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Kathryn Winter, Berkeley
It all started with show-and-tell. You remember Show and Tell, don't you? That's the day you get to bring in something really great from home to show all your buddies at school.
It was my last teaching year. Retirement was beckoning and I took full advantage of the fact that I would not be returning to my teaching position (i.e., I broke a few rules).
Having decided to push the envelope, my first foray into being the numero uno "bad" employee was to hold a pet-themed Show-and-Tell week. We had snakes, guinea pigs, salamanders, cats, lice, fish, turtles, and one mini piglet. It was an infamous week. The stares from the other teaching "professionals" were looks to die for.
Anyway, the big hit at pet week turned out not to be the mini piglet, as you might have guessed, but Spot — a small, sweet, shy, and unkempt Poodle-Chihuahua mix. I grew fond of this scruffy little fellow, and so did the eighty first-graders who ran wildly with him during recess. We were all grateful that he slept fitfully during class. Were my lessons that boring? I tried not to take it personally.
Needless to say, I grew attached to the mischievous little eight-week-old pup. Time passed and soon I retired, yet the memory of little Spotty, the Show-and-Tell dog, lingered. I found myself thinking of him and even considered adopting or fostering a pup.
But I put off all of this canine thinking while a friend and I scooted off to Astoria, Oregon. It was autumn, and my cell phone chirped. Six-year-old Rachel, Spot's "mom" was on the phone — and she was crying.
"Teacher, I need help," she moaned. "My mommy is giving Spot away because I am not taking good care of him." She painfully continued, "Mommy is giving Spot to the pound, and you know what they do to dogs at the pound. Oh, teacher, will you please take my puppy?"
Well, my friend and I wound up our vacation and made our way to little Rachel's house. Spot was cowering in the corner of the garage, waiting to be rescued. He jumped into my arms, looked up at us and smiled. He knew he had found his forever home.
And that is the true, unembellished story of how Ellen co-adopted Spot, now called Spotnik Bubba, and the Show-and-Tell Puppy. And that's the truth!
Ellen R. Gierson, Oakland
A Tribute to Aja Katrina
"Please Mom, can we keep them?" my then-thirteen-year-old daughter begged me, referring to a muted Calico of grey, white, and tan who had taken up residence in our woodpile with her five kittens. Still grieving the death of our ten-year-old Sheltie, F. Scott Underfoot ("Scotty"), I had no room in my broken heart for a family of cats.Without any qualms I told her, "No!" Besides, we were a dog family.
However, I soon found myself feeding the thin, friendly mother who would climb into the woodpile with her catch dangling from her mouth to feed her brood. One chilly rainy day in October, succumbing to the continuous pleadings of my daughter, into the house came kit and caboodle, on the condition that my daughter find friends to adopt the feral kittens.No problem. We successfully located five families. In a few more months, however, we had to locate five more to adopt her second litter! And then she was spayed.
I named her Aja, as her face resembled a map of Asia (and I like Steely Dan), Katrina, because she sat with such aristocratic dignity with one polydactyl paw raised gracefully as if posing for a portrait. We were now a cat family.
While Aja and I grew closer, my daughter graduated from college, married, and remained in LA. I sold my Capitol Hill house and relocated with my best friend, Aja, to the Bay Area.
Two years later Aja suddenly stopped eating and drinking. A sonogram revealed an abdominal mass for which the vet suggested chemotherapy. But I could not put Aja, now eighteen, through that. My only other option, he told me, was euthanasia.
She was becoming obviously uncomfortable. Continuing to refuse all nourishment, she lay close to a heater, with large dilated pupils and a steady purr. We cuddled together on the couch throughout her last day as I tearfully told her how much I loved her, how much she meant to me, how she taught me to be more present, to adapt to new surroundings, to be patient, and, most important, to love and be loved.
The next day I tenderly held her in my arms as the vet administered the lethal injections.Only minutes later I stood outside the clinic holding an empty carrier, and the shock of what had just happened overwhelmed me. I felt lost. I didn't want to go home, for home would never be the same without my sweet kitty.
The apartment felt hollow, empty. Her toys were scattered around, food and water bowls untouched, wisps of hair everywhere. I needed to talk and cry. I needed a compassionate someone, who understood our unique bond, to listen. Gratefully, I found Betty Carmack's support group in San Francisco, and another in Marin, but surprisingly none in the East Bay. I vowed that when my grief healed sufficiently I would create pet loss support groups as a tribute to Aja Katrina. And I did.
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