My first great love was animals; specifically dogs. I remember being four and five years old, dragging an old jump rope around and pretending it was a leash for an invisible dog. I loved dogs, and was fascinated by them. When other children wanted to play “House,” I would always ask to be the dog, rather than the mommy or baby. Every dog I met either instantly liked me or took to me in a short amount of time. But none of these dogs, save the stuffed toy dogs that always accompanied me, could I call my own.
With this early childhood love of all things canine, it’s probably a wonder that I never had a dog of my own until I was fifteen. My family was poor and the rent controlled apartment complex in which we lived for most of my life had a hefty pet deposit for anything larger than a guinea pig; and that was something my parents simply could not afford. So I had pets, but we kept the size down. Parakeets, a hamster, a mouse, two turtles, newts, fish… All of these I had prior to actually getting a dog. Then one night in a thunderstorm, our upstairs neighbors found the little white dog that would come to be known as Baby, and despite being six years my senior (yes, the dog was 20 years old when we adopted her), she was still my baby. And her death, no matter how predictable it was, hit me very hard.
Then, perhaps, it is no surprise that it is the death of another small dog that has prompted me to finally begin writing this book; a memoir for and about all the pets I’ve had and lost over the years. His name was Soccer, and he was the star of a Public Broadcasting Station children’s series that aired between 1995 and 2001, called Wishbone.Though the little Jack Russell Terrier died of natural causes in 2001, I did not hear about his death until recently; and I was shocked at how greatly finding out that this piece of my childhood had passed away affected me. It was worse than when Jim Henson died, and it was worse than when Fred Rogers passed away. This revelation sent me into a depression that lasted several days. However, I emerged from the depression with a new determination.
Soccer/Wishbone was a big part of a lot of kid’s lives, and for some, the reason that they became avid readers. (His shows gave reenactments of a lot of famous, classic books, with the dog in the staring or title role, complete with costumes.) Yet it hadn’t been announced when he passed away, and the show faded from a lot of people’s memories like most cancelled television series. But I imagine that, to those who knew Soccer personally, there were many untold stories that never made it out from behind the camera. None of my pets have been famous, or even well known to anyone outside my immediate family, but I carry their precious memories and their life stories. If I don’t write these stories down, then what’s to stop them from getting lost completely when I pass on? And so, I began work on this book.
This is for all of you: Buddy, Rascal, Sugar, Pokey, Shellby, Adam, Spot, Little Spot, Sammy, Johnny, Jack Rabbit, Baby, Lady Madison, Buffy, and for you, Smokey. And for everyone’s pets who deserve to have their lives, no matter how short, remembered.