“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” Andy Rooney
Every time I found an animal, birds, squirrels, raccoons, anything, it didn’t matter, I would take care of it and nurture it. If they were hurt my dad and I would nurture them together. If it was an emergency we always took them to the Lake Erie Nature Center just down Wolf Road.
It drove my mom crazy. Besides, she had asthma. Animal dander, saliva, and skin flakes aggravated her asthma.
“Someone’s going to have to take me to the people clinic,” she would say whenever I brought another animal home.
If you’re born to love animals then you love animals. I don’t think it’s anything you can really encourage into happening.
My dad had it. I had it. My mom wasn’t good with it.
If I wanted an animal I always asked my dad. I never asked my mom. We had dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and a poodle.
Our poodle Coco hated my brother Brad. I never knew why, exactly, except I thought he might have been too rough with her when he was a little kid.
“Coco, get him,” was all you had to say if we were all sitting on the sofa together. She would attack him, growling and snapping and pulling off his diaper. I used to have fun making her attack my little brother since I knew she hated him, and because I could.
Before Patty moved out Brad and I slept in the same room. We both had beautiful beds with big posts and a big bar across the back of them. We each had cherry wood dressers, a closet, and shelves for our toys.
I slept in the bed by the window and Brad slept closer to the attic. My brother passed a lot of gas when he was a kid. One time it was so loud he woke me up.
“Are your butt cheeks still reverberating from that one?” I asked him.
I did love him. He was good kid, overall. When I was in high school I took him with me wherever I went.
I played ‘TRIP’ with him when he was small. Wherever he was in the house, which was a split level, six steps up from the basement, or the five steps up to the kitchen, or the twelve steps up to the bedrooms, it didn’t matter, he never knew when I was going to suddenly pull a cord tight and make him trip.
My sisters made me play ‘LET ME HAVE IT’. We would be in Patty or Betsy’s bedroom and I would have to say “Let me have it.”
They would pummel me with pillows.
Just pummel me.
A car hit Coco when I was a junior in high school and when she had gotten to be older and slower.
She used to run up and down the street and into and out of the woods at the end of our cul-de-sac. The man who hit her stopped, picked her up, and went looking for the owners. When he found my sister she came to the Bay pool and got me. We had to put her down.
It was awful.
When we got our Rottweiler mom claimed she loved the dog, but we had to get rid of him because mom said the dog inflamed her asthma. My sister Patty took him, since she had moved away, so I was still able to see the dog whenever I wanted.
Growing up in our house was not like growing up in your average house. You were either going to move out while you were still young or you were going to be thrown out. I think we were all thrown out.
Everybody in my family got married when they were 19, except me. My mom and dad got married at 19, my brother got married when he was 19, and both of my sisters got married when they were 19.
I didn’t get married until I was 34, right after my dad died.
When I moved out of my family’s house I babysat Patty’s Rottweiler whenever she went on vacation. His name was Wellington.
Wellington was a silly, simple, sweet dog, but a really stupid dog, actually. He wasn’t the kind of vicious Rottweiler everybody always thinks they are.
He had a blanket that he carried around. We called the blankie Betty. We would tell him to go get Betty and when he came back he would be dragging his blankie behind him.
He loved people, just loved, loved, and loved people.
Patty lived in West Park, near St. Patrick’s School, and when school let out he would sit at the front door and cry to be let out.
“You’re not going out,” Patty would say. “You’re going to scare the kids.”
He was a silly beast and would cry and cry no matter what she said.
Then he learned how to lean on the door and swivel the knob and get out.
“You’re not going out there,” I told him every time I was at Patty’s house, but if I was upstairs dressing for work he would lean on the door and the next thing I knew he was at the end of the driveway. As the kids walked by the drive there were three big slurps for each of them.
They walked away wiping their faces.
He got out once when two guys were playing Frisbee in the street. He had seen them through the door.
“You’re not going out there,” I told him. “I don’t know those guys.”
But, he banged up against the door and when it opened he just took off. The guys were 18, maybe 19 or 20, and when they saw him running at them they froze. I ran out.
“Throw the Frisbee!” I yelled.
One of them threw the Frisbee. The big sweet-ass Rottweiler hauled ass after it.
“Sweet,” one of them said.
They ran that dog until the end of the day. His feet were bloody when he got home. He was an idiot.
Even though I loved animals and my mom didn’t, I was the only one of my mom’s kids who forced her to love me.
I would come home from parties or from dances when I was in 7th grade and plop down on her bed, laying there and telling her about the whole night, everything that happened. She would stay on the bed with me, holding my hand.
I forced her to love me. She needed that. I always used to wonder what it was like for her growing up in Jersey Shore.
A dog will love you if you throw a Frisbee. Sometimes I still have to force my mom to love me.
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus