Margin King

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“I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs.” Andy Warhol

My dad was a stockbroker, an investment advisor, and a vice president at Prudential Bache. But, he never let it go to his head. He wasn’t always prudent, though.

They called him the Margin King. When mom and dad got married dad was a gambling man, but mom didn’t want him doing that after the wedding. She said it was time he became a family man.

“The gambling stops now, “ she said.

So, he became a stockbroker. That way he could still gamble, except now it would be with other people’s money. He made tons and tons and tons of money.

He didn’t just make a boatload of money. He told jokes. He was a jokester.

He was a prankster and a jokester. He used to appear on the Hoolihan and Big Chuck TV show all the time, doing skits with them.

Hoolihan was really Bob Wells, but he was Hoolihan the Weatherman on the air. After Ghoulardi left Cleveland for Hollywood, Hoolihan still did the weather, but became the other half of the Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show. It was what replaced Ghoulardi. They showed low-grade science fiction and horror movies late at night on weekends and did comedy skits in between the commercials.

That’s where my dad came in.

The shows always started with the Ray Charles song ‘Here We Go Again’ and ended with the Peggy Lee song ‘Is That All There Is’.

Big Stash and Lil John were on the show, too, more than my dad was , but they were all friends. My parents used to go to Hoolihan and Big Chuck’s house parties and we used to have Lil John over for spaghetti dinners. Lil John was actually a small man who could eat a lot of spaghetti.

They did skits on the show like Ben Crazy, from the Ben Casey TV series, Parma Place, which was like Peyton Place, and the Kielbasa Kid, which was like a Polish cowboy misadventure.

The skit my dad was most famous for was the ‘When You’re Hot You’re Hot’ skit, which was from the Jerry Reed song.

“Well now me and Homer Jones and Big John Taley, had a big crap game goin’ back in the alley, and I kept rollin’ them sevens, winnin’ all them pots.

“My luck was so good, I could do no wrong, I just kept on rollin’ and controllin’ them bones, and finally they just threw up their hands and said, when you hot, you hot, and I said, yeah.

“When you’re hot, you’re hot, and when you’re not you’re not, put all that money in an’ let’s roll ‘em again, when you’re hot you’re hot, La, la, la, La, la, la, when you’re hot, you’re hot.”

They acted out the words to the song. Big Chuck would roll the dice. My father was the sheriff. They would be shooting craps on the street and my dad busts them. Later when they are all in court the judge tells them he is going to throw the book at them, except when he throws the book he hits my dad, who is the sheriff, in the arm by mistake.

“That hurt!” he always said.

My mom was in a skit with Big Chuck. They are sitting on a park bench on a first date under a full moon and he turns into a werewolf. He reaches for her. She starts screaming and runs away.

My dad did a lot of skits wearing a gorilla suit. But, not all of them were on the Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show.

He would get into his gorilla suit and he and Big Chuck would drive around the west side of Cleveland and Lakewood looking for hitchhikers. Big Chuck drove while my dad hid in the back seat. They would pick someone up and after a few minutes my dad would suddenly pop up out of the back seat in his gorilla suit.

They would scare the hell out of the hitchhiker. That’s what they did for fun.

I remember being a little girl and listening to their stories and thinking you guys are really weird.

Sometimes they would go out and roof jump. The houses in Lakewood are close together and they would run across the roofs, jumping from one to the other.

When they got older Big Chuck, Hoolihan, and my dad got a little more sophisticated. They had mystery parties, which were parties on a big bus on which you’d have dinner and drinks, not knowing where you were going, and at the end of the night you’d have to guess where you were.

It was the 60s at that point in time.

My dad was a prankster even where we lived, which was quiet conservative Bay Village. He played jokes on the neighbors on our street all the time. One time he hired the Bay Village High School Marching Band to wake up one of our neighbors at five in the morning. They did it by marching up and down their backyard and playing a fight song.

Another of our neighbors had dogs and I used to watch them when they were out for dinner or a show.

“Julie, can you watch our dogs?” Mrs. Butler would ask me.

One day my dad took advantage of me having their house keys. He snuck into their house and filled up every glass, cup, vase, china, and toilet, whatever, with water and a single goldfish. When they got back there were goldfish everywhere in their house.

