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Cats
Tramp O'Lean
Michelle D. Seaman
Raleigh

Tramp, short for Tramp O'Lean, was my tomcat. He was a silver tabby, long, sleek, fully clawed and a fearless hunter. I learned about his ferocious skills on the day we first met.

It was a pastel, soft summer twilight in Florida. I was riding my bike along the river in my neighborhood, when from out of somebody's bushes leapt this scrappy little fuzzy kitten. Up on his back legs, he danced toward me, doing this carnival-bear kind of walk, and he aimed his tiny claws at my tire. I smiled and just looked at him beneath my bike. He rolled onto his back, clutched my tire with his front paws, and rabbit-kicked my spokes with his back two. When I reached down to try and pet him, he bounded back to his hiding place.

Amused, I started to pedal away. Within moments, I passed a woman walking her dog.

"Well, would you look at that?" I heard her say behind me. I turned to see the same little scruff picking a fight with her startled Dalmatian.

"Is this kitten yours?" she asked.

"No," I replied as my heart told me this wild thing could "belong" to no one but himself.

"Well, someone should take him. He's hilarious."

She was right. He was funny. So, after knocking on a few doors to make sure he was indeed feral and not someone's pet, I scooped him up and took him home.

I didn't believe in tampering too much with his natural abilities, but there was one battle I did prevent; it was Tramp's most valiant act of chivalry. Imagine me, a 36-year-old woman, opening the screen door of my garage apartment. I look down my stairs to see a harmless, if not huge (probably about eight feet), Eastern indigo snake coiled and ready to strike my fearless, if not foolish, nine-pound cat. See his right claws out and hear his growl. Empathize with me as I fly down the steps, pick him up by the neck, and despite screeching meows of protest and scratches on my own skin, cuddle him close and whisper, "Good kitty. Good, crazy boy. Tramp O'Lean."

Due to personal circumstances, I had to say a teary goodbye to Tramp about three years ago. I entrusted him to a loving woman who promised to never take his claws. Wherever he is today, I hope he's hunting.

Buddy
Sybil McGuire

When I lived in the woods and hills outside C'Ville [Charlottesville], Va., we had rodents who were absolutely brazen. Imagine you have four cats and still find small gray furry beings popping out of the toaster and fleeing down inside the oven through the burner when you get up in the morning to get your customary diet cola. One morning, I reacted quickly enough (a great feat for someone creaking her way out of bed at 3 a.m.) to yank the door under the oven out of the stove, all the pans a-clank, leaving space for the most adventurous boy (Buddy--usually timid, even fearful with people--fearless when it comes to protecting me from the Rodentia) to violently get right up inside the cavity in pursuit of the aforementioned beastie.

Buddy's power play scared the crap out of the other cats. Furniture was overturned, rugs were accordioned against walls from scrambling claws. Three embarrassed-to-call-themselves-felines sheepishly emerged from beneath the few pieces of furniture that remained upright after the passion of the Budster's attack finally ebbed. He didn't get the dratted rat (mouse, but I'd like to give my boy props), but he sure did make his regularly braver brethren look damned foolish. Yet he still hides when the doorbell rings.

Fat Cat & Brinkley
Lisa Hughet
Raleigh

I foster dogs and cats for the SPCA of Wake County, and each of them usually has a special talent. Two of my latest cats had exceptional talents that earned them interviews with local reporters. Here are their stories:

Fat Cat
I was recently sent to a "resort" because I refused to eat and everyone worried that I'd have to change my name. I'm not really "fat," just solidly built! In addition to my athletic prowess, I'm rehearsing for a solo in the Kitty Choir. My foster mom set up the audition and worries that if I don't expand my vocabulary beyond "raaauuuuul," I won't get the part. It's time for my tummy rub appointment, then I have to do some napping, stalking the squirrels outside the window, more napping and eating. A cat's life can be so stressful!

