… The Lord God Made Them All
By Jeff Salter
Might as well start at the beginning…
I’m told my older brother had a dog named Poochie-Boy, but the first pet I remember (during my kindergarten year of 1955-56), was Spottie # 1. We had that dog for only a matter of weeks before it was diagnosed with red mange, for which the treatment then was apparently to be put down. Somebody in the Macon GA church gave us a Calico cat, which we named Mary. Mary was the most tolerant cat in the world and let my little sister dress her up like a doll. Before we moved from Macon to Covington LA, my parents took Mary out to the countryside and turned her “loose,” because they thought cats could not adapt to new environments.
That same year, we got another fox terrier named Spottie # 2, which was eventually shortened to Spottie. We have photos from the Macon period which show Spottie wearing a t-shirt and somebody’s denim shorts. Later she was called Puppy Sue or Sue. Still later, our brother gave her the name Pah-Who-Wee-Hah-Woo, after a Native American in a TV show we watched at the time. Sometimes that was shortened to Pah-Who. When we’d all return from church or some other outing, Spottie would greet us by dragging herself on the grass with her front paws — sort of like what polar bears do on glaciers in documentaries. Someone in our family said that was purty, which was modified to puhhdy… so when we came home we’d tell Spottie to “do puhhdy” and she’d drag herself all over the yard for us. Spottie # 2 lived a long life and I was already in college I think when she died while sleeping in the front yard.
My grandmother Robinson had an ancient, irritable dog named Dixie. After Dixie finally died, she got a dog she named Daisy. Daisy had puppies (we never met the father) and Grandmother let Becky and I pick out two to keep at her house: Rex was “my” dog over there and Happy was my sister’s dog. I think Grandmother had a dog after those two were long gone, but maybe I’m confusing Daisy in the timeline.
During my sophomore year in Mt. Pleasant IA, we lived next door to a family with a little dog named Lucky. Alas, Lucky was not at all fortunate because she seemingly received too little affection from her owners and often was outside shivering in the cold winter. To the point that Lucky eventually moved in with us and later the neighbors formally announced that we could henceforth take care of her. Now that Lucky was truly my sister’s dog, Becky renamed her Jenny. When my brother visited home from college, he promptly re-named her Benny. He would hold Jenny in his lap, pet her lavishly, and croon, “Benny is so ugly… ugly, ugly, little Benny.” And Jenny loved the attention. Jenny lived to a good old age but was eventually stricken by some sort of paralysis.
Another family pet was from a litter of kittens which had been found in the back of Marsolan’s Feed & Seed Store, where I worked for two summers and on Saturdays of the school year in between. My sister was in the hospital for a procedure and I smuggled that kitten into her room for a visit. So it was officially Becky’s cat, but the cat adopted my Dad. Don’t recall who named it, but he was called Thomas. At a relatively young age, Thomas was found dead under the house. My dad believed he had been poisoned.
While I was dating Denise, I bought her a dog that I’d come across in Hammond where I worked on the daily newspaper. Initially, I named him Ace, though his facial markings vaguely suggested a particular TV actor so my Mom re-named him Spock. He also went by Spocky-Doodle and didn’t seem to mind. I was away in the Air Force when Spock was killed by a car while my folks were visiting the cottage in AL.
Around this same general time, I bought my sister a beagle, which she named either Abby or Nabby. Someone adjusted that to Nabigail and even to Nabigail Van Buren. When our son Dave was an infant (and we visited from NM), Nabby would sit by his crib and sniff him protectively.
Shortly after we were married, Denise bought a puppy which was initially named Angus. Because he faintly resembled a miniature black Angus bull, someone adjusted his name to Bangus. He also responded to Angus McGregor and Bangus McGregor; some called him Bangoose. Bangus loved to play in the water. I’ve forgotten exactly how or when, but he died fairly young.
I’ve forgotten the details, but during our few years in Jonesville LA, we were adopted by a cat we called Midnight. Though we never met the boyfriend, our cat later had kittens. I’ve heard various stories about what happened to Midnight’s kittens, but some tell the tale that they were given away as trick-or-treat treats. [I’m skeptical of that story because trick-or-treat is how a duckling came to live in our Baton Rouge apartment during my grad school time.]
