’t have that dog barking all day, waking him up when he needed his sleep. – I kind of went into shock. — When my father came home that idiot neighbour came over banged on the back door and screamed in my father’s face. — When the asshole finished his tirade my father grabbed Reno – threw him in the car and drove away. Another dog gone.

— Flipper. Flipper had been the runt of a litter. His mother was a Labrador Retriever. His father was a smallish Cocker Spaniel. Flipper’s front paws were mal-formed, split at what we would call a wrist on a human. He wouldn’t be able to race around the neighbourhood. He couldn’t dig up anybody’s garden. My father showed up with Flipper – I don’t know – maybe later the year we’d lost both Trixie and Reno? After I’d given up on the idea of us having a dog. Mom and dad let him out without needing to tie him up. He couldn’t go far. — He could sit straight up and beg when he was hungry or wanted somebody to pet him. We had Flipper from, um, 1962 or 3 until 1976 – I’m pretty sure – … More about Flipper later.

— “Kitty”. Kitty adopted us. The first time I saw her she had been in a cat fight, and obviously lost. She found a way into our basement to lick her wounds and recover. One eye was a mess. She did recover. I didn’t know how to take cats. I’d already heard people talk about the difference between cats and dogs in terms like, “Dogs – you can kick them and beat them and they still want to be your best friend, your best buddy. Cats – on the other hand, if you want to keep one around, you have to do things on that cat’s terms – Some or them are completely unpredictable, all loving, purring and affectionate when they want you to pet them, and then suddenly – they’ll lash out with very sharp claws without warning when they think they’ve had enough…” When I was going through a period of deep existential angst – not quite putting it into words that my father was a mean alcoholic, but knowing that he could be loving and friendly sometimes and then, maybe an hour later, become a roaring ogre. I hadn’t realized that he was drunk the first couple times he became glassy eyed and wanted to box with me. He’d slap me a couple times and if I took a swing at him he’d knock me to the ground, pin my arms against my side with his legs and pummel me with his fists. This happened a couple times. Other times he’d seem okay, joking and playing and then punch me in the arm so hard I’d nearly fall over. The threat of physical violence was always there. When he was drinking and a bit agitated he would often swing his arms around and create the impression that – any second – he might decide to go totally ballistic and start swinging, punching for real. He was at least six feet one inches tall, had been around two hundred and fifty pounds and gone up to over three hundred pounds a couple times. Some time in nineth grade ( Or ‘grade nine’ if you’re Canadian ) I reached six feet tall – and might have been six feet, one inches tall as a high school sophmore – grew to six feet three inches tall before graduation. But I weighed between one hundred and one-thirty all that time. I was one hundred and thirty pounds two years after graduating – and after going through U.S. Naval Boot Camp. — At any rate – Whether I was clinically depressed or not, there were times when I just wanted to get away from everybody and brood – or mope – And it began to feel like, any time I was really down – that cat would find me. And she loved to have me pet her. She was kind of several different shades of grey and white. And she never bit or scratched me. She just came around and cuddled up against me and purred quietly when she was happy. — Junior High School was hell. It probably is for everybody. There were a couple guys who would sneak up behind some random person, pound on somebody’s back with the side of their doubled fist and jump back in line, usually several people back. The attacks might not have personal, but they sure as heck did not make life pleasant. This happened mostly after lunch, we had to go outside on a small playground area. In pleasant weather the physical education guys put tether-ball poles up and that was a decent distraction. Girls often tortured each other by screaming from their small groups that one of their friends really liked somebody. Someone I thought was the most attractive young woman in my seventh grade class was being dragged toward me one day yelling, to me – “She likes you – She wants you to ask her out!” and she was beet red shaking her head, as if to say,  ‘no – no – please don’t help them humiliate me like this.’ The one time I did drum up the nerve to hint at an event that was coming up after school, close to where I later learned that she lived – she looked really nervous and looked around and quietly said that she didn’t believe her parents would let her go there. A couple days later the friends who had tortured her months previously came to me smiling and asked me questions about whether I had actually asked their friend to that event and what? fifty years later? I’m wondering if they might have been trying to let me know that either one of them might have said, ‘yes’ if I asked, but I was so freaking embarassed I blurted something about taking my old girl friend instead. One guy I had known for a couple years from grammar school found out I was going and asked if he could get a ride with us. He sat beside me. I went hyper vigilant, looking around, making sure none of the three girls from my class were there to see that I hadn’t brought my closest thing to a real girlfriend, or horrors of horrors, might think I was in love with a guy. I think I only actually got close to asking that one young woman out and maybe made a couple phone calls to see if there was any chance of even a basic out of school friendship with two other young women and one thought I was somebody else, teasing her, and the other one said her parents wouldn’t even let her talk to any boys on the phone and hung up, but not before she announced, “Wrong number-” to someone in the background. I felt at least isolated and at worst – persecuted for not being some kind of sports hero through most of junior high school. The Beatles hit big around the holiday break during my last year in junior high school. Being among the oldest kids in that school, having just a bit more freedom to change classes and not be stuck with the same kids all day, every day – exposed me to classmates who’d been in other groups – and most of them were more friendly and accepting than the classmates I’d been stuck with every day, all day during the first two years – but yeah. I spent a lot of days unable to face the pain of going to school. I pretended to be sick a lot. I convinced my mother I was sick a lot, and on days when my father had his part time job and could pop in home at any time – I turned my hyper vigilance up several notches, and sometimes even hid in the basement with Kitty for company, and I was really glad she was there.