Another time he and his friends got into their garage, picked up their car, and turned it sideways. They left it sideways so tight in the garage you had to squeeze around it. Mr. Butler couldn’t get to work the next day. There wasn’t anything he could do.

He crept into their house late on a summer night wearing his gorilla suit and scared their kids so much they peed on the floor. He thought it was great fun, giving them nightmares. That was fun to him.

It didn’t matter to him. Whatever he thought of doing he did. He was constantly, constantly, constantly pranking the poor Butlers.

My sisters and Brad and I weren’t out of his prank zone, either. He would crawl underneath our beds at night and wait quietly until we dozed off and then reach around and grab us. Oh, yeah, while we were sleeping! I still can’t hang my foot out over the edge of my bed at night.

He was a great dad, but he was a prankster, that’s for sure.

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Thank God for Privacy Fences

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“What’s better? Dogs or brooms? I mean, will the world ever really know?” Larry Bird

“We’re going to have to get out of here or I’m going to kill him,” I said.

Brian my newly wed husband didn’t say anything. What could he say? Freddie was his older brother and we were living in Freddie’s house in Little Italy.

But, Freddie wasn’t just our landlord. He was an annoying older brother. He stuck his empty, dirty, disgusting food wrappers into my make-up bag when I wasn’t looking because he thought it would be funny when I found them.

It wasn’t funny. I told Brian there was going to be trouble. We started looking for a house of our own.

Brian and I prayed together about the kind of house we wanted. We wanted central air, three bedrooms, and a fenced-in backyard.

We searched for a long time and finally our prayers were answered when we found a two-story house in West Park. We were one of the first people to see it, we put a bid on it, and we got it.

We got everything we wanted, basically. The basement was waterproofed and the back porch covered, although the backyard wasn’t dog friendly the way we wanted it, not in the least, not at all.

For the first four years of living in that house we had a backyard of mud. It was because we had up to 13 dogs at any one time, some ours, some rescues. When they came into the house a lot of mud would track in with them. Since I’m a clean freak it freaked me out.

“It’s a shame we can’t cement in the whole backyard,” I said to Brian.

“I’ve got a guy for that,” said Brian.

Brian’s got a guy for everything.

Brian’s guy laid down stone stamps in the patio and we put in river rocks, large ones around the small patio, and small ones in a big bed next to the garage for the dogs to potty.

That made it easy to clean up. We hose down the patio, hose down the river rock bed in the back, and Brian picks up every day. He puts it all in a garbage bag and we throw it in the garbage cans.

What else are you going to do with it?

Even though we liked our new home right away, which made our realtor totally happy, it was awful. It was decorated like an old person’s house. The outside of it was painted yellow and brown. Inside the woodwork and walls were painted white. I’m not a white person.

We painted everything, the outside of the house, and all the inside, too. I had a lot of design ideas and a lot of ideas about new colors. We ripped out the carpets right away. Then we re-did the hardwood floors. I swore to myself I would never have the house carpeted again.

Except after the last two winters in Cleveland happened. Like Erie froze over.

It was winter for a long time so twice for two straight years. Getting up every morning, touching the cold hardwood floors, one morning I just said, we’re not doing this anymore.

“We’re getting carpeting for the upstairs bedrooms,” I said.

Brian was very much against putting in new carpeting. He’s usually against everything, but he never says no.

“Do what you want, do what you want,” he said.

So, I did what I wanted.

Of course, now he loves the carpet. He drags his big, bare, gross feet through it.

“Stop rubbing your gross feet in my new carpet.” I tell him.

I never thought I would love carpeting over hardwood floors, but in the bedrooms I love it.

The dogs are not allowed upstairs, beyond the kitchen. The rules are that they can be in the kitchen or in the basement. The baby gate is set up at the kitchen and dining room doorway. Even so, just after we had the carpets laid down our little silver Lab, Grayson, got through the gate, went right upstairs, and peed on my new carpet.

No dogs upstairs – no Grayson.

Every once in a while we let them into the living room. That’s why there are always blankets on our sectional. We let the dogs jump on it so they can sit and snuggle with us.

Only Nookie, our Husky, is not a snuggler. He’ll cuddle for ten minutes and then he’s done with you.

