Thinking back on childhood pets, memories are spotty; it's like retrieving turning point events from a hallucination. One experience involved Kerry, our spry Irish terrier that we inherited after Grandma tripped, breaking her hip. Kerry's move from the suburbs of Long Island to Brooklyn changed more than her location.
Her puppy-hood officially ended the day my little sister ran into the house, shouting that Kerry was "stuck" to another dog. Dad, a fire chief on Church Avenue in Brooklyn, was coincidentally home for this golden moment: Oh geez!
Kerry soon inflated like a balloon and her pace slowed until one day she disappeared into the boy's room and gave birth in my brother's bed. Some of us gathered around, hearing words, like sac, fluid, and cord, the sounds of Kerry licking her pups, and Mom: "Isn't this amazing?"
It was sad to watch those puppies leave, one by one, for new homes. And when we grew up and Kerry left for "the Rainbow Bridge," I never sought friendship or connection with another pet until I had family of my own and our sons asked if we could get a dog. Apparently a three inch lizard wasn't cutting it.
Mommy has allergies, I explained. Somehow that never sounds like a valid reason, so I expanded on the details. I would have to get allergy shots, you know... needles, I said. My sons winced and shook their heads. Kids hate shots. And I was satisfied that the discussion was closed forever. Half an hour later they returned with a followup question: So how many shots would you have to get?
Any playing of the allergy card had officially ended. Susan's neighbor 's pet had just given birth to a litter and was looking for owners.
Welcome Bon Bon.
Our friends dubbed her the little foo-foo dog -- our snowy white Bichon who refused to eat her food if another dog even sniffed it. When we visited with friends, I had to stretch my jacket on the floor before she'd stop pacing and lay down. She controlled her world (and ours) for well over a decade until the winds of change blew through our front door. Our son had arrived home from college for Thanksgiving break with a vivacious moose-like dog who had a tail that wagged his whole body.
Bon Bon recoiled, watching him from behind the sofa and sizing up the situation. The bubble over her head said: Get this nasty thing out of my house! But Greg had unfortunate news. He and his housemates had rescued Champ from a shelter near college, and now he had no place to go.
Bon Bon trembled in protest. She was too old for the excitement. She would never withstand the stress, I said. Our son would have to find him another home. After several days of searching, he found an interested man who lived in New Orleans, where we'd been seeing images of the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. It was all set. Champ was ours.
Bon Bon continued hiding behind the sofa, ever watchful of the despicable display of this attention-stealing mongrel. Then one day, while Champ bounced from one person to the next, getting all the love, she stepped out from behind the sofa and walked slowly onto Champ's ginormous bed and stood on it. We froze like mannequins. Champ leaped several feet until his chest squared with Bon Bon's face. Apparently willing to die for this showdown, her lip raised and she released a deep growl. Champ backed up like a tractor trailer, looking at us, like Help me out here, will you?
The ole girl had moxie after all! And Champ, the hunter, who later took down two raccoons and scuffled with a third, gave her everything she ever wanted, including permanent rights to swap beds. She was the queen, but she gave friendship and love in return.
When Champ had to wear the cone of shame after a surgery, he couldn't overcome the awkwardness at first, not even to eat. So Bon Bon stuck her head in his filled bowl, pretending to be interested in his food. Then she stepped aside as he darted for the bowl and overcame his handicap. Mission accomplished.
When Bon Bon was ill and lost her vision, Champ patrolled the yard as she once had, sending the evil squirrels scampering. And he stayed nearby, always keeping an eye on her whereabouts.
After losing them both - Champ just a couple of months ago, it was clear that the two of them had revived something I thought had disappeared in youth: great love for four legged friends.
At the end of January, we went to the North Shore Animal League and, after walking around, realized that maybe it was too soon after losing Champ. We were about to leave when we saw this fellow here, looking up at us. His eyes were droopy, like a bloodhound's; and the bubble over his head said: having fun yet?
No, we weren't. At least not until we met him, and there hasn't been a dull moment since.