Brinkley
News Headlines: Hunger Strike Resolve is Waning

Sources report that Mr. Brinkley, of the Wake County SPCA, seems to be breaking his weeks' long hunger strike. It is not known when he will fully recover, but these are encouraging signs. When asked why he went on the hunger strike, he replied, "I was talking with Fat Cat, who just returned from some sort of spa resort. I asked him what it takes to get reservations and he mentioned that I would need to look sickly, sneezing would be good, and definitely stop eating. I have to say, it has been worth the effort!"

But it appears that Mr. Brinkley is not yet fully interested in giving up his current posh accommodations.

A foster cat story
Domino and Fifi Houston
As told to Mikhaela Houston

Once upon a time, we were two homeless kittens in Chatham County. One day, we were found and brought into the animal shelter. While we were safe there, we never stopped hoping that someone would take one of us to a real home. Unfortunately, time was running out, and we were down to our last days in the shelter before we would be put to sleep.

Finally, a miracle happened. A very nice lady came to the shelter looking for some cats to rescue. She saw us, picked us up from our cages along with another gray kitten, and brought us to her house! Since there were other big cats downstairs that Foster Mommy was also taking care of, she let us have our very own bedroom with big windows, toys and our own bathroom! Oh, how we played and played, and Domino quickly established himself as the protective Big Brother by grooming his sisters and being a typical boy.

Then one day, Foster Mommy brought in another nice lady. She came and sat with all three of us for a long time, and continued to come back and visit every few days. Sometimes she seemed sort of sad, but she always played with us and let us listen to classical music. One day she told us she was sad because her very first cat died a few months before. She was unsure if she wanted to take on the responsibility of two little kittens so soon, and she wasn't sure if her husband would want to either.

However, Foster Mommy kept telling the Nice Lady that we were the perfect pair for her. Slowly, the Nice Lady realized that Foster Mommy was right, especially since Foster Mommy had led Nice Lady to her first cat. About two months later, our real Mommy and Daddy took us to our new home.

Our lives are so neat now! We have a great big house to play in, windows to watch all of the birds, rabbits, squirrels and opossums, lots of toys (especially milk bottle caps for Fifi), and a regular supply of food that, unfortunately, is given out at a specific time every day. (We need to discuss this schedule with our parents.) Daddy plays with us every night, and Mommy holds us and keeps saying how lucky she is to have such beautiful kittens. It is a wonderful life....

So, we would both like to thank Audie Schechter of CARE for rescuing us, "Little Gray One" for being a great Foster Sister, and our Mommy and Daddy for giving us a wonderful home. We wish all cats could be as lucky as we are.

Jethro & Terri
By Lisa Brumback

Two pets from my childhood possessed some rather peculiar abilities. There was the rabbit that hitched a ride on my new bike and the cat who rang the doorbell.

The rabbit was named Jethro, after the character from the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies. Jethro was a very brave Dutch miniature rabbit. After I got my first bicycle, I wanted Jethro to join me on my biking trips around the neighborhood. I soon found I could plop Jethro into the basket on the front of my bicycle. Together we'd ride off, exploring the hither and yon of the neighborhood. I especially enjoyed the extra attention and double takes Jethro received, perched gallantly next to the plastic pink flowers in my bike's basket, his nose in full twitch as we explored the world of alleys and pathways around the neighborhood. We were young, intrepid explorers out on a purple Schwinn bike.

Several years later along came Terri, my long-haired mutt of a cat. Terri's skill lay in ringing our front doorbell. Terri liked to jump up onto the brick ledge that lined the front doorway. As she peered into the front door window, she would brush up against the doorbell, causing it to ring. Soon she learned that anytime she peered into the front door window, a member of the family would arrive shortly to let her into the house.

One day, a painter was giving our living room walls a fresh coat of Renoir Bisque. The doorbell rang. My mother peeked over the railing from the upstairs landing and could see through the front door window that it was Terri ringing the doorbell. "Oh, it's just that darn cat , ringing the doorbell," she muttered. The painter stopped in mid brush stroke. "Now this I gotta see!" he replied.

This story was good for a laugh with friends, until Terri began ringing the doorbell at 2 a.m. Shortly after that, my father fashioned a strip of metal and placed it next to the doorbell. Terri's career as door ringer quietly ended.