There’s another living room in the basement. There’s a television, bistro table, and another sectional. All the dog food and water bowls are in the basement, too. Baby always sleeps on his dog bed, but the others lay out on the couch.

The couch is completely chewed up, completely. They paw it and dig in it when they are settling in. I don’t know what the digging thing is all about, but it’s their couch. They can do what they want, destroy it if they want. Only, when it’s completely gone, it’s gone. They’re not getting another one.

The biggest trouble is Pebbles. Fat Pebbles. She’s the one who truly wrecked the sofa. She’s my digger. She’s the reason we used to have a whole living room in the basement until it all got chewed up.

Even though I’ve decided they aren’t getting any more sectionals, no more couches, or anything in the basement, Christmas is ridiculous at our house.

Brian and I buy the dogs tons of gifts. I start buying presents for them for the next year right after Christmas when everything’s discounted. Around the end of August I start buying dog treats whenever I see them on sale. It’s not good if I buy them any earlier than August. Brian finds them and gives them to the dogs. So, I always start that later in the year.

The dogs get stockings full of toys on Christmas Day. Then the mess starts.

The toys are in stockings stuffed with stuffing, just like pillow stuffing. The dogs take their stockings outside and tear them apart to get at the squeakers inside them. By the end of Christmas week I’ve got a backyard full of puffs of white stuffing stuck in the ice.

It looks like a hillbilly backyard until I can finally get out there when winter is changing to spring and chip it out of the melting ice. I don’t like that it looks so hillbillyish all winter long, but what can you do?

Thank God we have a privacy fence on all three sides of the backyard.

 

Tennis Shoe Roller Skating

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“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.” Robert Heinlein

The good times we had when I was a kid were always the day after our family fights, which were usually on the days before a holiday. Christmas Day was always fun because it was after the big Christmas Eve scrape.

The fights always happened before or on the holiday, not afterwards. On Easter, the 4th of July, and Thanksgiving we always had a knockdown. My mom, or my dad, or both of them, would start the fight. Then the family pulled it together for the holiday, to look good for the big day. We had to look better for the neighbors and in-laws and our pets.

One Christmas all my cousins from Pennsylvania, my mom and dad’s sisters and all their kids, were at our house. Our house was warm and cozy and there weren’t any fights.

It was Christmas Eve morning and Eric from Philadelphia passed gas.

“Oh, that’s a wet one,” somebody said, and that started the whole thing, which turned out to be the flu. It went from Eric to Curtis on down to Kim and Skip and the rest of us. We barfed and barfed for days.

My mom was pissed. She was beside herself. She wanted to go to a hotel. She would have jumped ship if she could have, but dad made her stay.

Every 4th of July we had a street party. We lived on one of the only two cul-de-sacs in Bay Village. In the morning all the kids would decorate their bikes and we would have a bike parade. Our parents judged the bikes and gave out prizes.

We played games all day and in the afternoon everyone carried their grills and picnic tables to the end of the cul-de-sac for a party. We had food and our parents had coolers of beer. Everyone would party and they were great times.

My mom wore a t-shirt that said JOE BALLS on the front and FROM NEWTON FALLS on the back. It was a family joke. We had an uncle named Harold who lived in Newton Falls, but we called him Joe Balls.

One summer a waterspout tornado from off the lake touched down in Bay Village during our street party. We were out in the street playing. All of our parents were trashed. When I ran into the house to tell my mother she said, “Go back out there and play.” But, we ended up having the rest of the party in our garage.

When my mom became a nurse she wore a t-shirt that said BUSHER THE PUSHER because she was an IV Therapist. She was the one who loaded the IV’s with drugs. She became a nurse when I was in 5th grade. She had all of us and then decided she wanted a career. My grandparents put her through nursing school, paying for it all. She studied at Tri-C and later worked at Lakewood Hospital.

It was when I was in 5th grade, at Normandy Elementary School, during the Miracle of Richfield, that I got a pair of tennis shoe roller skates and lived in them for years.

We had a teacher named Mr. Barton and he loved to hoe down dance and dribble basketballs at the same time. He taught us to do it and we got so good at it that we were invited to perform at a Cleveland Cavs game.

It was the year the Cavs were scrappy and good and played the Washington Bullets in the conference finals. We watched it on TV. The crowds were so noisy people in the stands wore earplugs and the players on the benches stuck their fingers in their ears.

