By Ray Geaney
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.”
– Agnes Sligh Turnbull
The day I got my puppy was one of the happiest of my childhood. Two years later, when I was 7 and my Uncle Jack put him down, was the saddest. He didn’t have a choice. My dog dashed onto the street in front of our suburban home in Cork, Ireland, and a speeding vehicle crushed him under one of its wheels; it didn’t even stop. My beloved dog was left writhing in agony.
Uncle Jack – a dog devotee and an officer in the Irish National Guard – was visiting my parents that day. Fortunately, he was able to humanely put my mortally wounded pet out of his misery. I was distraught.
Mutt, as I aptly named him, was my first pet, a present from our local parish priest, a great friend of my father.
The canon and my Dad, the National School principal teacher, regularly walked the scenic parish walkways and byways. My mother and some parishioners comically referred to the pair as the preacher and the teacher. The canon always used his elegant walking cane and was accompanied by his large thoroughbred dog; my father carried an umbrella.
I stubbornly refused to acknowledge the canon’s dog by his given name, calling him Jeff instead, thereby referring to the canine duo as Mutt and Jeff whenever the priest’s dog entered our yard.
Somehow, those friendly four-legged creatures always intruded into my life. Before emigrating from Ireland to the United States, I had to compete with Bruce for my girlfriend’s affections. She thought the sun, moon and stars shone from her dog’s scrawny fur. When she and her family left, Bruce accompanied them. When they arrived at JFK (Idlewild at the time) they were told that the dog – stored in the baggage hold – would freeze to death if he accompanied them by plane to their Syracuse destination. So they took a taxi instead. Expensive! I believe they were scammed.
Soon thereafter, I also left the Emerald Isle for the U.S., where I competed successfully with Bruce. His mistress became my spouse.
Time passed, and Bruce moved on to doggie heaven. We then scoured the Syracuse SPCA and selected the sleepiest dog imaginable; we had young children at the time and did not wish to contend with a rambunctious puppy. Puff lived up to our expectations, becoming a delightful, playful member of the family.
Puff ventured abroad – you might say she went Dutch – as she accompanied us when we transferred to GE’s European sales operation in Amsterdam. There we discovered that the Dutch were kind to dogs and, to our surprise, welcomed them as guests in their restaurants and hotels. Puff adapted with her ever-wagging tail.
Unfortunately for Puff, further travel was in store. GE transferred us again, this time to Ireland, where to prevent against rabies all animals from abroad were required to remain in quarantine for six months. This was not easy for Puff, or for our family. We were allowed to visit with, but not touch, her during this time frame. Fortunately, Puff survived the ordeal and to all of our delight she resumed her rightful place within our household.
Now, after many years back in the U.S., wonderful neighbors surround us, many of whom we know via meeting them as they walk their dogs.
We also learn much about our presidents’ compassion by the manner in which they select and care for their first pets, the most recent examples being Bo and Sunny (President Barack Obama) and Barney (President George W. Bush).