Originally posted on October 24, 2004
Before I had my cats, my family was a dog family.
When I was born, my mom and dad had a dog that they adopted right after they got married. His name was Peanut.
Peanut was a terrier mix, all black except for a white stripe down his chest. He was a small dog, extremely agile and active, and would tear around the backyard, or out the driveway gate if it was left open, which it rarely ever was. Peanut was incredibly loyal and loving. I remember many a time when I would be crying about something, and Peanut would be right there with a gentle lick and a wag of the tail.
Peanut was aptly named, because when my parents got him, they said he was so tiny that he resembled a peanut. In fact, my dad said, it was cold when they got him, so he carried him out of the shelter under his jacket. Of course, I can only envision this, as Peanut arrived in my parents’ house five years before I even existed.
He was my dad’s dog, no doubt. He was his buddy. Dad would take him to “Potty Park,” which was actually Southport Park in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Peanut would run free and wild through the open expanse of fields along the lakefront. I remember trips to “Potty Park” fondly. They were Sundy morning excursions, usually after Mass. We’d load up the station wagon and spend the afternoon at “Potty Park,” taking in the lakefront view and letting Peanut run free and enjoy the fresh air.
Peanut ate table scraps. Sure, we tried to feed him Alpo, but he mostly turned his nose up at it. He loved his Jerky Treats though. Ate ’em like candy.
Peanut lived a long life. He was 16 years old when we finally put him to sleep. He was very sick, and probably should have been put down much earlier. But my sister, who was only 11 at the time, didn’t understand any of this, and wouldn’t let my father put him down. By then Peanut was living in the basement, and had lost control of many of his abilities. It was awful. I will never let that happen to an animal again, ever.
When Peanut died, I saw my dad cry for the first time, ever. I’ll never forget it, and still remember it vividly. I thought we would never get another pet.
But then Cubby came along.
Three years after Peanut died, my sister and I got the itch to have another dog. We bugged our parents about it incessantly. Finally, after hearing our pleas one too many times, we began our exploration. First we visited the Humane Society. There were only a few pups there, and most of them were of breeds that would grow to be huge dogs. We didn’t want a huge dog. So we kept looking.
So we searched the newspaper. There we found an ad for Cocker Mix puppies. (The mix was with a Poodle. They were Cockapoos.) We called and visited the breeder. There, in the front yard of their home, was a huge cage with five black cocker mix puppies. They were absolutely adorable. I picked out one and my sister picked up another. They were tiny. Wriggly. Cute as all get-out. And the puppy breath was to die for. My puppy was all black except for a very faint white chest, just like Peanut. My sister’s puppy was black with white paws. We chose my puppy.
We had nothing to take him home in, since we didn’t expect to take a puppy home right away. So we went home, got a box out of the basement, got an old (clean) rug, and then went to the pet store and got some supplies. Food, collar, leash, toys. And we went to get the puppy.
The first day home, the puppy immediately took a liking to my dad. And his toes. And his shoes. He was so tiny, he fit (and slept) in my dad’s old Army hat. We have pictures of that somewhere.
I named Cubby. We sat in our living room and had a family meeting on what to name him. Oreo was close to being a winner. But then I saw a Chicago Cubs newsletter in my dad’s magazine rack and I said, matter-of-factly, “How about ‘Cubby?'” The discussion was over.
Cubby was an absolute joy. Just the sweetest, most lovable dog I have ever known. He would cry when we would leave and go absolutely insane when we came home. I loved when we would pull into the driveway and his little head would appear between the drapes in the living room. He’d yelp and screech and run to the door and run circles around us when we’d open the door. What a way to be greeted home.
We had so many fun games that we played with Cubby. We taught him to crawl across the room, roll over, and turn a circle. That was probably the funniest of all. You would hold a treat high in the air, and by golly, the dog would spin around in a circle to catch the treat. He was such an acrobat.
Cubby got first place in Obedience School. But you’d never know it the way he’d selectively listen to you when you told him to come here, or get off the sofa. But nobody ever minded. He was so darn cute, you didn’t care.
His favorite treats were Pup-peronis. You could just say the word “Pup-peroni” and he would flip out. Other words like “Go for a walk?” and “Go for a ride?” would also induce a frenzied reaction.
He loved snow, and would play “Snowplow” all the time. His fur was so long and kinky that he would just be encased in snow on really snowy days. It would take a good dry towel to get him clean again.
We got Cubby in the summer of 1986. I was 15 years old.
I moved out in 1997. I was 26. Cubby was 11.
In 1999, Cubby started to show signs of age. His scruff started to show gray. He wasn’t so limber anymore. He was still lovable and sweet, but his eyes were gray. He could still see, but not as well anymore. He would still greet you at the door with a wagging tail and an occasional jump for joy, but then he would sleep and sleep.
In late 1999, Cubby started to have mild seizures. This worried my mom and dad, who took him the vet. She declared that he was just getting old, and if they worsened, they should consider putting him down.
In May of 2000, Cubby had a terrible seizure during the night. My mom called my sister, who still lived in Kenosha, over to the house. The brought him down to the vet in the morning, and all stood by him and petted him gently as they administered the shot. In moments, Cubby was gone.
Dad called me with the news. He was sobbing. I never heard him cry so hard– not even when his own mother died.
Mom and Dad thought about getting another dog, but they quickly decided they couldn’t go through the pain of losing another one. And in their own advanced ages, they just couldn’t keep up with one anymore. So Cubby was the last.
Cubby was an extremely special dog. Every time I go home, I expect to see him bounding around a corner or jumping on the sofa. I think of him often, and still have his picture at work at my desk.
I love my cats. They are a joy, and they are my companions. But there is something so wonderful and special about a family dog. And my family had two of the most wonderful dogs I have ever known. I’m not exactly sure why I felt the need to share this with you, but I’m glad I did. They were a part of my life, and will always be.
And so, they should be a part of this blog.