Being a Bay Brat

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“Let sleeping dogs lie.” Robert Walpole

I’m a Bay Brat, which means I grew up in Bay Village and lived there my whole life until my dad died. When I was a girl I picked up every lost bird and squirrel, every lost cat and dog, and every injured animal I found and brought it home to protect it.

I was an animal lover from the get-go. I got it partly when I was born, partly from my dad, but not from my mom. My mom never liked any of the dogs and animals we always had in our house.

They met at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a few hours west of Philadelphia. My grandparents on my dad’s side had moved from Ohio to Philadelphia a few years earlier and he enrolled there after high school. My mom was working in the library, which is how they met. He fell head over heels for her, swept her off her feet, and then they got married.

“We’re out of here,” is what my dad said the minute they got married. They quickly and promptly moved right back to Cleveland.

Even though they were married for more than forty years it might have been the worst thing either of them ever did.

I had a mom who didn’t love my dad, and a dad who was frustrated about it, and the way he tried to make her happy was to beat the kids, which was us. So, it was a tough childhood. Either you were being totally ignored or you were being hit.

There were four of us. First, there was Patty, and then two years later Betsy, and then me five years after that, and last, five years later, Brad.

Mom always said dad tricked her four times.

My dad was from the west side of Cleveland, where he grew up rich for his time. My mom was from Jersey Shore, just a few miles from Williamsport, where she grew up poor. Jersey Shore isn’t anywhere near New Jersey, the Jersey shoreline, or any real shore of any kind. There used to be silk mills and cigar factories in Jersey Shore. Later on factories made steel rails for trains.

During the Depression my dad’s father was the only kid in his high school who had a car. He used to follow my grandmother down streets trying to get her to come in his car with him, saying he wanted to help carry her books, so what happened was they eventually got married.

My grandfather in Jersey Shore had three jobs. He was a coal miner, a school bus driver, and a milkman, but they were still poor. Even though they were poor they built their own house on the Susquehanna River. I honestly don’t know how they ever got it built since they were so out of money.

The river was their front yard. Susquehanna means Oyster River and it was on the Susquehanna where the Mormons first got their priesthood from heavenly beings. It was a huge, beautiful house. It’s still standing, although it’s not been taken care of lately, so it’s falling apart.

My grandmother lived in that house into her 80s, but then she sold it and moved into a trailer, in a trailer park in the mountains above Jersey Shore. She slept wrapped in foam rubber with an umbrella balanced above her head for protection. She thought people in other trailers were trying to shoot her with laser guns. My mom never wanted to talk about her mom because she thought she was crazy, and a Jesus freak, too.

I didn’t know my grandfather much because he died young. He had rheumatoid arthritis real bad. I knew my grandmother. Whenever my sisters Patty and Betsy and I visited my grandmother in her big house she taught us to pull taffy and fudge, things like that. We played with her paper dolls. She didn’t have real dolls for us.

At dinnertime she would send my older sisters out on the road to wait for the bean truck. When the bean truck, or sometimes the vegetable truck, went by on the bumpy road beans would bounce off of it and they would run and gather them up. My grandmother cooked them for dinner. If no beans fell off the truck, then there was no dinner, although she usually had something in the house.

Most of the time it was something cold she had canned months earlier.

My dad went to Upper Darby High School just outside Philadelphia, when he was a sophomore. His parents moved him to Philadelphia from Cleveland and he always said he hated it. He was a Cleveland Browns fan and wore their colors, so he got into fights every day with other kids who were Philadelphia Eagles fans.

He liked telling us stories, like the one about how he and his friends went up on the second story of their high school one day, and jumped up and down all as a group until the second floor fell in on the first floor.

The school’s mascot is a lion now, but when he was there it was a court jester.

My father’s parents were from Akron, and lived in Lakewood for a long time, but had to move when the new I-90 highway was being built. Sometimes dad would drive us to a bridge over the road and show us the spot below the bridge where their house used to stand.

It was when they had to sell their house that they moved to Philadelphia. After my mom and dad came back to Ohio they lived in Lakewood for a few years. Patty and Betsy were born there, but by the time I came along we were living in Bay Village.

We lived on Jefferson Court my whole life, which was a short cul-de-sac street, five blocks south of Lake Erie. My dad designed our house and they lived there until the day he died, when I was thirty-three years old.

We all had our own rooms, although my brother and I shared a room because we were the youngest. My sisters had their separate rooms just down the little stairway from us and my parents were at the end of the hallway. We had the crow’s nest upstairs until Patty moved out and got married, when she was nineteen, and Brad was seven.

It was in the crow’s nest where I grew close to Brad, who looked just like Bamm-Bamm in the Flintstones. We even called him Bamm-Bamm. I became his protector like I did with all the neighborhood’s lost cats and dogs..

But, I could never protect him from Coco, our poodle, who used to bite and tear off his diapers when Brad was little.

