Sunday, May 8, 2016

"Pets," from HOME IS WHERE...

              I told you about the Italian feast every summer in town. We would all go on Saturday and have some food and play some games. Much to Dad's horror, we would win a parakeet, so we always had one in the kitchen. They were all named "Petey." One of the Peteys would come out of his cage and sit on Daddy's shoulder. He would drink beer from Daddy's glass and eat spaghetti from his plate. I think we had at least four Peteys.

              The first dog we had, we had to beg for. We went with Aunt Mickey over to her son’s house; their neighbor’s dog had a litter of puppies. Nancy and I went to see them, and we fell in love. We picked out a boy. He was white and black. We named him "Frisky," and when we first got him, we dressed him in baby clothes and wheeled him in the doll carriage. Unfortunately, Frisky had a bad habit of chasing cars.

              Nancy and I were always looking for animals to take care of, especially baby rabbits and baby birds. One time we took baby blue jays out of the nest down by the road. We carried them up toward the back door, and then we realized we were being chased by the mother, diving down at our heads.

              Daddy, seeing this, yelled, “Put them down!"

              We did and then ran to the back door.

              This love of animals has always been with me, and thank God Tom loves them too, and so did the kids when they were small. Christian still does, but Claudine---not so much. In the 50 years we have been married, we have never been without an animal. When we moved to South Carolina, we obtained 2 acres of land and a house 800 feet off the highway.

              We have been here 22 years and have had six dogs that came and stayed and a couple of cats. We loved every one of them. A little puppy followed me from the mailbox at the end of the road. He was part Chow, and my husband named him "Chewy".

              The owners came down two weeks later and said, "You might as well keep him."

              My husband said, "There was no doubt in my mind."

              Chewy died just last May.

              In 1997 the man who lived at the end of the driveway had two dogs at that time, puppies, a boy and a girl. I asked what their names were and he said that he didn't have any names for them. They were chained to a truck, and we would bring them food and water. We called them "Ike and Tina," after Ike and Tina Turner. Tina got loose and came to stay with us shortly after.

              Ike didn't come for two years, but when he got loose, he came right down. It took a while for Ike to come close to us. I think the man had been beating him. Eventually, Ike would land on the lawn next to me and put his head in my hand. Tina and Ike lived here happily for 13 years. We were so happy we could show them love, and they got to know happiness. We sure did love them. We spoiled them often with special treats.

         When we lived up North, Christian found a little kitten, so young its eyes were still closed. It was black and white and soaking wet, hiding under a bush. Christian came in carrying it, and we went to the vet for bottles and formula. I had to put a bigger hole in the nipple, but boy did she eat! I made her a bed in a basket and fed her every two hours, day and night. After a while, Fluff would hear me coming and start to cry. I would have the bottle all ready.

         When she got older, she would pull the bottle to her with her little paws and lie on her back like a baby. When she was about five weeks old, Dad and I had to go to an IBM Century Club dinner. Claudine baby-sat the kitten. I had all the bottles made up for her. We got home around 8 p.m.

         Claudine told us, “She wouldn’t eat anything.”

         I told Dad to get me two bottles and heat them up for me while I got Fluff. When they were heated, she drank both of them in five minutes and then fell asleep.

         Claudine asked, “What the heck was that?”

         “I’m her mom,” I replied, “she knows me.”

         This was in 1991, and Fluff came with us to South Carolina, living until she was 18. She didn’t like many people: only Dad and Christian and me.

         Christian brought a cat home in 1997, and two days later, the cat had five kittens. They stayed in the garden tub in our room. When they were eight weeks old, I called the pet store at the Mall and asked whether they were interested in having them. They asked me whether they were healthy, and I replied that they were super-healthy.

         Three days later we put them in a carrier to go, as Dad had said he did not want to keep any of them. On the way to the pet store, one of them, Frankie, kept putting his paw out and tapping Dad on the arm. We pulled up to the door, and Dad handed me the carrier, but as I turned around, he said, “Wait a minute. I think I am keeping him.” Frankie is seventeen and a real lovey. Everyone loves Frankie, and he loves everyone.

         Now we have eight Chihuahuas and, of course, Frankie and Pee Wee, a dog that showed up a year and a half ago, about ten weeks old.  I tried to find out where he came from, but no one claimed him, so my husband said, “What’s one more?”

         So, when we go shopping, we have a dog and cat food carriage and another one for us people. Folks always say, “How many animals do you have?”

         We wouldn’t have it any other way.


We are serializing Kathleen Blake Shields's Home is Where the Story Begins: Memoir of a Happy Childhood, published last year by Outskirts Press and available from online booksellers like and

I am proud to have coached Kathy and edited her upbeat book.

Visit my site, for free ebook offer.

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