– Flipper and my mother in the kitchen during renovations. Some time in the 1970’s” with facebook comments. –

— Flipper, part two – He walked on an angle, leaning forward, and walked in such a way that we knew his split paws were painful to walk on, but he did manage range out of sight a couple times. Fearing the worst, they sent me out to run around and try to find him. He usually came home before I was finished checking out all the nearby streets, either jogging around or on a bicycle – and after junior high school in our world, being seen on a bicycle when everybody thought you should be in a car – was social suicide. My father, on a couple occasions, became unpredicatably over-bearing – for instance, one time – he dicided that I had to wear his old outgrown over coat to Church for Easter services – when that would have been social suicide. I  resisted. You know, as a teenager going through the emotional ravages of puberty, you don’t have the ability to try to reason with a totally unreasonable Ogre. His mother, my paternal grandmother, more than once glared at me and pronounced, “Honor thy mother and thy father!” And when I looked to my mother, she protested weakly, but my father roared waving his arms around violently and over-ruled any possible protest from her. I ran out the back door and shivered at the far corner of our back yard. My grandfather came out, and quietly said, “Yeah, I know he’s wrong, but you have to be the strong one, swallow your pride and just do it so we can all go peacefully to church. Do it for me.” And I did. That night my father went somewhere to get drunk and I went out onto the back porch and had Kitty for company again. Then Kitty looked toward the door and bolted and my mother opened the door and Flipper came out onto the porch. He sat up. I petted him, then carried him down the outside steps and let him down in the grass, he limped off to a corner peed or pooped or both and came back to me, I picked him up, carried him up the stairs to the porch, sat on the aging porch swing with Flipper beside me and stroked his back for I don’t know, maybe an hour. He laid his head on my thigh and acted like he understood my pain. — He contacted something the vet called ‘green leaf mold’ and most of the hair fell off his back side, he smelled pretty bad and we had to smear some kind of medicated goop on him. My brother slept with Flipper up on his bed through that whole episode, I felt horrible that I didn’t want to have that stinky, perhaps contagious – dog on my bed with me. — For the last few months of 1971 I was working at a trucking company and living on the beach in Milford, Connecticut, with my closest thing to a friend from high school and a friend he’d met at Columbia University. We were all writers. Less than a month after the three of us moved in together we had something like ten more people, who came to visit and wanted to stay – most of the guys who showed up like that quickly paired off with a young woman. One young woman who came crying about parental abuse begged, said she’d do the dishes, do our laundry, anything, as long as we let her stay in a safe place. When she started sleeping with one of our friends of a friend’s – she didn’t think she had to do the dishes or do any cleaning at all – but anyway, on weekends we often had several friends of friends show up for the weekend and when my father was safely at work at the fire department we brought a bunch of them over to my ‘mothers’ house where she was happy to meet our friends and cook breakfast for everybody. One guy good-naturedly suggested we could call this “Dot’s Hash House.” – The same guy busted up laughing when my mother poured a little bit of the dregs from a coffee pot into a bowl with some milk and put it down on the floor – the guy cracked up, “Even the dog can’t function before he’s had his coffee in the morning.” We also regularly gave him ice cream.