I still think fondly of both Jethro and Terri. I know they are together in another place now, eating their favorite foods, taking long naps and, perhaps, ringing doorbells and riding in baskets.

Dogs
Louie
By Joan Phillips-Trimmer

I had just started my job at the health department, and part of my orientation was to spend a little time in each division. I called animal control and they said I could go out on patrol with one of their officers. The first assignment was to take euthanized animals to the animal depository. The second was to track down an emu that had gotten loose; it was running along the highway.

The emu issue was resolved when the owner discovered its location, so we headed back to the animal shelter. At the shelter, I spotted 13 puppies that had been found in an abandoned chicken coop. The parents were probably two different kinds of hound--black and tan, and some other. One cute little black and tan girl started talking to me in puppy barks, but then another one caught and held my eye, a cute brown one with a white map-like spot on his chest.

I decided to enter the cage. Though the black and tan girl wanted the attention, the brown puppy caught and held my eye again. I gently laid my hands on him. He stood very still, didn't squirm or make a peep. He just kept his sweet eyes on me. I was thinking that I might just like to take this puppy home, but then reality waded in: He was so full of worms, he was covered with ticks and fleas, and he'd had little human contact. More importantly, I knew very little about dogs; I hadn't had one since I was a child.

I left the animal shelter, worrying that the puppies would be destroyed--as so many are. There are just not enough good homes for all the stray animals, and people don't realize how important it is to spay or neuter.

A week later, I called the animal shelter back. That litter of puppies was gone. They had been destroyed. But wait--there were four or five that had been taken into a foster home; I could check out the animal rescue Web site. I went on the Net and was so happy. The little brown puppy had made the cut!

So I adopted Louie, and though sometimes I feel he's a mixed blessing, I'm glad I did. For example, barking is his main form of communication, and he's not particularly obedient, especially if he catches a scent. He's happy and affectionate though, and he's playful and loves other people and dogs--often with overbearing enthusiasm. He's great with our foster dogs.

Since adopting Louie, I've volunteer at the animal shelter once a month and we've taken in foster dogs. We've had 10 of them and they've all found great homes. We've recently adopted two more dogs and one more cat, so that gives us a full household with seven pets.

Louie is 3 years old now, but that day I met him still sticks in my mind like glue. I'm thankful I found him as my forever friend!

Pawl
By Bill Gural

"Pawl, you're a lady's man," Emma says in the middle of our writer's group. My son, a young adult now, is a charmer. His love of cuddling, his continuous geniality, his expansive leisure and, of course, his stunning good looks make him a hit.

He swaggers about my apartment complex, mingling with his peers. Anne in her sundress tells me, "Constance has been looking for Pawl." Carrie, a teacher, native of upstate New York and former neighbor, was quick to sweep Pawl in her arms and caress him with affection.

I adopted Pawl seven years ago, not expecting to be a parent at the time, but when I saw him I instantly fell in love. He's gentle, friendly and rarely gets perturbed--unless I inadvertently step on him or leave him alone for more than two days. When I gathered him after his pre-pubescent surgery, he greeted me with a drowsy smile.

"Pawl was very good," said the assistant, as I inwardly cringed at the meekness of his surrender.

I'm a permissive parent. A friend once told me after taking Pawl in for a few days that he would gaze at her with a puzzled look when she told him to get off the dining room table.

"What?" Pawl would ask like any teenager.

Pawl has ballooned so that his belly almost reaches the ground when he waddles. His heft has some of the majesty of a sumo. He carries it with grace as he leaps upon my furniture and sprints across the backyard. I get a little embarrassed though when the neighbor kids ask me when she is going to have babies.

I also blush when friends come by and I'm engaged in serious chitchat. Pawl will invariably sprawl on the floor, dangling his hands in the air, exposing his abundant tummy for rubs. I chide him with my eyes but secretly admire his directness.

Pawl often has food on his mind, whining immediately when I open the door. He likes to wolf his food. I feel like my mom when I tell him to slow down. I know that his weight problem is partly my fault, but I find myself reluctant to curtail something that gives him great pleasure. My guilt about being away so much is palatable.

