I was digging through my hard drive Sunday night and found a huge folder of old pet photos. Many of these were taken long before I had an interest in photography so they are low-quality and random, but the pets are gone now so the photos have value to me nonetheless (I grew up in a home that was pet-less, so I did not own my first pet – a dog – until my early 20′s).
Sadly, one dog can’t be represented here: Rudy, who was my husband’s dog before we got married. He was a German shepherd with a heart of gold and an ass that was, well, non-functional in his final years. I realize this may be an odd thing to remember fondly about an animal, but if you’ve ever nursed and loved a sick pet I think you’ll understand: every day for two years I had to wash Rudy’s butt with a hose in the backyard. I’d call him over, turn the hose on, and lift up his tail and get to work, and I swear that dog would turn his head and give me a look that said I know this is really gross, but I love you so much for doing it. Unfortunately I did not purchase my first digital camera until after Rudy died, so I have no digital photos of him and only one or two framed prints that remain.
The first pet I ever owned was Wiley, a tiny little rat terrier mix named after the Warner Bros. cartoon character Wile E. Coyote because of his tendency to howl like one. As a puppy, Wiley was discovered in a muddy ditch during a thunderstorm outside of an acquaintance’s house when I was in college. The acquaintance moved away, some friends of mine took over his apartment, and also got Wiley in the deal. They weren’t overly fond of dogs so one day when I went over there to visit they asked if I wanted him and I said yes. Wiley was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen, and being a sucker for ugly animals, I adored him instantly. He lived for 17 years and I was so heartbroken when I had to put him down, as I’d never had to do that before. But he held on a long, long time. I still miss him but we had a good life together and he was well-loved. In fact, we were rather a team; people knew me as the owner of the infamously ugly howling Wiley, and some people still do.
Then there was Yoshimi, the cat we named after the song Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips. Yoshimi was a barn cat, born on my cousin’s property and given to me on a weekend visit. Sadly, none of the cats from this litter lived much past five years. They must have inherited some feline illness that did them in; we were never able to get a diagnosis on Yoshimi when she fell ill and neither was anyone else in the family who took one of the cats from this litter. She was a sweet cat and loved to cuddle, which was hell on clothes since she had long white hair. For about a year after she died I was still plucking her hair out of everything around the house. The thing I remember most about Yoshimi was she loved to play with water; she’d meow for me to turn a faucet on, just a trickle, so she could sit at the edge of the sink and catch the water in her paws. Sometimes I’d forget about her and she’d come cuddling up to me later, completely soaked from playing in the sink.
And lastly there was Bickley. Rudy and Bickley were the two dogs my husband owned when we got married, and while Rudy was always affectionate and friendly, Bickley was one of those dogs I couldn’t cuddle much because he’d get so spazzy I’d give up trying. It’s not that I didn’t love him, he just wasn’t a cuddler and I am, so I was always a bit lost with him. But one of our current pets, Penny, and he loved to play, and I did enjoy watching them scrap. Penny had this great wrestling move where she’d edge up in front of him, her butt in his face, then fling her back legs over his neck and pin him down. He was twice Penny’s size and always let her get away with it. He developed cancer at about age 12 and we had to put him down. It was right after that we got Sprocket, our other current dog-pet.
I am a sucker for photos of my pets cuddling each other, and evidently this did not just start when I got a decent camera. I have a lot of shots of all these babies hanging out together, so in closing I’ll share some of those too. I miss all of these little guys, and sometimes I still dream about Wiley in particular.