“If you don’t drop your ball, or double dribble, or anything, I’ll buy you whatever you want,” my dad said. I told him I wanted tennis shoe roller skates.

“Whatever you want,” he said.

We were great that night doing our hoe down dribble dance at halftime at the Richfield Coliseum, which isn’t there anymore. It’s just a big empty field now that it’s been torn down. We danced to the song Saturday Night by the Bay City Rollers.

S_A_T_U_R_D_A_Y!

I lived in my skates. I put them on first thing in the morning and skated all over the house. I did axles in the streets and figure skated every day in my tennis shoe roller skates But, I wasn’t allowed to wear them to school. Even so, I wore them all the time until I got my first pair of high heels.

The roller skates came off right after that and I’ve never been out of high heels since.

The reason is that I stopped growing when I was in 6th grade. After that I found out I was going to be short, a pygmy.

My mom was a pygmy, too. I don’t know that she was ever taller than five-foot-one.

Everybody else in our family was taller than me. My dad was six-foot-something. I was the shortest of all the kids, shorter even than Bamm-Bamm.

My mom got me a pair of Candies. They were plastic made to look like wood and had a strap across the top of the foot that stopped about mid-way up the foot. You could wear them with anything, shorts, skirts, disco pants. They were the hot shoe. Every kid had to have a pair.

“You’re going to be in these for the rest of your life,“ my mom told me. “You will never get out of them.”

She made me practice walking in them, up and down the driveway, then up and down the street, and finally up and down the stairs.

“You don’t want to walk like a clod,” she said. “A lot of girls stomp in their high heels, but you’re going to walk like a lady.”

I got to the point where I could run in them fast. I could chase dogs. I’m still fast, not as much as I was then, but still fast if I have to be.

I don’t know who invented high heels, but we owe them a lot. You put high heels on and you change. Everything is different in them. Your body moves to a different kind of tempo.

My favorite things are dogs and shoes. I still love dogs the most, but shoes are a close second.

Our Cutie Patootie

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“It’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.” Nora Ephrom

The neighbors who have passed and are no longer with us, Mary and Josephine, lived in the house on the driveway side of us. The woman who used to be absolutely horrible to me, but is a little less horrible now, lives on the other side of us. The Italian man and wife who love our dogs live behind us.

Josephine and Mary, who were sisters, lived together in the two-story brick bungalow next to us for 62 years. Neither of them ever married. Josephine cooked hot dogs, brought them to the fence, and fed them to our dogs every day. We never saw Mary. She never came out of the house.

They both died this year. Brian fixed up a security light in their living room and he mows their lawn. We park our Honda Element in their driveway to make it seem like it isn’t vacant, at least until the house is cleaned out and sold.

Chuck and Dawn live on the other side of us. Chuck has been in his frame house the whole time we’ve been in ours. He’s a super nice guy. Dawn moved in sometime later, after Chuck was our neighbor. She’s not so nice.

She’s from New York City. She started in on us right at the beginning. Whenever we used to wave to her she would never wave back. If she caught Chuck talking to either of us he had hell to pay. He would have to sneak over to say hi and talk. The things she says to him about us I don’t even want to imagine.

She would call the dog warden on me every other week. It was always about our dogs barking, even though they’re not big barkers. What she didn’t know was our dogs are licensed, all of them, all the time.

“Here’s the thing,” the dog warden finally told her. “Their dogs are licensed and everyone’s dogs bark sometimes.”

Our little Lab doesn’t even bark. Dawn finally got tired of that game.

Most of the rest of our neighborhood loves it when our dogs are out. It was Dawn who gave us the most trouble.

I don’t care if you’re from New York City, or not. It doesn’t give you the right to be a bitch. That’s all changed now that she needs me. When she couldn’t afford to have her hair done at the Charles Scott Salon in Rocky River anymore I became good enough for her.

“Chuck doesn’t pay for anything for the children,” she said. “Everything falls on me. I have to pay for their school.” She has two kids of her own and doesn’t have any money anymore.

Then, when I started doing her hair, knowing that I don’t have kids myself, it was the kids with her. “Do you think you could come over and watch them for a few minutes?”

