ill Rogers, who you old-timers will remember as the “cowboy philosopher,” once said, “All I know is what I read in the newspaper.” Mr. Rogers died in 1935, a time when newspapers were our primary source of news, but if he were living today, he might name a different news source such as television, the Internet or even email. Yes, I say email. In fact, it was from a recent email that I got the idea for this story. It was entitled “A Time for Remembering.” The email listed items from the past and asked “do you remember when …” Readers were asked if they remembered when it took three minutes for the television to warm up, when a quarter was a decent allowance, when you would reach into a muddy gutter for a penny, when your
mom wore nylons that came in two pieces, when you pulled into a “filling station” for gas and got your oil checked, windshield cleaned, tires checked and free air, when owning a 1957 Chevy was everyone’s dream and when nobody owned a purebred dog. The last item got me thinking about changes in the way we treat our pets today versus the way they were viewed and treated in the days I was growing up in Frisco. Thank goodness most of the changes have been for the better. The old expression “living a dog’s life” referred to a life of ill treatment, but a dog’s life today is more like what we called “living the life of Riley,” meaning an easy and pleasant life.
Before we look at how we treat today’s pets, let us look back to see how pets fared here in Frisco in the 1920s and 1930s, a time when the town’s population hovered around 600 people. In those days, most of the boys in Frisco had a dog. If you wanted a dog, you either picked up a stray (there were few yard fences and no leash law here) or you waited until someone reported they had a litter of pups to give away. If you were lucky, you might get the “pick of the litter.” They were all free, and as for the breed, they were usually a “Heinz 57 variety,” meaning, just a dog. However, like today’s pet owners, we loved our pets.
When I was 6 years old, I got my first dog. He was a stray puppy who just happened to come by looking for a bite to eat. I asked if I could keep him, received a reluctant “yes” and named him “Paddy.” He was a small dog, about the size of a Terrier, and we quickly bonded. We became hunting buddies and went after rabbits in the field next to our house. We spent much of my free time together, but parted ways at bedtime, because dogs were not allowed in the house. Paddy slept in a box under the house and never complained about the accommodations. As far as I know, dog food had not made its way to Frisco, so Paddy ate table scraps and gnawed on an occasional bone from Carter’s Meat Market. After a few years, Paddy disappeared. We never knew his fate, but hoped he found a home with lots of love and better food.
I hate to say it, but cats were treated with even less respect than dogs in those early days. Farmers welcomed them into their barns to take care of rats and mice, but, like dogs, cats were not allowed in our house. One day, I heard my mother making unusually loud noises. I ran to the kitchen to find her swinging a broom
wildly at a very frightened cat. She was screaming, “You old heifer you!” That was the worst thing she could think to say, and the strongest language I ever heard her use. The cat had slipped in and committed the unpardonable sin of getting on the kitchen table. I opened the screen door and the sinner made a fast exit.
Time and circumstances changed my mother’s opinion of cats. After she was widowed and living alone, she welcomed a pretty little kitty into her home. She, not knowing much about a cat’s anatomy, could not tell whether her cat was male or female, so she named it “He-she.” Mother became a cat lover, and He-she lived to be a loveable lap kitty.
As the years have passed, pets have continued to work their way deeper into our hearts and lives. I must confess that, as I grew older, married and had five children, over the years, we had many pets, including dogs and cats. Many of them were welcomed into our home and became a part of our family, but that is another story, perhaps for later.
My friend, Sammy Vaughn, tells of a dog that attended school. Years ago, when Frisco resident Jack Scott, Jr. was a fifth-grader in Frisco Elementary School, he took his faithful dog Flash to school every day. There was no problem until, one day, the school’s principal came to Jack and told him he could no longer bring the dog to school. Jack looked shocked and said, “Aw, please do not make him leave. If he stays, he will graduate in two years.”
My former neighbors, Bill and Lois Cates, told me about some of their family’s adventures with pets. Their story started in 1939, when Mr. Cates was attending a rural school in Rowlett. The school evidently had a very liberal policy regarding pets. Mr. Cates had a dog named “Poochie,” who attended school with him every day. Poochie dutifully followed his master into the classroom, laid down by the desk and remained there quietly, until recess, when he went out to play with the rest of the students. Mr. Cates said Poochie became such a part of the little school’s student body that his picture was put in the 1939-1940 yearbook with all the other students. Years later, after the Cates couple married and had two sons, Mike and Scott, the boys had a dog named “Lucky,” who was well- known and liked in the community. He went with the boys to the school’s sports activities, roamed the streets of Frisco and, every Thursday, trotted down Main Street to the local meat market to wait patiently for his bone. Lucky became deaf in his old age and lost his luck on Main Street one day when he was hit by a car he could not hear. He was such a beloved “citizen” of Frisco that he received the only obituary
for a dog ever published by the local paper, The Enterprise. Since those early days, pets have progressively worked their way into more prominent roles in our lives. In the last few years, a number of jobs and amenities have been created to serve our pets. For example, there are dog parks, luxurious boarding kennels, pet schools, pet clinics, adoption services, etc. New occupations such as pet groomers, dog walkers and animal control services have been created to serve our Frisco pets. A unique service we learned about recently collects the DNA of pets when they are brought into an apartment complex or senior living facility. Then, when pet waste is found in unauthorized places, the waste is analyzed to identify the culprit, and the owner can be duly dealt with.
Pets can dictate changes in their owners’ lives. For example, after I retired, my wife and I started traveling America by car, but, one day, our daughter “forced” a beautiful Siamese kitten, “Tosha,” on us. Our travel mode changed. We bought an RV so our precious Tosha could travel with us. It was an expensive change, but all three of us enjoyed it.
The importance of pets in our lives is very evident in the senior living facility where we live. Many residents have pets, including beautiful, pedigreed, well-groomed and well- behaved dogs and cats, both large and small. Resident Don Pomeroy’s tiny Chihuahua, “Ellie,” is one of the smallest and best dressed.
Pets can also make an impact on our budget. The “Petfinder Bible” I found online says the average annual cost of owning a dog runs from $526 to $9,352, while owning a cat costs from $770 to $7,700. Of course, those numbers will vary, depending on many factors, such as the cost of grooming, vet care and boarding.
It is obvious that pets rule and run the show, but their owners say, “They are worth it!”