Although, honestly, there were times I didn’t even try to stop Coco.

If you enjoyed this chapter of Dogs Never Bite Me, consider supporting the site by clicking here to donate.

25% contributed to the Cleveland Animal Protective League. (Specify APL in notes.)

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

 

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The Damage Done

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“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.”  Robert Wagner

My husband’s cousin Clint had been an addict, had gone through rehab and everything seemed to be all right, until the night he decided to stick a needle into his arm again. The problem with heroin is that you think, even though you’ve been clean, you can go back to using the same amount you had been using before.

He wasn’t thinking. He went into his room that one night and stuck a needle in his arm like before.

The next morning his roommate got up and found Clint curled up on the bathroom floor. He had been lying there most of the night, it turns out, on goose bump tile, in the dark.

“Clint, get up, we have to go to work,” the roommate said.

When Clint didn’t move, the roommate, being the genius he was, went back to bed for an hour. When he woke up again Clint was still in the bathroom, out cold.

Did he call an ambulance? No. Did he call the police? No.

He called his girlfriend.

“Hey, Clint’s on the floor of the bathroom and I need to get in. I need to get to work.”

“Who is this genius?” I asked Brian.

“Boy wonder, disaster,” he said.

The girlfriend drove over to their apartment. While she was on the way she called an ambulance and Clint’s mom.

They rushed him to the emergency room at Fairview Hospital in Fairview Park, where the roommate and Clint’s mom were told the bad news.

Here’s the deal.

”This kid is not in good shape. He’s overdosed on heroin, his kidneys have shut down, and he’s got Compartment Syndrome. His whole body is shutting down. Before we can work on the kidneys, before we can work on the Compartment Syndrome, before we can work on anything, he’s got to pull through the heroin overdose. He’s got to come through that first.”

After forty-eight hours he was still alive. Nobody could believe it.

Compartment Syndrome is what happens when oxygen gets cut off to the muscles in your body. That’s what happened to Clint. It’s the same thing that  happens when you fall asleep on your arm in the middle of the night and wake up with it numb and tingling. You shake it off.

But, Clint had been lying on his face, his arms and legs underneath him, when he crumpled to the bathroom floor the night before. He’d been there unconscious for ten hours, circulation, and oxygen, everything, cut off. Everything fell dead asleep.

All his muscles started dying, dying all night.

In the hospital they slit his hands open on the palms and slit his hands open on the back of his hands. The doctors slit his arms all the way up on both sides and slit his legs down the middle. They manipulated his muscles to get them to start coming back to life again.

He was wide open, machines circulating his blood. They did nineteen surgeries over three months.

They saved his arms, but both of his legs are gone. His leg on the left side is gone above the knee and his leg on the right side is gone below the knee. They couldn’t bring the muscles back for anything.

So, he lost his legs.

They didn’t tell him they had cut his legs off until he was almost done with all the surgeries and the recovery because they needed him to fight and keep going.

He was almost ready to leave the hospital when they talked to him.

“We have to tell you something,” they said.

After he got home he got a small motorized wheelchair that he runs around in. He can’t even use prosthetics because all the muscles in his upper thighs were ruined. They had to take some of them out because they were dying. If they had left them in that could have made the other muscles die, too.

The doctors had to take all the muscles that had compartments in them out of his legs.

He has no strength in his upper leg muscles to support prosthetics, so he’s going to be in a wheelchair forever. He’s thirty-two years old and his fingers are locked up. They’re almost like claws. When he talks and tries to gesture he can’t unclench them.

Clint asked us for a dog.

The dog we finally found was a puppy mill dog, a little Parti Yorkie. We got him from another dog rescuer who had put him up on Facebook. They didn’t even know what he was. They thought he was a Maltipoo, but it was really a Parti, a new designer dog, although it’s hard to tell the difference.

We jumped the rescue by telling them we very possibly had a home for it.

So, we just took it. We cleaned him up and had him for a few days at our house before giving him to Clint. Brian carried the Partie Yorkie around with him like a clutch for a few days. He was show dog size, under seven pounds, not a family-sized Yorkie.

That was a mistake, carrying him around, because Brian then started wanting the dog.

When we delivered the little Yorkie to Clint’s apartment Brian told him if it didn’t work out it would be OK and he would take the dog back.

But, Clint does nothing now except sit in his wheelchair and dote on the dog. And the dog is the kind that needs nothing but being doted on.

“I love this dog, man, and he loves me,” said Clint. “I’m keeping him.”

If you enjoyed this chapter of Dogs Never Bite Me, consider supporting the site by clicking here to donate.

25% contributed to the Cleveland Animal Protective League. (Specify APL in notes.)

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

 

Just Give Me the Dog

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“Dogs never bite me. Just humans.”  Marilyn Monroe

I was working at the salon halfway through an overlay when my husband called. When I listened to the voice mail later he said he was sorry more than once.

