My life with fur-babies

I’ve had many pets over the years and when one leaves our life, it takes a small piece of our heart with it.

When I was a child, we had a German Sheppard named “Christy”, who came with the house we rented (if I remember correctly). 8 years later, on the day we were moving out, she developed a twisted gut and swelled up like a balloon. My dad rushed her off to a vet and she passed away the following day. I’ve often wondered if her medical problem was caused by her thinking we were going to leave her behind, something we would never have considered doing. She never got to see the big yard in a better neighborhood.


“Toby” was a little black terrier that my dad picked up from the pound. They said he was only 3 or 4 years old, but within a month, he turned very grey and developed cataracts. Maybe the pound loaded him up with Grecian Formula 16 as an effort to find him a loving home? If so, it worked. He survived at least another 6 years, though I don’t remember when he passed away. (I don’t remember if he was still around when I moved out at age 21, but I doubt he was)

When I lived in Long Beach, my girlfriend & I found 2 kittens under the apartment building one rainy day. We took them in, naming them “Moon” and “Dweezel” (after Frank Zappa’s children’s names). It was a very small apartment, so they stayed in and out, and one day they were gone. Maybe they wandered off to find an adventure, or maybe some other family adopted them into their home.

Several years and several moves went by without any “fur babies”, until one day a cat walked up to the house we were renting and adopted us. She had a runny nose and wheezed a little, which the vet said might be scarring on her lungs from being sick. We named her “Sniffles” because it seemed to fit.

Then one day my buddy Kevin offered a unique trade – a black lab puppy with AKC papers to pay for the $300 he owed me. I quickly accepted and drove the 8 hour ride home with this new companion by my feet. I named him “Cody Kay Nine” (a play on words for “canine”) and he would quickly grow to a whopping 110 pounds. Cody redefined the saying “He’s just a big sweetie”.


My (now-ex)wife knew that I wanted a basset hound, so one Saturday while she was at work, she called me to say there was an ad in the paper for free basset/mix puppies. I loaded up our young son and we made the 60 mile journey to find a nice lady who had a male & female basset that she used for breeding. She said the neighbor’s German Sheppard had jumped the fence one day and impregnated her female, thus the litter of half breeds. She still had 4 or 5 and my son was playing with all of them. There was one gorgeous male with red coloring, but we ended up picking the only female in the bunch. She rode home in Billy’s lap and I later named her “Katie” (after Katie Couric, from the Today show). Cody now had a doggie playmate.


A year later, we moved across town and the lady we rented the house from had left her cat, which we named “DC” (short for Dumb Cat). Our house was quite full now, having 2 cats and 2 dogs, but thankfully they all got along quite nicely. Katie loved to chase anything that would run, and the cats figured this out quickly. A year later we moved to Sacramento and all 4 of them traveled in the truck with me (the dogs in the bed of the truck and the cats inside the cab). We rented a house for the next 3 years and our fur-family remained the same. Then we had to move and the next house we rented had a tiny back yard, so we decided to find Cody a new home. He went to an older lady who had a large yard and she could pamper him. I cried my eyes out when I loaded him into the lady’s son’s truck. The house we moved to had just barely enough yard for Katie, so the cats roamed the neighborhood. One day, Sniffles did not come home for dinner. Maybe the pound picked her up, maybe she adopted another family, I don’t know. We stayed at that rental house for only 6 months (so my son could finish kindergarten at the same school) before we bought a house in the country with 5 acres of yard. Katie had lots of space to roam and DC mostly hung out on the porch. My (now ex-)wife and I separated and I gladly kept both fur babies, which she never really had any attachment to. DC had a couple of rough times and I thought for sure he was a gonner, but he pulled through. It wasn’t until a year and a half later, when I went to sell the house, that DC disappeared. I’ve been told that when animals know they are dyeing, they wander off to be alone.

For years it was just Katie & I, and we were quite the pair. Several moves to different houses, but she took them in stride. I remarried, and Katie adopted my new wife as part of her family too. Then one day, Katie fell ill. I’ve written about her passing in THIS POST, but needless to say, after 14 years, it was the most heart wrenching thing that could happen to me at the time. I am thankful that my wife, my son, and my youngest step-son were there to help me through it.