“No,” I said. That’s why I don’t have kids of my own, I thought. “I don’t want to sit your kids,” I said.

I might have done it to be a good neighbor, but she would have started taking advantage of me, so I put an end to it.

The Italian couple behind us bought their house the year I was born. That’s almost fifty years ago. They’re straight out of Italy and I can hardly understand a word they say, her more than him. His name is Anthony, but I’ve never been able to understand what her name is. I always just call her Mrs. Anthony.

Everything in their back yard is a farm. They grow everything they eat all the full year back there during the summertime. When we first moved in they had little grandkids that fed our dogs doggie cookies.

We would hear them from our patio. “Can we go see Julie and Brian’s dogs?”

The kids are teenagers now, but they still come over to see their grandparents. My dogs run to the back fence and line up, waiting there. “You can’t stop that now, you have to keep giving them cookies,” I tell the teenagers.

Brian used to walk the dogs every day. He always stopped and talked to our neighbors. They asked him about the dogs, so a lot of them found out we rescue them.

“That is so cool,” some of them said.

That’s how we came to be called the dog people. That’s what we’re known as. Once a lady was walking up and down the street looking for her lost dog. “Did you try the dog people,” everybody told her.

“Have you seen my dog?” she asked me.

“No, but I’ll keep an eye out for it,” I said.

Sometimes neighbors donate dog food to us. We find it left on our front porch. It’s nice to have a little community support.

We’ve been taking the dogs to the dog park in the Metroparks lately instead of walking them because Nookie, our Husky, is an absolute screamer. The second you put a leash on him the screaming starts. It’s like we’re ripping out his toenails. He screams the whole way on the walk. People come out their doors to make sure we’re not beating our dogs.

It’s so embarrassing. Brian stopped walking them.

But, Nookie hates the dog park, too. He doesn’t like other people or other dogs coming up to him, or even up to us.

One day we thought we would hide from him so he would learn to leave our side and run around with the other dogs. We hid behind a tree. But, it was really sad. He just ran around looking for us.

“Brian, we can’t hide from him,” I said. “He’s never going to relax.”

When we came out from hiding and he saw us he ran over to us right away. “He’s back to guarding us again,” I told Brian.

One of our neighbors fell in love with Grayson, who is our little silver Lab. He’s got a great personality, mostly because he hangs out with Baby. He’s a cutie patootie, too

She did everything she could to get us to sell Grayson to her.

“He’s not for sale,” I said. “He’s my dog.”

“But, I love him,” she said.

“We love him, too,” I said.

One morning we took Baby and Grayson, who are best friends, even though Baby is five times bigger than Grayson, to Project Runway on Whiskey Island for a fundraiser for dog shelters. From there, later in the afternoon, we did Doggies on the Patio, another fundraiser. It was a long day. Afterwards we took the dogs out for gelato.

They loved it, the whole day, and the gelato, too, especially our cutie patootie.

 

Poor Little Retard Kid

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“Many of the qualities that come so effortlessly to dogs – loyalty, devotion, selflessness, unflagging optimism, unqualified love – can be elusive to humans.”  John Grogan

When my little brother Brad and I were kids we only ever all as a family went on one family vacation. Before that vacation my sisters used to go all the time, to Florida to see my grandparents, where they’d ride on their boat and go fishing, and all their other fun stuff.

But then Brad and I joined the family.

“Too many kids,” said my mom after we were born. Our family vacations were mostly over after that. My mom never wanted any of us, anyway, so she was pissed that we were there to begin with.

“I never wanted you kids. You are all your father’s idea.” She told us that my entire life.

“Why are you even here? You’ve ruined my life!”

We would walk into a room and she would get pissed that we were living and breathing.

Later on Patty was ostracized from the family and Betsy cut herself off. Betsy would lock herself into her room and never come out. Whenever Brad made my dad mad I would jump in and take his punishment. I couldn’t stand to see him get it.

But, we were always throwing each other under the bus, too. None of us wanted to get hit. The bad part is your sisters then grow up hating you. That’s how we have the mess between my sisters and me now.

I’m not saying there weren’t good times, but it was definitely tough.

The one family vacation we went on in my whole life was to Disneyland. My mom said it was like corralling pets. One morning I was with her. We were out searching for breakfast. No one knew where Patty was. She had just walked off. Betsy took Brad with her and my dad went to find tickets to see the Country Bears Jamboree.