Pawl used to bite my toes in the morning, a wake-up call for his feeding. I had to put him outside my bedroom at night and endure his persistent supplications. Now I worry about the psychologist's bills to treat his rejection.

Like all parents and children, we have our issues to work out. I am learning to recognize my rigid patterns and to welcome him as he is: an irresistible, loveable, gregarious, 24-pound animal companion!

Cleo
By Anita Badrock

My Doberman pinscher, Cleo, died this April at the age of 14.

Cleo's last day on earth started better than she expected. She arose midmorning, weak and gaunt from the liver disease ravaging her body, but feeling more lively than she had recently. She clicked her way across the wood floor and peered through the window. She saw the children next door playing on the grass under the warm sun. Cleo let her mommy know, using the secret language only two old friends can understand, that she wanted to go outside.

Cleo rolled on the warm grass and pressed her nose into the stomach of the small boy who carefully petted her. Back inside, she laid on her soft, down-filled bed and slept. She dreamed of rabbits and pizza and the beach.

She roused briefly several times that day, each awakening slightly more difficult than the last. She wasn't hungry or thirsty, but she appreciated the nose scratches and gentle body rubs she received from her family. Cleo smelled many old friends nearby--the human children she helped raise, her stuffed bunny and the young dog who had kept her youthful with his playfulness and obvious adoration.

Late that night, Cleo's mommy carefully hand-fed her a bowl of vanilla ice cream and warm sweet cake. She licked her mommy's fingers and enjoyed the warmth from her mommy's body carefully wrapped around her own. Cleo enjoyed the gentle stroking of her stomach. Then she went to sleep.

Simon
By Barbara Wood

I could hear his booming bark down a long hallway and through two sets of double doors. I guess he heard my voice first and was returning a bark that said, "Hello, but hurry up, I can't wait!"

As a volunteer at the Wake County Animal Shelter, I quickly got to know Simon. He insisted on that. And insisted on being the first dog in his row to be let out. We would go flying down the hallway, Simon in the lead. And as if to emphasize that he really couldn't wait, he left his mark on the pamphlet table every single time, no matter how fast we ran. Once outside for a 10-minute walk, he became quite a mellow guy ... enjoying the sunshine, fresh air and all the usual smells dogs love.

A border collie-husky mix, he looks a little wolf-like and could be scary to little children, even though he is the gentlest of fellows. Eyes of two different colors add to his comical personality, but people worry he might be blind in one eye.

Simon had the misfortune of arriving just as the shelter was closing for the holidays, so he missed the Christmas crush. Days became weeks and still Simon waited for a home. As I got to know him better, I was easily able to extol his virtues to prospective adopters, interested or not. I would frequently end my sales pitch with "This is an excellent dog!"

On hearing this, Simon would throw back his head, sit at perfect attention, and do a border collie dance with his front paws.

I began to do a self-debate, long on admonishment, that I couldn't take another dog. I had two demanding Westies at home. Simon even helped by testing heartworm positive. Scary at the time, but looking back (and thanks to Dr. Ferris), not bad at all. My love of this dog won the debate.

Simon is home with me now, enjoying long, long walks and everything good life has to offer. The only thorn in his side are those two Westies, who don't give him too much peace. Simon truly is an excellent dog, certainly the best I've ever had. Consider shopping the shelter for your next best friend.

Abby & Doc
By Bob & Karen Michael
Durham

About 12 years ago we got our second dachshund, this time a long-haired brindle-coated one that we named Abby. We wanted a companion for the Pomeranian we had gotten from the Humane Society where our daughter Megan volunteered. He was most often called "Doc," which was short for M.D. --Megan's Dog.

Karen chose Abby because she seemed to be the spunkiest of the three the breeder showed us. She is a miniature and a runt at that, never getting heavier than 6.6 pounds. She weighed just 2.7 pounds the day we brought her home. We also had a cat named Lord Taylor, because we found him stray outside a Lord & Taylor store. Both he and Doc were estimated to be about 5 years old when we brought Abby home.