A few months went by and we decided it was time to adopt another dog. A visit to the local SPCA office showed many potential fur-babies, but the SPCA turned down our application because we were going to keep the dog outside in a dog house. Apparently they don’t understand home-rental contracts which are written to protect the owner’s investment. That’s OK, because we found a local family who had some black-lab puppies, so we adopted the last pair that they had; and that’s how “Pookie” and “Tira” entered our lives.


We bought a house in August 2007, and one hot day while I was at the new house doing some pre-move cleaning & painting, a small dog wandered over and sat down. He gave me a look that said “I’m home, where the hell have you been?”, so I got him a drink of water. He waited patiently while I worked and traveled with me back to the rental house. My wife took him to both of the local vets, but he wasn’t chipped. I started calling him “Rocky” (in reference to the Peter Frampton song, “Rocky’s Hot Club”) but he always looked at me weird, like he was trying to say “That’s not my name”. A few days later, his owner had checked with one of the local vets and gotten our phone number. When we reunited him with his owner, I asked what his name was and she said “Rascal”, which explained the weird looks he had given us.


A few years would pass and my wife knew I still missed Katie, so she found someone who was re-homing a basset hound. Her name was “Tezz” and she tried to become part of our family, but Pookie & Tira treated her like an outsider. After a few months of her crying, we decided to find her a home where she could be the main attraction. A call to the local basset hound club was made and Tezz moved on to an older lady who could pamper her.


My wife had wanted another cat for some time, so when a co-worker said he had a litter in his garage, we drove to his house and she picked one that she liked. After many days of indecision for a name, we finally settled on “Grace”, since the young kitten was anything but. Grace stayed indoors and the dogs stayed outdoors, and everybody was happy with that.


“Mia” is a mix of border collie, Queensland heeler, and a few other strains. She came into our life because my youngest step-son’s soon-to-be-ex-wife no longer wanted her. Mia has separation anxiety and panic attacks, which are both understandable considering the home life she has had up to this point. She splits her time outdoors and indoors, sleeping inside with us while Pookie & Tira continue to sleep outside in the oversized doghouse that I built for them years ago. And she loves to swim!


Tira developed a lump which some say might just be a “fatty tissue lump”, but considering the way it kept growing, the prognosis was most likely cancer. Surgery was a very expensive option, one that we could not afford, especially considering the vet said she had a low survival rate. My wife and I decided to let it run it’s course, and as long as it did not bother Tira, then nothing needed to be done about it. We also decided that we would not be getting anymore fur-babies for quite some time. The lump continued to grow for about 2 years (our best guess) and Tira continued to stumble around. It had grown to the size of a small bowling ball and she labored to get out of bed in the morning, spending little time outside the solace of the dog house. A few days ago, she started licking it, to the point of it breaking the skin and bleeding. It was obvious that the lump was bothering her. As painful as the decision was, we knew we had to make it. Country Oaks Veterinary Hospital was able to end her pain in a very graceful manner. My wife, my son, and myself were present for the final quiet, tearful moments.

That was yesterday, and now we move on with life. I am worried about Pookie, since she & Tira were constantly in each others life for 12 years, and now not. Hopefully she & Mia will bond a little more now. We shall see how this plays out going forward. To quote George Harrison: “Life goes on within you and without you”.



It’s been about 3 years since Tira passed and this week Pookie had taken a bad turn. She had a dry hacking cough that sometimes was a deep guttural hack; yet nothing was coming up. Her last full meal was about 4 days ago and barely nibbled on what little she did eat. Yesterday I carried her to bed, mostly limp with just barely enough energy to stand in one place. Today my wife and I took her to the vet and the prognosis was what I had expected – her heart was struggling to pump. We made the difficult choice once again, and cried our eyes out as the meds quietly stopped her pain. Farewall Pookie, I will always remember the young spry pup who lept 6 feet in the air to snag a bird mid-flight.


About hemibill

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1 Response to My life with fur-babies

  1. Mona says:


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