My Protector Pal

If you’ve read my other stories and my profile you know that since childhood I’ve been involved on some level with animals. During my teen years we had a few puppies that didn’t survive due to not having vaccines and one that was hit by a car. My parents grew up in small towns and on farms, and were from a generation that didn’t commonly take pets to the vet. But this story isn’t about that. It is about my borrowed dog.

I usually have a rough idea of who the different animals are in my neighborhood whether I see them behind a fence, dogs out walking with their people, occasional loose dogs, cats on their own, and sometimes someone will tell me about an animal I haven’t yet met. When I was 15 years old I’d heard about a dog in our neighborhood named Rex, and one day as I was walking to a friend’s house I saw him sniffing at a telephone pole. He was big, had long gray wavy hair, folded ears and a curved tail. I said “Rex?” and he came right over to me. I gave him a few pats and he came with me to my friend Lorie’s house, where we gave him a bath! Apparently he didn’t hold it against us because he continued to be my friend and hang out with me.

His owners either let him out on his own or he’d break free from being chained in his yard and then he’d make his way to my house on the next block. I wasn’t driving yet so we walked a lot in those days and he’d tag along anywhere I went. I eventually got some sort of rope or a leash so he wouldn’t be in the street and boy that dog could pull! I’d either wear a glove or wrap the rope around my waist because it hurt my hand so much. I knew nothing about dog training and I don’t think he did either. He wasn’t only strong but graceful too. It was wonderful to throw a ball over a fence and see him sail over it with ease.

Rex never bothered our cats but he really was bonkers for my hamster!  He’d stand over the cage and look down at the little fellow sleeping and wag and look very longingly into the nest. When he was in our house I’d make sure the door was shut to my bedroom. One day I must have forgotten. I came into the bedroom and there was a head shaped hole mashed through the top of the cage and the cage was on the ground and no hamster in sight. My heart sank. I looked under the bed and found my hamster! He was sopping wet like he’d taken a bath but he was unharmed!! Rex could have had him for a snack but he didn’t.

This next bit is tricky because I don’t want to go off on a rabbit trail about how things were growing up, but I need to add some of it for this part. My dad had anger issues and was abusive. But let me say right here that once I was an adult we were able to be friends and I believe he was sorry for his earlier behavior. So, during one of Rex’s visits by dad slapped my face and Rex immediately raised himself onto two legs and put his open mouth at the front of my dad’s neck. He didn’t bite him, just warned him not to do that to me. Wow! You should have seen the fear on my dad’s face! Thank you Rex!

That is why I called this story My Protector Pal. He was fun to go places with (except for his pulling) and he watched out for me. In a nutshell that’s what dogs do isn’t it? They’re our friends who like to spend time with us and they warn us and others with their barking or more if necessary. They don’t call them man’s best friend without a reason.

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The only photo I have of him from approximately 1971 . I need to have it touched up.

Back to the Early Days

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This is the beautiful culprit. Really a most wonderful cat.

Animals do what animals do and it isn’t always what we want. They are wired for hunting and that’s just the way it is. When I was about 9-10 years old our cat killed 3 wild bunnies. I held funerals with my friend Mary Jo for any dead creature that I came across and buried them all around the house where I grew up. I used Popsicle sticks in the form of a cross to mark the burial sites. When the bunnies were killed I was going through a phase where I labeled the “coffins” (usually a shoe box) with information about the date and species, thinking archaeologists in the future would want to know. Ha! What can I say, I watched a lot of Natural Geographic growing up!

This time however, I thought a glass jar would be an even better coffin for keeping the bodies and the information more intact. I took the bunnies and wrapped them in Kleenex and put them in a jar with the label inside, and put the jar on a lower shelf between the backdoor and kitchen, then I went to get something…

About a week later I heard a scream from the kitchen and I ran downstairs and heard my Mom say, “WHAT – IS – IT!” as she closed lid on the jar. I said, “Oh, sorry Mom those are the (+/- week old) dead bunnies”. Then I sheepishly went and had the funeral in a hurry.

I guess people do what people do and it isn’t always what we want either!

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Me and Ping Pong with my brother.

P.S. This cat was not a big hunter…more of a big sleeper! He was a very gentle soul and wouldn’t even harm our hamsters. The incident with the bunnies was pretty unusual for him.

Where it Started

I’m so glad we were allowed to have pets growing up!

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Bootsy the momma cat, my brother and me with what looks like 3 kittens tucked in around us.

Bootsy was such a sweet and tolerant cat and didn’t mind sharing her babies with us. She almost looks like a kitten herself.

Through the years we always had cats, a few special dogs, a few hamsters and fish. One summer my brother and his friend rescued an “Easter duckling” from a nearby lake. I was always bringing home baby birds that had fallen out of the nest, at least I thought that is why they were on the ground. When I got older I found out about local wildlife rehabilitation organizations and I’d bring them there. Still do!

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See how patient she was! What a great cat 🙂