The End of Jibbs


“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.


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


Throw the Frisbee


“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



Being a Bay Brat


“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.


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


The Damage Done


“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.”


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




Just Give Me the Dog


“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.


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




Better Than Human Beings



“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 northern Ohio woman, with the help of her husband, has rescued more than 600 puppies and dogs from abuse and neglect in streets back lots bad homes and other dire places.

Their household in Cleveland’s old-school West Park neighborhood often includes five six seven dogs at a time. This is her story and the story of some of those dogs.


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