Abby turned out to be as spunky as we suspected. She walked into the house, took one look at Taylor, clamped down on his tail and started running. At the time Taylor was probably around 11 pounds. For the next couple of years, Abby and Taylor would engage in these wrestling matches and chases for about five minutes at a time, two or three times a day.

Both Abby and Doc liked rawhide bones. One day Abby had finished hers and she wanted Doc's. She walked over near to where Doc was, laid down, rolled over and wiggled. The move was blatantly seductive. All of our pets had been spayed or neutered. Nevertheless, Doc dropped that bone to go over and sniff Abby. At that point Abby was up in a flash, grabbing Doc's bone and running off. Karen and I were sitting at the table. Our mouths dropped open wide enough for two old ladies and a bulldog to walk inside!

After thinking about it, we realized that we had seen an example of what the artificial intelligence researchers call "planning behavior." It is definitely evidence of higher-level thinking, and I am not sure if the AI folks have come close to emulating it yet.

A chronic illness has left Abby less spunky than she used to be. But several years ago we had to modify Taylor's "hi rise" because Abby figured out how to climb up on it to get to his food. And we have recently had to keep the garbage can out of the kitchen when we are out of the house, because Abby figured out how to pull the plastic liner out of a 2.5-foot-tall can!

Gita
By Chip Slade
Raleigh

The mornings are the worst times. If you have a bad back, too, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. It was as if little back-pain-gremlins tiptoed into my bedroom at night, stabbed their pitchforks into those muscles between my shoulder blades and twirled them into a tight little ball like so much spaghetti.

After about five hours of sleep, the pain became too much and I would crawl from the last quarter of the bed my tiny wife hadn't claimed and sneak across the hall to my study with all the stealth of a drunken ninja. There, I applied an alternating series of therapies, including ice, heat, Ben Gay, Aspirin and various wraps guaranteed to banish all lower back discomfort. The finishing touch was always a round in a shiatsu massage chair for which I paid the equivalent of one month's food budget.

Sometimes this worked, and sometimes I just became numb to the pain. But one morning, I limped from my massage chair to answer a timid scratch at the door. It was my dog, Gita, her beautiful golden eyes squinted tight in half-sleep.

Gita was lab mix, her short fur the rich, buttery color of good pumpkin pie, and about the sweetest puppy ever.

That morning, she climbed up onto my lap, all 40-plus pounds of her, put her head on my shoulder, and fell deeply asleep. It was as if she just wanted to be near me, to do what to her doggy brain was the equivalent of first aid. And the really weird part: My back didn't hurt so bad.

It became our morning ritual. I'd wake up to the pain and head to my office, the predawn light through the blinds coloring the whole house in silent grays. Gita'd walk down the hall from her bed, her nails clicking on the hardwood floors, and we'd get in the chair and fall fast asleep together. Occasionally, I'd wake up to a big, wet, dog kiss on my cheek, but that was a very small price to pay for the peace it brought me.

Ginger
By Lisa Clements
Boone

Our father had just died the week before, leaving our mother alone at the end of the road (literally and figuratively). My brother and I went to the local humane shelter to get her a dog. I guess we were thinking a watchdog would be good, although being sick for the last few years, it's not like our dad had left her unprotected; they could have both used a watchdog together. But in any case, there was a void and we chose to fill it with a dog. If you're a dog lover you'll know that maybe it's not so crazy to fill such a sadness with animal love.

So off we went to "the pound." We found a beautiful 1-year-old Australian shepherd. She had been brought to the shelter by a concerned neighbor, who got sick of seeing her being yelled at and hit by some obvious sicko who had no real love for her. We took her home, petted her, set her up with food and water, and my mother named her Maggie. Mom has never been a big "pet person," but she went along with this arrangement and seemed OK with it.

It was a beautiful autumn day, so we felt it was OK to leave Maggie outside. We had a nice area for her, and since we live on a farm with no close neighbors, we thought we'd done real good to bring this animal to such a great place to live. So, of course, she ran away.

We went looking for her, driving down to the highway and up and down all the main roads for a couple of hours. The good old boys who hung out at the little store near the highway said they'd seen her. So we had a lead. But after driving around and looking for her to no avail, we headed back home.

