I am happy to have animal lover and expert, Mike Reisenberg, on the blog to share a beloved dog memory, and wonderful stories drawn from his life. I have known and admired Mike for years, and was a faithful listener of his radio show.
Abby & Mikey:
Sometimes we dog and animal lovers go looking for a dog. It’s time. We’ve been without a pup since our beloved Champ, Rex, Tinki, or Bear left us. The pain of that loss may have inspired promises we would never have another dog. The pain fades and being without a dog, for a dog lover, is a void more painful. We know the breed that fits us best because that’s the breed our family or we have always had. Pug people are pug people. Lab owners swear they will always have labs and that sentiment is extended to almost every breed by some group or another. Those of us lucky enough to have shared a house with a Mutt, are not as limited in our search. A trip to the SPCA or shelter almost always guarantees a psychic connection and the next family K-9.
Sometimes happenstance inserts itself and delivers a dog when you positively are not thinking or looking for that K-9 companion. Normally this happens to first-time dog owners, even those who say they do not like dogs. It often happens to dog lovers not quite ready to replace or add a puppy to their home. It especially happens to those of us thinking we may get a dog, but knowing our family or economic situation, we make the decision to wait. That is when the best dogs find us.
Pam and I and daughter Charity had owned cats. Charity liked cats. We didn’t want a cat and a dog, and I had a basement full of tropical fish and some cockatoos and a red rat snake. If Pam had let me, I would have filled our house with animals, and I’m sure a dog would have been included.
Instead of an in-house zoo that would have threatened my marriage, I purchased The Animal House Pet Shop. About that same time, we were thinking about adopting a baby. Any thought or talk of a dog was quickly hushed as being too much work with a new business et all. The Animal House took in mixed breed dogs for sale. We had them checked by a veterinarian, paid for the required first shots and worming to ensure good health. We then made a modest profit selling them to dog lovers. The idea was the new dog owner would purchase many dollars worth of toys, bowls, leashes, collars, beds and grooming services. Puppies were vet checked before they were accepted and any major health problems were avoided.
The litter of black puppies arrived before Christmas. Their mother was a Heinz 57; their father was unknown. The scruffy litter looked like Scotties and would sell fast. All had that ‘you have to love me’ look and the friendly playful way that endears dogs to anyone with a heart. They checked out, had their shots, and the adoptions started. After a few days, one of the smaller ones became sick. A follow up revealed an infection and hernia that would require surgery and shunts. The little pup needed compresses changed, and I brought her home for my daughter to nurse. I had full intentions of taking her back to the Animal House and selling or giving away a healthy pup.
Charity named her Abby. We took turns with the compresses, and Abby was there to stay! You’re thinking I should have known that? We then had a new business, a cat, and a puppy. Abby ended up looking like a long body Scotty fooling even some Scotty owners into asking who the breeder was. We also adopted a son, Mikey. Abby welcomed him by craping under his bed. He would become her favorite.
Like most of her kind, Abby was not a finicky eater. After a day in Charlottesville, we arrived home to find Abby bloated and her face covered in fish guts and scales. She had also perfumed her body by rolling in the remains of her feast. Our neighbor Jim had cleaned his fish and buried the guts and scales behind his shed. Abby was not a welcomed sight. As luck would have it, Pam’s mother was visiting, and Pam, in a firm, fussing rant, wanted to know why Opal and Charity hadn’t bathed the dog. They had twice! Three times Abby had figured a way out of the house to the waiting well aged fish. Pam’s mom said, she’s your dog and two baths were all she was doing.
Abby was mostly Mikey’s dog; she followed him everywhere. Mikey walked at ten months. The reason for his early two-legged jaunt was Abby. Mikey would grab hold of her back hair, pull himself up and then walk along beside her. Abby seemed to know not to go too fast. Mikey’s little legs grew strong as he gave up crawling for walking alongside his dog. His ten-month solo was at a Christmas Party. Abby barked with delight. They spent the next twelve years running and playing. As dogs often do Abby grew older faster and passed away.
A Pet Supply Christmas Catalog arrived and in it was a page of dog ornaments. One was the splitting image of Abby dressed as a winged angel. She has been on our Christmas Tree ever since. She hangs each year next to Mikey’s paper hand.
Beth: What a touching story, Mike. I loved it.
Mike: I am new to e-books and Kindle. My first five entries are short stories. The titles are Boots, the Best Dog in the World. The Cave. Rooster Eggs? Fish-tales, Snappers and Fishhooks. The Haunted House at Hopkins Farm.
They were all taken from a larger book that I am still working on. Each event is from my preteen years to age fourteen. Here are some brief passages from each one.
The grownups in the neighborhood called us the Hartwell Boys. We called ourselves the Snakes. As soon as school let out for the summer, we would spend Saturdays hiking and exploring the woods behind Drake hospital. We would rise early, raid the fridge, make sandwiches, and pack our own lunch.
We ate anything and everything from apples to liverwurst to sardines. Our creative combinations between two slices of bread would make Dagwood Bumstead proud. Peanut butter could be spread with anything. Our hope was that Mom didn’t have any chores for us. We were a band of five to seven adventurers. Boots, our dog, came too.
After a drink from our communal canteen, we circled the sinkhole and felt the cool, inviting wisp of escaping air. The leaves had been washed away by recent rains, and the opening looked more friendly than usual.
I stood looking down at the dark hole and welcomed that most pleasant mix of fear, excitement, and anticipation. Like standing in line for your first rollercoaster ride. “We should have brought more ropes.” I heard myself say.
After Lenore’s first day, she sat at the end of the walk, her feet in the road, sobbing into her apron. She wanted to go home. Her hands hurt, her legs ached, her body cried for sleep, and her eyes tried to wash away the thought of dishes needing cleaning. She would have fled if she had had a place to go.
She may have left on tired legs down that dusty road if she had quit crying before Luther found her.
“That’s a BIG turtle” he boasted as if he had caught it himself. “What you fixin’ to do with it?”
“Take it back to camp and eat it.” declared Richard.
“They are good eaten that’s for sure. But hard to clean. You boys ever clean a turtle?”
I nodded yes.
“ Now I know no white boy young as you done cleaned a turtle. Not as big as this un.” He hedged.
“Yes, I have! I helped my Grand Dad in Virginia.”
“Helpings one thing, but cutting through that hard shell…
The heavy door creaked open, and all but Fritz strode in. The dim was stripped with shafts of thinly sliced sun dancing dust in ribbons of gold, opaque against deeper, darker, bluer shadows. We walked and turned, mouths agape, as if part of a slow-motion square dance, choreographed to silent music, playing the same song, in all our heads. It felt as if the barn was turning around us. Our partner in a song of wonder.
The loft with hand hued ladder; hay bales still waiting to be used; horse collar and plow, buckets, hoes, rakes, egg baskets all placed ready for the days work. A workday that never came ‘till now. Now they would be our tools assisting our work. The best kind of work, the play of young boys.
Thanks for reading.
Beth: Fabulous stories, Mike. Some remind me of my childhood, and my brothers’. I remember your pet shop. The kids and I loved going there.
***Be sure to visit Mike’s Amazon Author page. He is a highly talented artist and also has some wonderful paintings on that page. He designed his book covers.
To visit his page and browse his kindle books visit:
Thanks for stopping by. Please leave Mike a comment.