That’s the only reason he went to Disneyland to begin with. He loved the Country Bears.

When my mom and I finally got trays of breakfast for everyone we couldn’t find anyone, so we sat down on a curb. A minute later, sitting on the curb, looking up, we saw Betsy and Brad go slowly by leaning back in a horse-drawn carriage.

My mom and I looked at each other. What? Really?

We all saw the Bear Jamboree later, and the next day I saw Donny Osmond riding the monorail with us out of our hotel. My sisters loved Donny Osmond when they were growing up, but they wouldn’t go up to him.

I was young and gun-shy, but my dad pushed me in Donny’s direction.

“Go get his autograph,” he said.

“No, no, no,” I said.

Dad pushed me forward, I got a running start, and the next thing I knew I was standing in front of Donny Osmond. I was just flabbergasted! I had seen him on TV and now I was standing in front of him. I got his autograph, although I don’t know how. Maybe he felt bad because he thought I was special needs – I don’t even know.

“Poor little retard kid,” he probably thought and gave me his autograph.

I ran out of the monorail. “Why would you do that to me?” I asked my dad. “Why?”

I went to Bay Village Middle School and Bay Village High School, I was a lifeguard at the Bay Pool, and I was a Bay Rockette on the kick line for two years. I had a lot of friends growing up, but I didn’t have them over our house much. I usually went to their houses. I was always leery of having them over because I never knew if my dad would be mad or if my mom would start something.

If you liked something my mom was always going to find a way to not like it. After she moved away my sister Patty wanted a family heirloom mom had, a bench that was in my great grandparent’s house, but mom wouldn’t give it to her.

Mom and dad used to have the bench in our big family house in Bay Village at the end of their bed, but when dad passed and she immediately re-married, marrying her high school sweetheart from Jersey Shore, and moving to North Ridgeville, she put it away in her garage.

Patty really truly wanted the bench.

I told my mom over and over that Patty wanted it, but she was, no, she can’t have it.

“What are you doing with it?” I asked her.

“No, no, no,” she said. It’s because she knew Patty wanted it that she wouldn’t give it to her.

That’s the way she is. If someone loves something, then she hates it. She always finds a way. She’s always been like that.

My dad could be really cool sometimes. I knew, even though he beat the tar out of us, that he cared about us. But, my mom, not so much.

We had a Rockette party at our house once, at the tail end of August, all out of the blue. We were at practice and our coach said the first football game was coming up soon, in September such-and-such, and we didn’t have a place scheduled for our potluck, yet.

“We can have it at our house,” I said.

Just like that thirty high school girls were going to be coming over to our house. I called my dad at work.

“Hey, dad, I said. “I just invited all my friends over for a potluck.”

“Sweet,” he said.

He came home early from work, bought all the hot dogs and hamburgers, and thoroughly enjoyed having all my girlfriends in our backyard. He was all over the place with his camera and took a ton of pictures. It was a good time.

My mom stayed in the house and never came out into the yard. Dad loved it, but she was pissed that I had thirty girls over.

I loved being a Rockette. I was one in my sophomore and junior years at Bay High School until one night not long after the party when I tore my hamstring in three places. I had to give up being a Rockette because of my leg.

It was terrible, like I had lost something special.

The End of Jibbs

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“The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.”  Ben Hur Lampman

We have a little buddy whose name is Dell. He’s an 80-year-old man and I met him the day Brian told me he was bringing one of the guys from the shelter to our house for dinner.

“Oh, now we’re going to be feeding the homeless in our own home,” I said.

I cried when I met Dell because I thought he was homeless, but he helps out at the shelter. He’s like Brian, feeding the homeless.

Dell lives in a big house on Erie Road in Rocky River near the Elmwood Playground. He lives alone. We go to his house every Sunday, hang out, go out  to dinner, or maybe eat there. That’s how we know Doug and Christine, a couple we met. They live across the street from Dell, their backyard facing onto the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

They had an adorable little three-year-old Jack Russell terrier. His name was Mister Jibbs.

We brought Baby, our 140-pound Leonberger, with us one evening. Leonbergers come from Leonberger, Germany. Jack Russell’s are fox and rat hunters and come from England.