I thought to myself, "If only we knew her real name...." Having been turned in at the shelter like she was a rescue, the folks there didn't know what she'd been called before. I thought, if we knew her name we could call for her. I was thinking of her face, her sad brown eyes, and then suddenly the name Ginger popped into my head. I told my brother, "Turn this truck around. Her name is Ginger and we have to keep looking!"

So we went back to the main highway and, looking into the woods, I saw a flash of ginger brown. "Pull over now!" I said, and hopped out before the truck was even completely stopped. "Ginger," I called ... and out of the woods she came. She looked right at me like, "OK, you know who I am now!" I called again, "Ginger, Ginger," and she came running up to the car. She hopped in with us and we took her home.

That's been 13 years ago. Ginger had never run off again until last week. A family we know down on the highway called to say they had her. They had found her standing by the side of the road. We went and picked her up. She's been walking pretty feebly, and we were surprised she could make it that far. We think she may have followed my mom down the road and then got turned around and maybe disoriented. Her hearing and eyesight is getting worse all the time.

We know the time is coming when she might wander off, never to come back ... like old doggies sometimes do when it is their time to go to doggy heaven. But we're hoping she'll just go quietly in her sleep at the end of my mother's garage where she likes to lay. In any case, my mom has decided we'll be burying her in our family cemetery--the first non-human to have this honor. I think the headstone will simply say "Ginger."

Queenie
By Suzanne Bodeen
Hillsborough

I have grown up all my life with pets. If you look at snapshots taken when I was about 4 years old, you will see a kitten tucked under one arm and my favorite doll under the other. When I was older I had a dog. Her name was Queenie. We were both featured on the front page of our local newspaper when she got herself lost, and again when she was found. Children and pets are news because they touch our hearts with their vulnerability.

Almost everyone can tell you about a pet they had as a child. Sometimes they are sad stories of how a loyal pet died during the time they went off to college, or the heartbreaking decision to put down a pet when they were old and infirm. Pets have a special place in our memories. Pets are family members we get to choose.

People who didn't grow up with pets don't get it. My husband never had a pet as a child. I was incredulous when he told me. The idea was so foreign to me I just didn't believe him, so I prodded. "Oh, come on, you mean to tell me you never brought home a stray dog and begged your parents to let you keep him?"

"I mean it."

"Don't tell me you never stood outside a pet store scheming of ways to convince your folks to let you have that doggie in the window, and how you promised to take of him, feed him, walk him, clean up after him?"

"I'm telling you."

This puzzled and concerned me. I felt sorry for him as I envisioned a lonely child sitting on his front steps without a warm, wet muzzle to comfort him. I fought the urge to put my nose to his and say, "Poor baby. You don't know what you missed."

What had he missed? A pet is a companion, a friend, a sibling, and so much more. A pet doesn't judge, doesn't use love to manipulate, doesn't have an agenda, never stops loving you. A pet gives love uncomplicated. I too was an only child but I had my Queenie. That's why I was devastated when she ran away. I thought I'd never find her and never again have a friend like her--a dog who, when I sat on my front steps, nudged and wiggled her soft warm body under my arm to be close to my side, a dog who settled at the end of the bed (usually on my feet), exhaling a deep doggy sigh as I drifted off to peaceful sleep. When I was frustrated, sad, angry, confused and feeling unlovable, Queenie was there. Her brown eyes looked directly into mine and understood.

The more I enumerated the many things my husband had missed out on by not having a pet, the more I realized all that I did have because I had a dog. Her name was Queenie.

Teal By Kathryn Hast
Durham

We decided to get into the yellow plastic boat, because when you're 9 years old a plastic boat is a pirate ship, a desert island or, in our case, a makeshift see-saw. We'd gone beyond collaborative imagination, after all, as this weekend trip at the Bay was neither one of our ideas. Earlier in the summer, Megan had failed to show up in my tent at Round Top Camp, citing her Olympic training at North Baltimore Aquatic Club (with, ironically, Michael Phelps, whom, incidentally, did make it past the Trials). Earlier in the afternoon, I'd dropped her binoculars off the pier.

