Perhaps currently working for an animal pharmaceuticals company, preparing to turn thirty, and cooler and more reminiscent temperatures have led to a renewed passion for furry creatures. My nurturing instinct is cooing full-force, and nightly I peruse shelter and breeder sites to dream of our future pup or adult dog. A little-known fact to people is that I dreamed of working as a vet when I was younger. An aversion to math and science has squashed that, but maybe I’ll seek to be the world’s oldest veterinarian and start school at seventy. I used to thrive on giant animal encyclopedias and nature shows, memorizing every breed created. Animals were and continue to be so fascinating. So while we stash away a fund for our little guy or gal, I’m dedicating this Childhood Remnants blog to my first two pets: Spike and Snoopy.
It was the biggest mistake I could make, multiplied by infinity. I jumped on Uncle Aaron’s bed with my cousin, carefree and so close to breaking its fragile structure. We soared high, rebellious, and in love with our seven and four-year-old selves. The room was a stylish blur of wooden furniture and odds and ends. The speed with which my uncle entered the room and brought us down to the floor for our respective punishments was astounding. At that moment, I knew that having a dog would be questioned by my irresponsibility. I was correct, as hot tears fell down my face while Dad reminded me that our getting a puppy was contingent on how I was behaving. Jumping on the bed of an adult when being told not to enter the room, was not a great example of my readiness.
But my sweet parents didn’t let that incident stop us from driving down to Alabama to pick up our new dachshund. Our other uncle bred them, and I spent the weeks leading up to the trip buried in dachshund nomenclature. How should they be held? “Pick them up from below their front paws, while holding their backside in support. Gather them under your arms, and make sure to hold on to the back and front legs well. Don’t let them hang too much.” I added my own addendum: “Place his head on my shoulders and cradle him like a newborn.”
Spike was already energetic in the litter, wild and hilarious and ready to pounce on his prey. His snap and snarl were vicious, and so incredibly adorable on such a small breathing thing. He chased a German Shepherd and Rottweiler down our street, and surprisingly, they ran away from his crazy screeches. One year after he was born, he ran in front of some poor college kid’s car and then went out like a tiny champion. I’ll never forget petting his silky black head, and trying not to stare at the blood coming from his stomach. We held a funeral for him in the backyard, and mourned his fierce loyalty and warrior heart. His official name was “Grandmeister Spike Williamson.”
Snoopy, his younger brother from another litter, was meant to be ours. As soon as we made it to Uncle Sidney’s house to check the puppies out, he picked up a water dish and brought it to my feet. Heart successfully melted.
Snoopy’s disposition was much calmer, and quite sarcastic like our family. People always say pets resemble their owners. Well, Spike’s fierceness and Snoopy’s sweetness and sarcasm were the perfect Hall-Williamson combination. He slept in an open kennel in my bedroom, sat close to my bed when I was sick, rolled over and played with us, ran around the living room after a bath with a towel on his little body, moved his stuff to my sister’s room when I left the curling iron on by accident, chased ducks around our backyard, curled up in slumber next to Dad in his chair, and looked for tennis balls when players hit them off the court on television. He lived happy, peaceful fourteen years and then tragically dies of a brain aneurism. I was so thankful to have moved out in college, and not have seen him unable to drink water in his last days. I miss him so much, even now.
What does an animal do? Why are we so attached? How do their small, strange lives comingle so lovingly with ours? The Bible demonstrated that they were created, and that men are to care for and love them. Poets sing their praises. Writers explain how a pet brought them back to emotional and social life. Kings and queens set them on their own thrones.
I think these precious creatures love us in return, and wait expectantly for us to shower them with our better selves. This is a priceless gift for all involved, and why you’ll never know the same warmth surging through your blood as when a puppy is curled on your feet at night. He is lying there because he loves you.