I lost my beloved grandfather and first dog, a German Shepherd puppy named Tiger about the same time. Two years earlier I'd lost my baby sister to SIDS. Two more deaths were all I could handle. I'd already become withdrawn after being treated like I was invisible in the all-white school I integrated in Ardmore, Oklahoma, when I was in first grade. After so much loss, I became suicidal. I never attempted suicide, but I thought about it sporadically as a child and constanntly as a teen.
My chihuahua, Ginger, given to me by one of my grandmother's teacher friends, killed some of the chickens I was in charge of feeding and collecting eggs from when I moved to the Texas ranch owned by my grandparents to live with my grandmother in the house built by my grandfather. I returned to my birthplace because the man who'd nailed every nail and painted every wall died, leaving a void in an entire community. He was a shop teacher turned principal, a beloved father, grandfather, husband, and benevolent figure in a rural part of Texas that was impoverished economically, psychologically, and spiritually.
Ginger was exiled and I didn't have another dog until I was an adult. I've had eleven in all. The first was a puppy, Bu, that chewed up my collection of stuffed mice brought to my parents' home in Newton, Kansas, after I completed my undergraduate studies at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. He was baniished for destroying my first acquisition of stuffed animals. Later I would collect elephants, pigs, and hippos in celebration and acceptance of my big, beautiful body, and, finally, frogs representing the reclamation of my love for my mother after years of separation and unacknowledged resentment.
My next dog was an amazinng collie I named Aziza and called Z. He'd belonged to my brother, John, and was a casualty of divorce from his first wife. Z moved to Wichita with me when I moved there to attend grad school. I moved into a duplex with a fenced-in yard and a landlord that kindly cleaned the yard and loved my dog. Z was the most protective dog I've ever owned. He attacked anyone that came into my yard uninvited, including a Jehovah's Witness that he pinned to my front screen door, a paw on each shoulder as he barrked in her ear. I opened the door and saw an hysterial woman's panicked face nearly pushed through the mesh wire, unable to speak, her eyes pleading for help. I called Z off her and she bolted from my yard screaming before I could apologize. She obviously hadn't seen the "Beware of Dog" sign on the gate.
My landlord's daughter that owned my half of the duplex (another daughter lived in and owned the other half) decided to move back to Wichita and I had to move in with a friend that lived in an apartment and had to give up Z. A friend's girlfriend's father had a farm and was glad to have a collie to help guard his home and crops. But Z bit an unfriendly neighbor that crossed the property line and soon after died from poisoned meat, probably given to him by the neighbor.
After graduating with a Masters of Education degree from Wichita State University, I was hired to teach in Wichita Public Schools and a couple of years later, I bought a house. Shortly after moving in, I got Nibbles, a terrier mix rescued from the pound where she had been since she was puppy. i didn't have much of a yard and there was no fence, so Nibbles wandered around the neighborhood, delighting children and adults alike. Soon she was pregnant and had a litter consisting of one little black puppy that i gave to my dad after taking mother and son on a family trip to Texas. My grandmother,who never allowed dogs in the house, let me keep my dogs in a large hall between two bedrooms that was the "music room" where I'd practiced my piano lessons.
During the visit, Nibbles bit my grandmother on the foot when she walked through the hall one morning. i was surprised my shotgun-toting grandmother didn't shoot Nibbles! Nibbles and her next litter of four puppies (barely able to pay my bills on my less than $9000/year salary, i couldnt afford to have her spayed) ended up in the pound after being caught wandering around the neighborhood by the dog warden. I didn't have the money to get them out, but all five were adopted.
The rest of my dogs were acquired in Ohio. (See previous post "doGGod, mirror images.). There is still a dog in my life. I see him when I visit my mom every month. His name is Bear and my eleven-year old niece who lives next door to my mom with her parents agrees with me that Bear is absolutely the cutest dog in the world. I'll always be connected to a canine somewhere, even if my latest puppy loved is not my own. Love of dogs, good food, and good wine were the three things my deceased best friend and I had in common. She always dreamed of owning a boat and us going out on Lake Erie to fish and have 'boat drinks' (from the movie "Things to do in Denver When You're Dead") and buying a farm and a dozen dogs that could run and play freely.
I dreamed of her twice after she died. The first time she having a boat drink on a as she steered her own boat wearing her Captain's hat, bought years ago in anticipation of being a boat owner. In the second dream, she was running through a field of flowers with all the dogs she and I had ever owned. I awoke from that dream satisfied that she'd found peace in the afterlife.