Reader-Submitted Pet Stories 

We asked; you responded. Here are funny, sad, and poignant stories about our furry and feathered friends.

Alone But Not for You

My husband, Silas S. Warner, author of Castle Wolfenstein, left this world after battling kidney disease combined with diabetes and high blood pressure. His heroic work on DNA software gave the world the ability to separate the innocent from the guilty and free hundreds of wrongly convicted persons.

Unfortunately, Silas' death left me totally alone except for the assistance dogs I have had, who help me walk with sciatica, brace me from falling, and get me to and from places with steep steps. These range from San Francisco art galleries to a music school with a staircase that would confound a spider.

My current service dog, a golden retriever named Cassie Rainbow, joins the other dogs in having a particular gift: human relations. She will kiss babies and comfort the ill, revealing in her inner-lit blue eyes a love that radiates to all, comforting indiscriminately.

Since my husband's death in February 2004, my life in the world — teaching horseback riding and writing and producing plays — has been made possible, in spite of an overwhelming state of grief, by the following heroes, of whom Cassie Rainbow is one: Boo Boo Bear, a Newfoundland, pulled carts full of children at a community event in Chico, accompanied me to my first official paid job as a therapeutic riding instructor in late June 2004, and wagged his immense rudder-like tail in time to the beautiful music at the Berkeley Jazz School, creating, as the instructor termed it, "the Boo Boo Bop." Boo Boo outlived the normal life expectancy for Newfoundlands by four months.

Yet his health deteriorated quite rapidly by age ten, and an amazing dog — a long hoped-for fantasy — asked for a home. A Saint Bernard I named Héro La Lumiére (Champion of Light), had been savagely abused and undernourished by his former owner, a meth lab idiot now in prison. The Animal Rescue Foundation provided the free services of a behavioral evaluator, and Héro's good French manners prevailed and we went home.

With the help of two eye operations and my own food program of ten pounds of kibble each day plus a rice/chicken/liver/tomato concoction in the slow cooker, Hero thrived. A French woman resembling an older Audrey Hepburn fell in love with him, and never doubted HŽroÕs comprehension for a moment. And HŽro played the role of a cow during therapeutic riding games and at abled facilities where I taught.

Service dogs are meant to help their human partners lead a full life. Héro accompanied me to the opera, where he absorbed the libretto with better understanding than most of the audience, his beautiful eyes never leaving the stage. We tutored in libraries together, where HŽro never had to stretch to reach the water fountain. Since meth madness had almost killed the dog, we led drug education rallies, yelling, "Meth equals death! Meth equals death!" All of these rallies were impromptu, on BART platforms and in libraries, and I hope KPFA aces Dennis Bernstein and Davey D. would be proud of us.

Héro's premature death at age three and a half was caused by the lung damage perpetrated by early meth exposure. How I got a sick 165-pound Saint Bernard into my little Toyota and to the vet's that December afternoon I will never know.

Miracles abound throughout this story. Love itself is a miracle. So are the dogs.

Kari Ann Owen, Hercules

A New Light

I bought a new light fixture for the foyer. From her pillow bed in the living room, my dog, Kihei, watches me make the black-to-black and white-to-white wire connections. I no longer think of her as a rescue dog. She has left her anxious days behind. She has chosen me.
Kihei is like the green wire I attach to the ceiling fixture, my grounding connection; my safe harbor from dangerous currents. She knows this, and shows this, in the way she looks back over her shoulder on our leash-less walks to keep track of where I am, where I am heading. Though she walks in front of me, she is following.

I call her a Bashepador — guessing her to be part Basenji, part Shepherd, part Labrador — a short-haired, orange-brown mutt that would be mistaken for a purebred Korean Jindo dog but for the fact that she has one floppy ear and one erect ear, a symbol of her fractured origin. Her standing ear swivels like a radar dish, monitoring for squirrels and unfamiliar approaches. She sighs through her nose.

I pop in a new light bulb and flip the switch to test the connections. The light is sudden and bright. Kihei, whose original name is unknown, and who did not respond to her shelter-given name, is named after the sun and sand-splashed town on Maui's southwest coast, which Hawaiians used to refer to as a barren place, where no one wanted to live or work until the late 1960s when water was piped into the area from central Maui. The town of Kihei was developed in vague service to local industry, a hodgepodge of buildings squeezed between the ocean to its west, and to its east, a highway to somewhere else. So, too, was the place she had been found, a desolate patch between the bay and Interstate 80, halfway into an unknown history, days from an unnoticed end.

We first met in a gray, square room at the Berkeley Humane Society, occupied by a desk and a red sofa. I had been told to expect her to be wary. But she bounded from her handler to my place on the sofa, lifted her paws onto my knees and placed her nose against mine. The handler — a multi-pierced young woman with a blue-streaked ponytail — said that she never does that. It was my birthday, and she had seen that I needed to be reborn.

I turn the screws of the stop-plates that hold the frosted glass cover in place. As I fold the ladder and return it and my tools to the utility closet, I decide to take Kihei for a walk. She bounds from her pillow at the sound of the unlatching of the front door, one ear leading the other. We leave the light on.

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