WALLY'S WORLD: Pets quickly become family

Well, I was about 4 years old when my father presented me with a cocker spaniel puppy. I was quite delighted by this, but really didn't know what to make of the animal; that is, to a greater or lesser degree, I regarded the dog as a toy, though I certainly realized it was alive. Dad told me to pick a name, so I selected Bob. He laughed and said it was a girl dog. So, quite logically, I decided to call her Girlie. He felt this was a rather silly name and offered other suggestions, but I stubbornly (perhaps a harbinger of a future personality trait) held my ground.As is the tendency with pets everywhere, Girlie became an important, intricate member of the DuChateau family. During the next 10 years, she shared the joy, tribulations and experiences of my childhood and early adolescence to such an extent that I can't really recall those years without the dog being and intrinsic part of them. When I threw a softball in the air and hit it with my bat, Girlie would happily retrieve it, her tail wagging – actually, more than just her tail since her entire hindquarters would swing to and fro – though she'd sometimes get preoccupied playing with with the ball instead of bringing it directly back to me.When the neighbor kids and I peddled our bikes down to Runland's for Popsicles, Girlie would tag along beside us, wait outside the store since Mrs. Runland didn't want her inside the place, and follow us home again, though she was occasionally sidetracked chasing a squirrel in Bud Ives' backyard. When I went fishing in Boise Creek, Girlie would join me, sitting patiently on the stream's bank and, if I caught anything – which was indeed a most rare event – she'd become almost as excited as I did. She was always a welcome and somehow reassuring sight in the front yard when I exited the bus after another frustrating day at school. And she always seemed so happy to see me.But, in perhaps my most vivid memory, I'd relax beneath a tree after cutting the lawn and she'd fall asleep with her head in my lap, while I scratched behind her ear. It was the iconic Norman Rockwell setting, a boy and his dog.Girlie grew old, as dogs do. During one summer of my undergraduate days at Cougarville, Girlie suffered a stroke that left her blind. It was quite tragic and heartfelt to watch her walk into furniture and see her tail wag as she'd try, as best she could, to find me when I called her name. Finally, since I didn't have the strength or courage to do it myself, mom made the decision and had her put to sleep.But the task of burying her was left to me. So I dug a hole in the field behind the house and sat there at the edge of her grave and cried like a baby. That experience isn't uncommon to anyone who loses a pet. Just ask Gene and Elinor Kerr, who recently lost the family dog, Chip.And now, for unclear reasons that may be quite ridiculous, I feel compelled to point out that we're dealing here with dogs, not human beings. So it goes.

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