This is more essay than story and that could be one reason it was not selected for any sort of award. Of course the fact that there were always lots of good stories back then might have had something to do with it. It was written in August of 1999 and the theme was, naturally, "Cats and Dogs".
Lots of things have had their impact on my life in the past 41 years. There have been births and deaths. Friends come and friends go. There have been disasters both large and small, some funny now some never will be. But of all the things that have impacted my life pets have been one of the most on going influences over time and have been probably the most varied.
The earliest dog I can remember, actually two dogs, and these are really hazy as I was very young were a Chow named Weary and a Dachshund named Rudolph. I remember they were not little kid dogs. One of them at least nipped me on one or more occasions for my efforts to be friendly as kids will. Mostly I remember this pair because they were my parents "kids" before they had kids just as Lefty and Summer and Fuzzy, Felix, Oscar and Splotch were our kids
before we had our son Lee. Weary I remember was thus named because of one ear that refused to stand up, I honestly don’t remember but then I’ve never forgotten him either.
I mentioned our "kids" before kids so I’ll jump way ahead to that. Does everybody treat their pets like kids before they have kids? Maybe we’re just weird. The first was a male cat named Fuzzy. He was the first cat I’d owned how was I supposed to know that they don’t keep that kitten fuzz when they grow up? He quickly lost it and became a very large Tom cat. The independent sort he loved to be outdoors and would not be denied. He would push screens out of the windows to get out. The apex of his career as a screen remover was when he learned to get them out from the outside. My wife was being dropped off on the way home from work one day when they had the opportunity to catch Fuzzy in the act. He jumped up more than midway up the screen, hooked his claws in and allowed himself to fall backward, pulling the screen out of the window with him. Is it any wonder we just started leaving one screen out?
After Fuzzy grew out of kittenhood we still felt paternal I guess but as no children were in the plan yet, us still being in college, we decided on another kitten. We went to pick one out and there were only two left. As we played with them it was so hard picking one. They were so very different in looks and actions. I learned a very important part of choosing kittens that day. Never go when there are only two left. We ended up taking both. In all fairness I have no regrets. That is how Felix and Oscar, our very own Odd Couple came into our lives.
Oscar was a loveable slob, fuzzy gray and charmingly clumsy. He never changed except to get larger. He was probably my favorite cat of all time. In truth my favorite pet of all time. He had a knack for getting in trouble and needing to be rescued. I got him down from the roof several times when he would follow Felix or Fuzzy up there and not quite figure out how to get down. It was also Oscar that one morning awoke me by standing on my chest meowing pitifully as I came to consciousness smelling used gear oil and feeling a warm wet liquid dripping on my chest. Opening my eyes I was met with a cat that could have been the poster child for the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He had somehow contrived to fall into a bucket of oil I had drained from a car’s rear axle and not disposed of right away, another lesson learned. After a panicked call to the vet I found myself trying to keep himself from licking the oil off and washing him with GO-JO hand cleaner and Lava soap. He must have known he needed help though because he didn’t even fight it. Unfortunately Oscar exhibited poor judgement to the end finally picking the wrong time to try to cross a street. I still think of him from time to time, I still think of that day I lost him and it still makes me sad.
Cats were not our only "kids" during that period though we got a dog that we named Leftover because, well, she was. When we went to pick them out we actually picked another of the dogs but had to come back another time to get them. The day came to go get her and it turned out that all the pups but one had gone off somewhere with their mom and could not be found. We took good old Leftover then and she was a find if somewhat strange dog for over 13 years.
As a puppy she was of course raised with our cats. She came to think she was either a cat or a person but never for a minute did she think she was a dog. A few years later we decided she was lonely now that we were both working day shift and for the first time ever there was not somebody home with her most of the time. As a result we got Summer. She was supposed to be a Lab but clearly as she grew had more Setter in her than lab with long flowing hair. She did love to swim though. As a puppy in our brand new house she discovered she could take her head turn it sidewise on a newly planted Azalea and when she straightened up the plant popped right out of the ground and she had a toy to play with. She did this on roughly half of the 60 or so azaleas we planted. In spite of this she grew to live a long full life.
All these wonderful animals are now gone. We have a "real" child now almost 12 and a new crop of animals every bit as entertaining.