“Honey, I’m sorry, really, really sorry,” he said.

“What the hell did you do?” I thought, sitting in the lunchroom, making a sandwich, waiting for it to warm in the toaster oven.

He went on and on for more than three minutes. I took a bite of my sandwich.

“Oh, my God, what did he do?” I thought louder than before.

“She was walking down the street,” he said. “She looked like she was trying to get hit by a car.”

“Oh, he rescued another dog,” I thought.

He said she looked so sad that he pulled over, turned around, went back, and picked her up.

“She was just looking for someone to hit her,” he told me over dinner. “She just wanted to die.”

He found her on the east side, on Superior Avenue on the far side of downtown. No collar and no tags. She was a purebred German Shepherd, between six and eight years old. He called his brother about her and he wanted her right away. But, because Brian’s brother has such a nasty, hateful girlfriend, she said no, and that was that.

He brought her back to our house.

I fell in love with her. She’s so sweet I can’t stand it. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to give her to anybody.

She lies on the sofa between us when we watch television. If we get up at the same time she doesn’t know which of us to follow. Wherever we are she’s right behind us. She lies next to our claw tooth tub when I shower. I have to step over her, which is hard to do with my short legs.

I was wondering what her story was.

I was going up the stairs to take a shower, stripping as I went, when I found out. I was taking my belt off when she almost pooped herself. She could not get away from me fast enough. She fell down a few steps before getting her balance back, and disappeared.

I was “son-of-a bitch” under my breath. All because I took my belt off.

When we got her she was sad and depressed. She wouldn’t eat for a week. At first she and I would share rice chips, She wouldn’t eat anything else and she wouldn’t touch dog food, but then she got back to eating it.

She had a bad ear infection, but, luckily, I had ear medication left over from the other dogs we’ve rescued.

Our vet came over to check her out because she had lumps on her chest, and to run her blood. Tracy, our vet, said they were probably fatty lumps and nothing to worry about.

Brian put a call in to the pound and left a description of the dog and his phone number with them, but no one ever called back.

I didn’t know if I was gong to be able to give her to anybody, but knew I would find her a home, even if it were only with another dog rescuer. Better than the one she had.

We put up dogs with other rescuers, passing them to each other, by word of mouth and Facebook. The day before Brian found the German Shepherd I had tagged my sister in to a Yorkie. My sister had had to put her Yorkie down.

“I want the dog,” she said when she got a hold of me.

I called my friend.

“When can I grab the dog?”

I drove to Elyria that night and picked up the little eleven-month Yorkie. He was going to be my sister and nephew’s Christmas present, but we had to fix him first, in more ways than one.

An elderly woman had bought the dog from a breeder, but she got sick and ended up in a nursing home. Her idiot kids locked the baby Yorkie in the garage for four weeks. They fed him, throwing some food into the garage here and there, but they neglected it.

He went from being spoiled rotten to having no one.

Finally, a friend of the kids took the Yorkie, but decided the dog was vicious.

“Oh, it’s vicious, vicious, it snarls at me, and lunges at me,” the lady said.

“All seven pounds of it” I thought.

“Yes, he won’t let me pass out of the kitchen.”

“Just give me the dog,” I said.

People are so stupid. Sometimes I hate them. Honestly, I’d rather hang out with dogs.

Most of the dog’s problem was that he was never neutered. That was going to take a lot of his attitude out right there. The rest of it was they let him act like that. You don’t let a dog act like that. You are the alpha dog. He learned real quickly who was the alpha dog in our house.

When they’re aggressive you have to show them you’re more dominant than they are.

I said no, and he growled, and went to bite, and I picked him right up and put him on his back. If it’s a little dog you put them on their backs. If it’s a big dog you press on their backs until you hear the sigh of release.

“We don’t do that in this house,” I explained.

I put him in a cage.

“Ugh,” he said.

But, cage training is better. I wasn’t going to hit him, or any other dog.

After that he was a delight, running around on the couch, playing with his rope and toy. When I gave him to my sister I explained how to be with him, how to train him when he acts out, and to make sure she had a cage, just in case.

The next day Brian came home with another Yorkie.

“It’s for my cousin,” he said.

Brian’s cousin Clint had been a heroin addict who had to have his legs amputated.

“He isn’t still using, is he?” I asked.

If you enjoyed this chapter of Dogs Never Bite Me, consider supporting the site by clicking here to donate.

25% contributed to the Cleveland Animal Protective League. (Specify APL in notes.)

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Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.

 

Better Than Human Beings

 

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“You ask of my companions. A dog as large as myself that my father bought me. They are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”   Emily Dickinson

Since 2002 a Cleveland, Ohio, hairdresser and her husband have rescued more than 600 puppies and dogs.

Their household in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood includes five six seven dogs at a time. This is Julie Jurek’s story and the story of some of those dogs.