I remember, as a kid, reading a book, by Charles Shultz, the creator of “Peanuts,” called “Happiness Is a Warm Puppy.” I lived in Poughkeepsie, NY, at the time and was most likely in second grade. For a kid that wanted a dog, it was a great book.
My father and I wanted to get a dog; my mother was vehemently against it. Naturally, we got our way, but not for long. My father’s business partner lived nearby in Middletown, NY, and his dog just had a litter of puppies. They were half Collie and half German Sheppard.
I picked out the puppy I wanted, and brought him home. My mother wanted nothing to do with him. I named him Bucky. Please don’t ask how I came up with that name, it is way too many years ago to remember.
We kept Bucky downstairs, in a workshop, in the garage and my father put up a line outside that we could attach his leash to and let him run around like crazy. Bucky’s stay with us with short, as my mother gave my father an ultimatum, her or the dog. To this day, I wish he picked the dog.
One day Bucky is gone and my father gave me some cockamamie story about him going to some farm. Being a little kid, I believed him. Years later, he told me the truth about how my mother made him give Bucky away to another family.
We never had another dog. A few years later, when we moved to another house in Poughkeepsie, they allowed me to get hamsters. In total, I had six males and one female. I named all the males Brownie and the female was Bernice. Brownie was an easy name, since all of them were brown, but Bernice was the only “b” female name I could come up with at the time.
That name really fit her, as she was mean and nasty. She didn’t like cuddling or even played with, at all. All the Brownies were quite loveable. The problem with hamsters is that they don’t have a very long life span. Most of the Brownies lived around 1-2 years. One Brownie lasted around six months only because he escaped from his cage and got into the ceiling and couldn’t get out.
We only knew where he ended up when a foul odor started to emanate from the ceiling and we never found him. What a way to go.
I bred one of the Brownie’s and Bernice and ended up with six babies. That happened when we were away for a couple of days, so imagine my surprise when I counted six one day and the next day there were only four. Female hamsters eat their babies, if they get upset or can’t take care of them.
I ended up giving all the babies away and keeping Brownie VI and Bernice. One day I got home from school and Bernice was dead. I think it was a heart attack from yelling at Brownie too much. Soon after that, Brownie died and that was the end of pet hamsters.
I didn’t have another pet for many years, until my roommate Mark and I started to take care of his grandparent’s cat. She wasn’t particularly friendly to either of us, but she did have her moments when she wanted to play with us. That’s the way of the cat: they choose to do what they want when they want to do it.
After we gave her back, Mark and I went to the North Shore Animal League and found Domino. She was in a cage with her brother and came right up to me, looked me in the eye, meowed, rubbed against my hand, saying, “Please, take me home!”
How could we resist? She was the cutest little thing, all black with a white star on her chest, a white spot on her belly and under her front arms. Her eyes were gold green and very expressive. It was very funny when we brought her home and tried to keep her in the kitchen. She just looked us, laughed and jumped over the suitcase we put in the doorway to keep her inside the room. After she did that a couple of times, we just let her have the run of the house.
That first night with us, she slept on Mark’s head. After that, she alternated, but mostly stayed with me. We, Domino and I, developed a strong bond. When Mark moved to California, I kept Domino.
I had her for 17 years. Then she developed inoperable cancer. I decided it was time to let her go. That was the hardest day of my life. My mother in law, Liz, went with me to the vet’s office. When he injected her, I held her in my arms, cried and let her go.
Afterwards, one of the nurses took us in the back where they kept the stray animals and I saw what could be a clone of Domino. She had the same markings, but green gold eyes.
I told Marcy about her and we couldn’t stand not having a cat in the house. We went back two days later and adopted that 12-week-old cat, who we named Daphne. I’ve written about her before and while she may look like Domino, her personality is very different.
Daphne is much more vocal and far more independent. Where Domino always wanted to be with me, on my lap or held, Daphne is a little bit more aloof. When she wants attention, she lets you know it and when she gets it, the purring gets loud.
To paraphrase Charles Shultz, happiness is warm kitty.
I dedicate this column to Domino, who still lives in hearts and minds.
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
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