“It’s too bad Doug isn’t out with Jibbs,” I said. “I would love Baby and Mister Jibbs to meet each other.”

“Oh, we can go over,” said Brian.

“I don’t know. It’s Sunday night.”

“They’re not going to mind if we stop by and say hi,” said Brian, knocking on their door. They brought Mister Jibbs out and he and Baby played and wrestled. There was some barking, but not like a world war. Doug and I took the dogs across the tracks to Elmwood Playground on the other side of the street.

There weren’t any teams playing baseball, so we let the dogs run around on the fields, although Baby is too much of a lazy lummox to run very long. He’s a big, muscular, working dog, but lazy. Mister Jibbs did most of the running and Baby did most of the laying around and smooching. After we walked back, across the tracks and through their backyard, and were sitting down again, Doug said he was going to bring out champagne.

“Don’t,” I said. “We just came to say hi, goodbye. We’re going out to dinner, anyway, don’t do anything special.”

“No, no, no, stay” he said. “Christine doesn’t like champagne. I’m going to open the bottle and we can finish it.” We were sitting and talking and drinking when Doug got up. “Have you ever seen a train coming down the tracks from this way?” he asked me.

“No, I haven’t.”

All of a sudden Christine jumped up, worried, nervous.

“Doug, grab Jibbs,” she said.

“He’s fine,” Doug said. “He’s been in the backyard hundreds of times with the train going by. Everything’s fine.”

I grabbed Baby.

“Baby’s never seen a train,” I said.

I held on to him because we were literally feet from the embankment along which the tracks were on. Jibbs was running back and forth with his Frisbee. I think he was guarding it, keeping it from Baby, so he couldn’t get it, not that Baby had any interest in it. We were all trying to catch Mister Jibbs as the train came closer. He didn’t realize we just wanted to get him and no one cared about the Frisbee, at all.

“Someone get this dog, someone get this dog.” I tried to jump and grab him, but he took off.

Suddenly, the jack Russell bolted and ran out onto the tracks.

Christine was running an arm’s length behind him. She was wearing flip-flops and a long, flowing summer dress. I don’t know how she didn’t get hit. Obviously, it wasn’t her time, but the train hit Jibbs. Christine had gotten on the other side of the tracks and I thought she was screaming.

“No, it was you screaming,” said Brian.

The worst part was waiting for the train to pass before we could get to Christine and before she could pick up Mister Jibbs.

It was horrible. I drank myself into oblivion that night at home to dull the pain.

“We shouldn’t have gone over, we shouldn’t have interrupted them, we should have left things well enough alone,” I said to Brian when we were back home.

“I told Doug,” said Brian. “Your wife gave you the look. Go get your dog. Now he’s fucked.”

“He was just guarding his Frisbee,” I said. “Should I have walked the other way with Baby? Would Jibbs have followed us? I just can’t believe Doug didn’t get the dog, or do anything.”

“Julie,” said Brian. “When you tell me to do something I will listen from now on.”

“God, I hope so,” I said. “I hope it doesn’t take another dog dying.”

There’s a place at the Promenade in Westlake that sells silver bracelets with little paws dangling from them. I’m going to get one for Christine, and I’m going to Cahoon’s Nursery and get a plant or a bush for their backyard, in memory of Mister Jibbs.

For more than a week I sent a text to Christine every day. I found out she was sitting by the spot where Jibbs died, every day. She was just trying to save her dog and the train missed her by inches. She might have been killed herself.

I wake up at night seeing Christine barely being missed by the train and Mister Jibbs being hit by the locomotive. I hear the train whistle screaming, which is why I didn’t hear myself screaming that day. All I could hear was the whistle screaming. I wake up all night long, jumping, reliving it in my head.

The other day Brian asked if I could move my Honda because he had to take his van to be e-checked. I was backing my car out of the driveway when a box truck came barreling down the street. I started to panic and jumped out of the car at the edge of the drive.

“I’m not that person, I’m not that person,“ I blurted to Brian when he came running.

Nothing freaks me out, but Mister Jibbs being killed by the freight train has freaked me out.

Throw the Frisbee

Teach-a-Dog-How-to-Catch-a-Frisbee-Step-10

“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.