Have I ever mentioned what an extreme animal lover my mom is? Always has been. Sometimes I think she likes her animals better than she likes her people. Sometimes I can completely understand that.
There are old pictures of my mom. One in particular stands out in my mind. It’s a black and white photograph of a young farm girl. She’s standing outside in the yard in a winter coat that reaches her knees. There’s snow on the ground and she’s wearing saggy tights and has winter boots on her feet. There’s a sweet smile on her face and in her arms, she’s holding a cat that’s nearly half the size of her.
There are stories of Mom and her chickens. There’s the picture of mom and the cat. But most often, there are the stories of Mom and her dogs. Another black and white photo comes to mind. Mom isn’t in that one, but three little Pekingese dogs are in it. One was named Penny. I remember that much. The other two dogs’ names are lost somewhere in the recesses of my memory.
Almost as soon as Mom and Dad were married, they had begun their family. We four kids came in quick succession and there were dogs right from the start too. I have no memories of him; I was that young or maybe not even born yet, but the first was Sugar Pooch. (Who names their dog Sugar Pooch? My parents, that’s who!) Then there was Neko. Neko I remember. He was a big, pretty Collie who thought he was little enough to wander around under the kitchen table while the family ate. (He wasn’t.) Our little house with a family of six people and a tiny yard proved to be too small for Neko. He was constantly in trouble. He needed space. Mom and Dad sent him to live with a cousin who had a farm. I hated saying goodbye to Neko, but he was better off in his new wide-open space.
Kippy looked a LOT like this.
Sometime after Neko left us, around the time I was six years old and in Kindergarten, I came home to find that Mom had a new “baby.” His name was Kippy and he was a funny-looking little Pekingese dog. He had a smushy face and a curled, furry tail. He was really cute and Mom was head-over-heels for him. And Kippy soon showed that the feeling was mutual. He was fiercely loyal to my mom and was never far from her side. In fact, he was usually in her lap.
There are a few cute stories about Kippy, like the time my mom left her place at the kitchen table to answer the phone. She had just sat down to have a bowl of homemade vegetable soup. This was before cordless phones when a length of the phone cord dictated how far a person could move from the place where the phone was located. Mom finished her short conversation and turned to head back to her chair at the table where she saw Kippy, front paws on the table, happily licking up the last remnants of her soup.
Yeah… that was cute. But Kippy wasn’t always so cute. Like I said, he worshipped my mom. He was protective of her and barked viciously at anyone who dared to walk along the fence surrounding our front yard. And god forbid anyone come to the door! Kippy also felt inclined to show us kids who was in charge in Mom’s kitchen. We didn’t dare do our after dinner chores in stocking feet. Kippy hid under the open dishwasher door. If an unsuspecting kid tried to load the dishwasher minus shoes, Kippy would bite their toes. I know he drew blood from me on at least one occasion.
He also wouldn’t let us kids pass through the kitchen to go down the basement stairs. I remember trying to sneak past Kippy as he lay on the floor guarding the doorway to the basement. He snarled and barked and lunged at anyone trying to get by (except for Mom.) If we could get to the first step though, he was usually too lazy to chase us. It got so that when I knew I had to pass Kippy to go down the basement where my bedroom was, I’d go put on my winter boots. I laughed hysterically the first time I thought to do this. I put big, black snowmobile boots on my feet and let him attack the boots to his heart’s content. He couldn’t hurt my toes anymore!
Kippy’s favorite game was “tuck the kids in bed.” My sister and I shared a double bed. Mom would call down the stairs to let us know that Kippy was coming to tuck us in. We would squeal and hide under the blankets and Mom would come in carrying her baby, then set him down on the bed where he’d bounce around, snarling, trying to get the blankets off our heads.
Kippy scared the heck out of me. He had a nasty temper and only loved one person – my mom. He tolerated my dad, but he clearly felt he ranked above us kids in the family hierarchy. And clearly, my mom had some kind of twisted sense of humor to let her dog act so nasty to us kids. But believe it or not, Kippy provided many fond family memories. I remember being fed up with that vicious little ankle-biter more times than I can count, but when we tell childhood stories, they often involve Kippy.
Thankfully, not long after Kippy came along, Mom brought home a “sister” for him. She was another Pekingese named Tina. Tina was much nicer to us kids and never thought to bite our toes. Somehow, she made up for the fact that we had to put up with Kippy, a dog who often acted so possessed!
When I was thirteen, Kippy got sick with pancreatic cancer. It was my first real experience with losing a pet and really understanding that feeling of loss. I forgot all those years of feeling what a nuisance Kippy was. I forgot about his antagonistic demeanor and my bitten toes. Suddenly he was sick, weak and fading away. He didn’t scare us anymore, but we sure wished he could. Suddenly he let us kids pet him, kiss the soft top of his furry head and tell him we loved him. Suddenly he was gone and we were so heartbroken.
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Abby often has stories on her blog that are prompted by the prompts at Mama Kat’s blog. Abby’s prompted writings often prompt me to remember a story. Today I read Abby’s story about her childhood fear of dogs, her response to Mama Kat’s prompt, Something that scared you when you were young. Are you still afraid? Abby’s fear-of-dogs story reminded me of when I was afraid of a dog and I decided to jump on the prompty bandwagon.
I was afraid of my family’s own dog!