In Jonesville, we also had a little dog named either Rugs or Rags (or both). This dog later strayed out to a distant highway and was killed by a vehicle.
Fast forward a few years to Bossier City. I had been putting off getting another dog because our son was supposedly allergic to canine dander. Instead, we got two ducks (which I named Bo and Luke Duck (after popular, fast-driving TV characters)… and later some rabbits.
But what Dave really wanted was another dog. Finally he got one, which he named Rascal. During the day, Rascal slept on TOP of his doghouse, like the fictional Snoopy. Rascal also went by the names, Razz, Razz-a-Ma-Tazz, Spazz, and others I can’t remember now. He was a great dog, who used to sing for us and could do several imitations. He also ate an entire garden hose one summer. He had a girlfriend somewhere in the neighborhood and spend considerable time escaping from our fenced back yard. Rascal survived a bout of heartworms and lived a good long life until a series of later medical problems put him in too much discomfort to go on.
My daughter acquired a Spitz she named Sugar, the only animal we ever had with official breeding. I don’t recall any variations of that name, but Sugar was very possessive of Julie. Sugar slept on Julie’s bed and if anyone went down the hall and dared enter that bedroom when Julie was present, Sugar would growl viciously. Sugar also had a long life until something caused her to lose the functions of her back legs.
Our next pet was originally intended as a stealth hunter for the mouse-infested Pitney-Bowes Building in Shreveport (where my wife worked). Denise got him at a shelter in Bossier Parish. Initially he was named CIP, which was an acronym for some process my wife worked with at P-B… something like Customer Installation Procedure. Anyhow, after CIP jumped on too many desks where he was not welcome, he was fired from P-B and sent home to live with us. Somewhere along the line, he became SIP and later Sipper, though he briefly had the name Desperado because it sounded a bit too girly for me to yell out the front door, “Sipper, Sipper, Sipper” each evening when it was his supper time. Eventually, after his relocation to KY, he took on the name King Sipper the Cat.
After my wife had moved here and brought my mom to get her settled, I was still in LA selling the house and settling things at work before my retirement. To keep her company in the old Williams family Farm House, Denise paid $10 at Big Lots for a little black terrier with huge bat-like ears. It was, of course, Belle. You’d need a whole book to describe Belle – and, indeed, Belle’s essence appears in two of my novels as Perra – but suffice it to say that she could hear a leaf fall in the next county, could leap like a gazelle in the wheat fields, and could have out-raced a trained greyhound. Belle was a gregarious critter, making a wide social loop every day. She’d stop in and visit my Mom, go tussle with neighbor dog Sadie (and borrow some of Sadie’s chew toys), tussle with neighbor dog Ike, and explore other places. Belle also visited the gas station on Dairy Road every day and mooched snacks from the ladies in the office; they named her Sweet Pea. Belle accompanied Denise to obedience school, where rambunctious Belle learned how to manipulate my wife just enough for Denise to think she was in charge. Upon “graduation,” Denise offered to let the instructor use Belle as a hospital comfort dog, but the instructor politely declined. Sometimes Belle was difficult to round-up but Denise soon learned that if she would start singing the title song from “The Sound of Music,” Belle would come running and kiss her face. Many was the time when Denise would stand on our front porch and began with “The hills are alive…” and we’d see that black gazelle bounding through the wheat field toward home.
One cold and rainy night, a stray appeared at my daughter’s house. Julie was afraid to let it inside because she had two Labs that could’ve eaten it for dessert. So my wife took in the trembling bundle. Bojangles has been with us ever since. No, he does not sing or dance, but Bo loves to go with me to visit my Mom each afternoon. Until Belle’s untimely death, she and Bo would romp constantly. Bo and Sipper have an uneasy truce.
Those are all the official pets I remember, but along the way, as a high school kid, I raised chickens and hamsters. Didn’t name the fowl, but some of the hamsters were given names, which I recall to have been those of the Beatles members and their girlfriends (or, in John’s case, his wife).
What about you? Ever have pets as a kid? Have any pets now? Any funny names?
[JLS # 294]