How I got my first dog is a cute little story. I imagine I was like most kids growing up, I always wanted a puppy to love and play with. We lived in a four room apartment on the second floor. It was pretty tight quarters for four people, but it was all we had ever known, so we didn’t mind it. I took every opportunity to ask my mother for a dog, I asked for one at every upcoming birthday and put it on every Christmas list. Every request was answered with the same “no.”
Instead of a dog, we had chicks that did not survive, we had turtles that did not survive, we had goldfish that did not survive, and even had canaries that lived two years before they died. The canaries were traumatic for me. Uncovering the cage, and finding them at the bottom one Sunday morning, compelled me to let out a blood curdling scream that almost made my father cut himself shaving. My parents thought I was ridiculous to scream like that, plus I nearly gave them both heart attacks. But, I had a deep rooted fear of dead animals and couldn’t help myself. We also had a rabbit named Yoyo for a few months. My father built a cage for him in the yard, but he kept escaping and we would get phone calls at 5 am from neighbors, saying he was eating their plants. My mother got fed up, so one day, when I went to my cousins for a couple of weeks one summer, she took Yoyo to the butcher and sold him. My brother told me about it over the phone.
Once I even found a kitten in the yard and asked if I could keep it as a pet. I got food and kitty litter. That lasted two weeks. The smell from the litter box in the bathroom was making my mother sick and she ranted about it every day. She told me I needed to get rid of the cat, period end of story. I knew a friend at school who had many cats at her house, so naturally I asked her first, and she took him in.
The summer of my 16th birthday was coming up. I didn’t want a party, I really had no friends to speak of except in school, and those were a handful. So, I asked my mother, instead of a party can I have a puppy? She answered, “No.” I asked several times. It had gotten to be a game almost. I followed all my requests with “Please” and “Pretty please” and on and on it went. Until one day, I was out in the yard, of our six family house, with my cousins. My mother came to the window and I looked up and asked again, “Mom, can I please get a puppy for my birthday?” Before she could answer, my cousin Paul says, “In your dreams Nina.” Well my mother’s whole facial expression changed that second. She didn’t like him saying I would never get a dog. It really pissed her off. “Who the hell was he?“ she kept saying. The next day, a Wednesday, she decided to take me to Manhattan, to a large pet store, to look at pedigrees. We were looking for a Chihuahua, because they were tiny enough for our apartment. But, then a little toy fox terrier caught my eye. He looked just like a Chihuahua, but he had no tail. He was adorable. My mother asked a bunch of questions about the dogs. Now that I think of it, she probably needed to know how much they charged for dogs so she could bring the money. We went home that day to think about it. She said we would come back Saturday and if the little fox terrier was still there we could buy him.
I couldn’t wait for Saturday to come. I still didn’t believe this was all happening and that it was because my cousin, Paul, made that stupid remark!
Sure enough, Saturday morning, my mother and I headed back to the city to buy a puppy. The little fox terrier was still there. It took no time to purchase him and we got back on the train, with the puppy in the box, and headed home. The second we got into the hallway, my mother said, “put down the box.” She opened it, scooped up the puppy and knocked on my aunt’s door. In she walked with her loud, outside voice, “Look at my baby!” She made sure Paul got the first look at “her” new puppy. Then we took him upstairs to our apartment.
I named him Caesar. I had had an English teacher I loved in 10th grade and we read Julius Caeser in that class. I wanted to remember her for years to come, so I named my puppy after the play we read that year. Now Caesar would not eat dog food and he had the runs. My mother called the store. They told her to feed him rice with boiled chop meat. Caesar never was exposed to dog food again. He ate whatever we ate, and he loved it. He became my mother’s “baby” and followed her everywhere. She called him “Caesar Doll” and he would always sleep with his head on her foot, as his pillow. If she sat on the couch to watch television, he would lay along side her thigh. He was a very good, well behaved, sweetie little dog, and he loved my mother.
Thanks Paul! I know you won’t read this, but I owe Caesar all to you!