Every boy wants a pet. I was no different. Anything, preferably a dog, maybe a rabbit or hamster, a living thing to nurture and play with, a pet to call my own. I was ten years old in 1944, a year when everything was rationed and with seven kids in our family needless to say there were never any scraps left over after meals to feed a pet. Rabbits were completely out of the question because Dad used to go hunting every Saturday morning for cottontails or jackrabbits to put meat on our Sunday dinner table so it appeared I would go through my early years without a pet.
Notice I never mentioned a cat, unfortunately cats had not even crossed my mind after all, cats are docile animals, somewhat lazy with piercing eyes that never blink making one wonder if you are studying the cat or the cat is analysing you. Cats are warm and cuddly a perfect pet for someone more mature as we found out when we did bring a cat into our family years later.
I was sitting on the grass looking for four leaf clovers when out of no where a dog appeared. He wasn’t a very big dog, there were large bare patches on the dog’s back, most of it’s yellowish hair was gone, in some parts even to the skin. The little dog’s head was bowed and the sorrowful, downtrodden look he gave me melted my heart. If this poor waif puppy had no home and I had no pet well, both problems solved. I played with my “new” dog most of the afternoon teaching him to shake a paw and I could see “Judgy”, that is what I named him, was relaxed and comfortable with me.
We had a routine in our house that never varied, Dad would come home from work at four forty five, kiss Mom, wash up and we sat for dinner at precisely five o’clock but today Dad did not go into the house, instead he came directly to me. “Whose dog is that?” he asked. “Mine,” I blurted with a smile that covered my face. Dad tried nicely and politely to explain why I could not keep the dog giving the standard reasons but when I strongly objected Dad flatly and alarmingly said the dog had the mange, a highly contagious disease and he physically shooed the dog away.
Dinner was late that day, I was hustled into the house and straight into the bathtub, even to this day I can still feel the harsh brush scouring my hands, face, hair, every part of my body leaving red marks. The water was emptied down the drain and the scrubbing began again and again until my parents thought optimistically and hopefully they had erased any remnants of the mites that cause mange. I never got the mange or a pet, but I sure did learn a lesson.