August 4, 1999

Pet memories lead to doggone dilemma
___I understand all the reasons children benefit from having pets around the house. But I also understand the unique trauma pets can thrust upon children, because every dog I ever had as a child died an untimely death.
___I also know who had to bury every last one of them: Dad. Those are shoes I don't want to fill.
___First there was the dog we think was named Floppy. The trauma of his fatal encounter with a moving car remains forever lodged in the family's collective mind, even though we can't recall the poor dog's name for sure.
Mark Wingfield
Then there was the beautiful stray Husky we adopted, which I promptly named Henry, only to learn later that Henry would have to be short for Henrietta. This discovery foreshadowed the beginning of the end. While spending the night at the veterinarian's office after having "female surgery," Henrietta got so worked up with anxiety that she keeled over and died. Or at least that's what the vet said. Inquiring minds still want to know.
___Next came Peanuts, a feisty little pup of mixed breeding. Although we didn't keep close records, I think Peanuts lasted the longest of the pack--until he was struck by cancer of the rump, or something more technical than that. Dad carried him off to be put to sleep, rounding out our record as the Kevorkian family of the canine world.
___By this point, the family was so distraught over losing another dog that we had Peanuts buried in a doggy cemetery in a nearby town.
___Just a string of bad luck, perhaps? I don't think so. We're obviously carrying a family jinx on dogs, because even the neighbors' dog chose our front yard as his deathbed. So as a second-grader, I made my first death notification to the family across the street. Maybe I should have been a chaplain.
___"I've got a great idea for our next He Said/She Said," he said.
___"What?" I asked with great anticipation (well, OK, maybe with a little interest).
___"Dogs," he said.
___"Dogs??" I was puzzled.
___"You know, our debate over whether we should get a dog," he said.
___"What debate?" I replied. "Of course we're going to get a dog--when the boys get older."
___It was news to me that there was any bone of contention. I guess my assumptions were ill-founded.
Alison Wingfield
Actually my pet preference would be a cat, but since allergies (his) rule that out, a dog it will be.
___We had a wonderful, loving, stubborn, slobbering old basset hound when I was growing up. Chief, short for Indian Chief, was his name, because of his red color (we weren't into p.c. language in the '60s). He was a great companion and let us use him as a pillow when we watched TV. He went on campouts in the mountains with us. Mother had to give him Dramamine before our trips so he wouldn't get carsick in the back seat. When he tried to follow us hiking and couldn't get over an obstacle, he would howl only as bassets can until one of us went back to get him.
___After Chief passed on, we had two cats, but since this column has already gone to the dogs, I won't tell you about them.
___A pet is an experience no child should be without. I know I'm crazy, because as the mother, I realize who will actually be caring for this animal: Me.
___Maybe I learned to be stubborn from Chief, because I'm going to dig in my paws and howl until I get my way on this one.

___He Said/She Said is a new regular feature of the Baptist Standard's on-line edition. Mark Wingfield is managing editor of the Standard. Alison Wingfield is a freelance writer. The Wingfields moved to Texas in January from Louisville, Ky., where Mark had been editor of the Western Recorder, in which this column appeared weekly.

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