So we were both there pretty engrossed with the idea of bouncing the other overboard--so fascinated, perhaps, that we failed to notice the synthetic rope had untwined, and that we'd drifted off dock, center straightaway, downstream. We decided to paddle back. Unfortunately for us, a late afternoon storm had descended, the wind had picked up, and the current was stronger than our 9-year-old biceps (even hers). I suggested she jump in. She could tie the rope around her waist, or her wrist or her neck, and swim me back in--she was gifted, as we knew.

But Megan was afraid in a way that's contagious. She reminded me of geography: how this Bay branch met a larger one; how Bay went to Ocean; how Ocean, as we all know, is just sharks and stingrays and jellyfish and sunburn; how the creepy Bay-men are just that.

Then we saw Teal.

Teal was a 5-year-old rusty brown Chesapeake Bay Retriever. That would make him 23 now, and in some ways he is, because every summer I think about that afternoon: how he jumped into the water off the dock like nothing, how his goofy chops parted expertly, blocking water and pulling breath. I can still see him seemingly nodding--his paddling paws and patient eyes--as we put the rope in his mouth and he tugged us to shore.

Looking back, we probably could have just abandoned the boat and swum in. But at the time, we'd cascaded through such a parade of emotions that what I remember most is the crying. Both of us. It felt clean. I also remember swearing that when I grew up I'd train rescue dogs, that I'd have dozens of them with plush kennels, and that for every octogenarian they saved from a burning building, or pregnant woman they pulled from a crashed car, I'd give them bacon and a decorative "Teal Star."

The enterprise, as it turns out, has fallen flat. But I have done some domestic dog training: She's a 2-year-old tri-color; she looks just like Lassie.

Other
Goldie
By Steve Snyderman

When my daughter was 2, she won a goldfish at the Maryland State Fair by tossing a coin inside a fishbowl. She named the fish Goldie. Four moves later, when Goldie was 13 years old and about 7 inches long, she developed a red lump on her tail the size of a pencil eraser. It didn't seem to bother her, but it did appear to be getting larger. A friend who was a veterinarian got us a referral to the N.C. State veterinary school. Their interest in Goldie was due in part to having little experience with goldfish that old.

To get Goldie to the hospital, we put a trash bag in a bucket and filled it with water. After putting Goldie inside, we tied the top. When my wife arrived, she opened the bag in the parking lot and checked on Goldie, who seemed fine. In the waiting room, an attendant came out and inquired how the patient was. My wife told her that she seemed fine. It was at this point my wife noticed everyone staring at the bucket. Apparently, they were all wondering exactly what type of pet you bring to the vet in a bucket.

Goldie survived the surgery nicely. I have had numerous surgeries and never have I received a phone call from my doctor inquiring about my condition. Goldie's doctor called three times. My wife made sure I never saw a bill. It wouldn't have mattered. We all loved her (we think it was a her) and we think she loved us. She died last year at age 14, but she's still with us in spirit and remembered fondly.

Grace
By M. Todd

Grace was her name, despite the fact that she did not possess any. She was a beauty though. The guy I was dating (let's call him Jeff) belonged to her. Thankfully, Grace was willing to share.

One evening early on in the relationship, Grace and I were wrestling around, playing rough on the bed. I was shouting my usual "Do you want a piece of me, huh, huh?!" when I was bit on my ear hard enough for me to let out a wail.

It wasn't Grace who had done the biting. Apparently, Jeff was not used to Grace going to town with some other guy, and I was too busy roughhousing to hear his complaints.

"This isn't going to work out," he said. And I was thinking, "What are you talking about? Grace and I are getting along smashingly!"

I should have realized that bite marked the beginning of the end; an end seven months in the making no less. Grace and I continued to roughhouse and wrestle. She loved it, as did I. Not one night went by without her in bed with us. She wasn't going to have it any other way.

I have to admit, it was a slice of heaven. But it didn't last, and the relationship ended without grace. Almost a year has passed, and I'm still wondering, "Do you want a piece of me?!"

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