Sunday, June 15, 2008


As I mentioned in my post on family cars, the history of our
family pets is an epic in itself. Most of our dogs and cats
were "characters" and I still remember most of them with
a grin and a shake of my head. The dogs are the most
memorable for me.

"Saddles" was the first family pet and I barely remember him
but for many years he was the benchmark the family dogs
were compared against. He was a small fox terrier type and
died after a fight with a larger dog, a boxer that lived across
the street from us. My Dad and Uncle Ed drove from Malden
to the Angell Memorial Animal Hospital hoping they could help
the dog there but it was no use. Mom told me when I was older
that I was outside and they thought perhaps the dogfight
started because Saddles was "protecting" me.

Saddles was followed by some rather er...unique....successors.

There was the Irish Setter a coworker gave my Dad. The dog
was beautiful, but the previous owner was Polish American
and the dog only obeyed commands given in Polish. Since
neither of my folks spoke Polish, the setter was eventually
returned to the original owner.

When we moved to the first apartment in Dorchester the
landlord didn't allow pets so there was a period of three years
or so without them. But when we moved to the second
apartment and were on the first floor, we had pets once more.

There was Flipper, a small mongrel dog that Dad said was a
"Sooner": the dog would sooner go to the bathroom inside
than outside. One day Flipper ran out into the street and
was struck by a car.

Our next dog was another that a coworker of Dad's gave us.
Peppy was a full grown part Alsatian but seemed to have...
issues. One day one of the neighbor kids teased him and
Peppy grabbed hold of the sleeve of the girl's winter jacket
and wouldn't let go until he'd pulled the entire sleeve off!
Luckily for Peppy, he hadn't bitten the girl. He was exiled to
our cousins in Hanover where he amused himself by chasing
cars and running headlong into their side doors.

At that point, my folks decided we were done with dogs.
Other relatives had nice, normal dogs: Aunt Peggy had Lady,
Uncle Tommy had Mr. Chips, Uncle Ed and Aunt Emily had
their Boxer, Missy. We seemed to have no luck with dogs and
about this time we got our first cat, Mittens, so there would
be no more dogs, or so we thought.

Then we moved out to Abington. One of our former neighbors
in Boston had already moved out to the country and a relative
had some puppies needing a home. They were part Boxer,
part Spaniel and the hope, I think, was that the puppy we
took would be as good a dog as Uncle Ed's dog Missy.

We got lucky. Brownie was the best of all our family dogs.
She had a great disposition and was smart. She was one of
those dogs who look like they understand what you are saying
and then make little noises like they are trying to answer you.

Brownie was Dad's favorite dog, I think. When we moved to
Abington our house was built near a large field and we could
see Brownie chasing rabbits around it. Another time she very
nearly caught a wild pheasant that wandered across the front
lawn, and actually had a tail feather in her mouth before the
bird pulled loose and got away. She brought it inside and
showed it off to Dad.

Somehow or another my folks miscalculated and one day we
there was a small pack of male dogs outside our back door. A
few months later Brownie had a litter of eight puppies. the
first of which was born on the foot of my bed. We kept one of
the puppies and named it Saddles and found homes for the
others, one of whom ended up with one of our neighbors and
was named Bella. Saddles the Second was a good dog but was
what Dad called a "dumb mutt" and eventually we gave
him to another family friend. And Bella barked....a lot. Mom
said it must have been their fathers because they certainly
didn't take after Brownie.

We had Brownie for 5 or 6 years. One day a neighbor's kid
banged on the door to tell me our dog was lying at the end of
the driveway bleeding. When I went outside it was obvious
Brownie was very badly hurt. She'd been up at the golf course
at Rte 18 and ran out into traffic chasing something. The
driver who struck her stopped and tried to help her, but
Brownie made it the quarter of a mile back to the house
before she fell and did not get up. The driver had followed her
home and was very upset.

I was in my late teens at the time and the only one home that
day. I asked a neighbor to call the police, but Brownie died
before the Dog Officer arrived.

Eventually we would have other dogs, and they were good
pets and we loved them.

But to my mind, at least, Brownie was the best of all our pets.

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