— My father developed debilitating Asthma sometime after he was one of several firemen who answered a call at Raybestos Manhattan’s plant in our home town. A worker had fallen into a pool of toxic chemicals. My father was the biggest guy there, they had him climb into a pitiful excuse for a germ warfare suit and wade into the pool, pick the guy’s body up and carry it out of the pool to where he was pronounced dead. My father had been so healthy as a kid, he thought we were faking it when we caught the measles or chicken pox. He beat the heck out of me one morning when I was too sick to go to school and stood there demanding I get dressed and he was going to drive me in and make sure I went to my home room-” I could barely stand up, and I know I was visibly trembling as I tried to dress myself. He finally drew his hand back like he really wanted to punch my lights out – but said through clenched teeth, “Okay- stay here – don’t you ever let me catch you faking it again.” — During part of 1976 I moved in with my sister and tried to work in a trucking company in Vermont that was desperately trying to down-size – get rid of everybody they didn’t need – they laid me off once, realized they needed me and hired me back and then – a couple months later – were given the order to let one of the three remaining non-salesmen under the boss. The boss had to chose between his father, his best friend and me. and guess what – I was laid off a second time, maybe three weeks before I might have been eligible for unemployment benefits. During the time I was working after the first lay-off, we got a call from Connecticut. My father’s Asthma was worse than ever and his doctor suggested he might be allergic to dogs. Mom wanted to know if my sister and I could come and adopt Flipper. It took us almost twenty four hours to convince my sister’s husband that he didn’t eat much and wouldn’t be that much of a burden, and we called Connecticut, said “Yes, we’ll come and get him this weekend.” Mom sobbed on the phone, said, “It’s too late, he’s gone. Your father took him to the pound.  They put him right to sleep.”

 — Lucky —

My sister in Vermont and her first husband had a Redbone Hound – a hunting dog. Her name was ‘Rusty’. Her neck muscles were thicker than her head. While I was trying to live with them I took Rusty for walks almost every day. We all thought she’d been Neutered. After the Trucking company I worked for up there laid me off the second time in four months – { they called it restructuring } – I gave up. Then, back in Connecticut, in the 80’s – while I was working at the Post Office – My sister called me and asked if I wanted a puppy. Their supposedly spade hound dog had given birth. When I got there they had two puppies left. A black and white spotted male and a gold coloured female. My sister had told me that she knew if I didn’t take one her husband would probably shoot both of them. I wanted them both. But my father’s Asthma had gotten worse. He was spending weeks at a time in the Veterans Hospital being treated for intense attacks. Both he and my mother had asked me to move back ‘home’ and be there and ready to drive him to the hospital any time – Ambulances cost way too much. I was pretty sure I could take care of one puppy, but not two. The rolly polly golden brown female looked like one of Trixie’s puppies from almost twenty years earlier. I named her ‘Lucky’ and brought her home with me.

— My father’s condition and his demanding ways were wearing on my mother. She couldn’t face the possibility of one small added responsibility. I was working evenings, thought I was doing a decent job of taking care of Lucky – But Mom was afraid I wouldn’t keep my part of the bargain and she would have to do the bulk of taking care of the dog.

— One day when my father was feeling halfway healthy they packed her in the car and drove her back to Vermont, I was at work when they left in an early evening, I wasn’t even consulted. I got there and they were gone, I looked for Lucky and found a note stating that my mother shouldn’t have to worry about taking care of a dog.

— About a week later my sister got up one morning and began to get the dog’s food ready. Her husband asked, “What are you doing?”

— She answered, “What does it look like? I’m feeding the dogs.”

— He scowled, “There are no dogs. I shot ’em yesterday.” They were barking while my sister was at work and he wanted to sleep.

— I don’t remember exactly how or when the mother dog died. Maybe she got sick and dropped dead, or maybe he shot her, too. I think I remember my sister telling me she had to walk past Rusty’s body a couple times a day to feed their geese and sheep. Maybe that was in winter, when they couldn’t dig a hole to bury her.

— So – before I got to Canada – I did not have very good luck with pets – and I believe that was because of factors beyond my control.




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