The Saratoga Sun -

A Ruff Decision


I am a dog person, I will tell you in a heartbeat.

It probably goes back to my early childhood when my folks got a collie pup named Tippy for the family (i.e. me). As he got older, he became my personal substitute for a pony. I remember being on his back and him taking me for rides until I was too big. He was my first best friend.

We had a cat too-my mother’s actually. The name I knew it by was Worthless; courtesy of my farm boy raised father who believed you had a pet for a purpose. The name tells you what he thought of a household cat. I am sure my mother had another name.

Growing up, I was never denied pets, useful or not. While living in Texas I was allowed to have frogs, snakes, lizards, rabbits and dogs.

My sister is the first person to bring a cat into my father’s home when we moved to Virginia. Silverbells didn’t last long, maybe two years before running away. Then came Kitter-cat, a cat that lived almost 20 years. She had one set of kittens, which produced two cats that would be in my life for years. Charlie Feather, who went to live with my mother and Tuffy who lived with my father. Both existed about two decades. Talk about good genes.

My dad, who had no real love for pets in general, over the years came to love this cat. I believe he might have shed a tear for Tuffy when she left this world.

My mother and sister were both amazing about taking in abused cats and I have been comfortable around felines in general, but deep down I was more at home with dogs.

A couple of times, I had cats when living in apartments, but for one reason or another, I never kept a cat for more than two years. My sainted sister, Michelle, would end up taking care of these pets when I had to let them go.

It was not until I bought my house in Saratoga did I get a dog as an adult. Sara (named after Saratoga) was a Samoyed I raised from a puppy to about three years old. Then I moved to Asia and St. Michelle took over her care. Sara was not fixed when I sent her off to Virginia which was a huge mistake.

Nine puppies worth!

Sara eventually ended up on a farm with a guy who adored her and I saw it as a good thing.

I realized, as much as I loved having a dog, I wasn’t in a place in my life to take care of one, so no dog was in my life for a few years.

Then Shadow entered my life while I was living in Taiwan. He was this adorable little black puppy I saw crossing the street with this old Chinese couple. I remember saying to my roommate how cute the pup was as we entered our apartment. My roomie went back outside to walk his own dog, coming back to tell me the puppy was just running around.

I went outside to check it out, Shadow came racing up to me and for the next seven or so years, I had a new furry best friend. I raised him in an apartment in Taiwan for five years and the last two years, he came to live in Hanna. I have many stories of how this pooch charmed the hell out of me. He would ride with me on my scooter when he could as I did chores around the city. I will never forget his howl when I was retrieving him at baggage claim in the Denver Airport. I swear he yelled “Get me the **** out of here!”

I had a great time taking my mountain bike out on nearby trails with Shadow running behind. He loved it. I taught him tricks—he would do anything for food—and he was well behaved. Sadly food was his demise. On one of our runs he got a hold of some gopher poison and died a day later.

I was crushed.

I didn’t think I would love a dog the way I loved Shadow. I have known so many legendary dogs that were one of a kind over the years -Scott McIlvaine’s Gunner, Dave Sturm’s Zeke, Brian Craig’s Stoly, Jimmy Campbell’s Duke - and I considered Shadow in their league. I never expected to have another dog that would equal Shadow.

Then came Cassie Girl into my life about a year later. She was an older dog a family couldn’t keep any longer. When I went to check her out, she came up to me and put her head on my lap while I was sitting down. The family told me they had never seen anything like it before with a stranger. I was smitten.

She wasn’t the runner Shadow had been, but she loved to walk. Cassie wouldn’t sleep on my bed or get on sofas which was unlike any dog I had seen. I know she had been a rescue dog from Rawlins left by her former family when she was about a year old, so some of her fears I will never know. Cassie also had a pellet in her back leg vets didn’t want to operate on because of her age. With that history of her early years, it is amazing she was the sweetest dog I have ever encountered.

When I went back to China, my sister and nieces took care of Cassie. They loved her as much as I did, but everyone said Cassie lit up whenever I came into a room. She was always anxious when I would leave the house. Don’t blame her, I did leave to work in China a few times.

Truth be told, I left my dream job in China to get back to my dog. She wasn’t getting younger and I think any dog owner in Wyoming understands my reasoning. Hell, any dog owner from anywhere for that matter.

Cassie lived to be around 14 or 15 years old and as Newfoundland that was a long time. She just sort of gave out. She waited until I got home from work before she died in my arms 15 minutes after I found her.

I was a broken man for days. I can still tear up when I remember her putting her head in my lap to get attention, looking at me with her big brown eyes.

It has been almost three years since Cassie departed and I still haven’t gotten another dog.

That is not to say I don’t have an animal living with me.

Two and a half years ago, I was at a Labor day barbecue in Cheyenne when this tiny gray fluffy kitten came crying into the yard. Long story short, I was talked into taking the kitten and getting her healthy so later I could give her to a shelter.

I didn’t want a cat, but I was okay about being a foster home for a short time. I was a dog guy and after having Shadow and Cassie, a cat seemed like such a step down.

Don’t get me wrong. I know many cat lovers and I know cats make great pets. My sister and mother are great examples of being cat lovers and having affectionate felines.

So Scooter entered my life on a time table. She wasn’t all that friendly and she was a bit aloof. Scooter got to be about three months old and it was time to find a new domicile for her, but then she caught her first mouse in my house.

Scooter is a serious hunter. In a matter of a month, pesky mice I seemed to suffer from every year ceased to exist. Over the next two years, not only mice in my home were gone, but also voles, rabbits and moles disappeared out of my gardens. She came into her own personality and although she is still distant to strangers, Scooter loves me in her own feline way.

Plus, I find myself laughing at her when she chases laser light in ways I never did with canine buddies.

I get why my father fell for Tuffy, a house cat versus a dog, which should have been his natural choice. I should note we had a family dog for years he certainly cared for, but not like Tuffy.

Scooter has made me realize a dog person can care for a cat.

Will I ever get a dog? Can’t say, but it is weird being a dog person with no canine companion and owning a cat.

I have learned, it doesn’t matter what a person labels their personality, fate gives us creatures we should just be grateful are in our lives.

Especially if they keep mice out of your home.


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