Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Fu Manchu

Fu Manchu's story has already been told in Pit Bull Nation. It was a horror tale deluxe. We had just married, myself and Scott and were living on the corner of Homer and Henderson. It was cool little house with gables and a porch swing. We had Roy and Ray, orange tabby brothers. Fu was a big black chow chow who lived on the streets. He'd been turned out by a crack dealer and all the neighbors knew his awful story. Thing about Fu. He just wanted a home and to be loved.

So, enter me and Scott. He had a mess of problems. Matts embedded in his coat. Cherry eye, a weird eye issue where the lid is turned outward and easily corrected with surgery. See, we used a vet on Oak Lawn who took care of the birds and cats. Oh, yeah. We had Buddy by this time. Buddy was a little bitty gray kitten we got at a couple weeks. He was living a hideous life in a crack house and we pulled him out of the dumpster. For extra cash, we were painting the crack house apartment doors green. I think we made $50 for an all day sweltering nasty day slapping that green paint. And, there was little Buddy. He and I were instant friends. He'd start yelping when I moved to the next door, so I'd scoop him up and move him along with me. I don't think he was able to even walk at this point. He was literally on death's door.

Scott told me on the way home to find Buddy a home. No more pets. Buddy had different plans. He sunk his tiny little claws into Scott's chest like he was scaling a big mountain and mewed. Scott looked down at his pathetic face and said, "I guess you don't have anybody, do you?" From that moment, I knew we had ourselves another cat. Buddy was a real trip. He was his own little cat from the getgo.

Back to Fu. He needed neutering, the cherry eye and all kinds of things, but first, he was infested with heartworms. He had to go through the whole pre-treatment which was very nasty and dangerous. A lot of dogs can't handle the poison from the preventative meds and die. Fu made it through till it was time for the double arsenic injections. He was neutered and the cherry eye fixed. Then, Fu was ready to get on with the life of being a pet.

He had a bunch of skin issues from living on the streets and eating God knows what. We got him on a good diet and I'd take him out on the front porch and brush him down in the evenings after I got home from work. Our favorite song at the time was "Fell on Black Days" by Soundgarden. I'd sing that song to Fu and hug on him for hours. We lived right across the street from Emeralds and Coconuts, a shop that had been there since the 70's. Lulie had a lot of cats, both in the store and roaming. Grey Boy was my favorite. I'd spend hours trying to get him to let me pet him.

Fu and I would walk all over our neighborhood. From the first day he moved in he was so proud. He wanted everybody to know he belonged to somebody. He had so much love in his heart. How could anyone have ever dumped him to fend for himself? I got him a beautiful purple collar and a matching leash. It was the color of kings and royalty. Fu Manchu was surely that. He was king of the hood with a majestic carriage. You could almost watch him float by.

About that time, we'd begun planning a move to California. We got side jobs to save money. It was around Christmas and Scott hired on part time at UPS to help with holiday shipping. I got a part time job at Lover's Lane Animal Hospital. This was long before I began to mistrust conventional vets. They gave a discount to workers' pets, so I wanted to get Fu's teeth cleaned. On the day of the appointment, I spent three hours giving him a spa treatment. His skin had healed up and I bathed him and brushed out that lustrous fur of his.

The loud speaker came on at the vet and called me to come upstairs immediately where surgery was performed. I knew something was wrong. I got to the operating room and there was Fu, dead on their table. They'd given him a huge dose of Sodium Pentathol and killed him. Dead. This dog had been through everything. He'd survived heartworm and the awful treatment to kill them off. He'd survived living on the streets. And, today, this terrible day, killed dead at Lover's Lane Animal Hospital.

We took him home and buried him out in the yard. What happened that day was amazing. Fu had touched so many lives. People started hearing about Fu dying and began coming over to pay their respects. They were still coming when it got dark. Hours later.

We went on and moved to San Francisco after that. My dreams of Fu Manchu and me saving the world were shelved for a while. I'd fantasized about Fu looking for wrongdoing in the animal world and rescuing them like superhero. Like the old school chow chows who once had been bred to guard the tombs. That was what chows did thousands of years ago. I would have to do this on my own. I was very sad about Fu's death. It was so unfair. He wasn't ready to go. But, life had other plans and my world was about to be turned upside down.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Chapter Three - Blue Lou

A long period of drug abuse and drinking from Schnuppie to Dallas. That's how many years of misjudging and forgetting I tried to do. I had one dog, Willard during this time. I was around 17 and just starting to experiment with L.S.D. and the like. Willard was another scruffy dog, but I was in no position to be trying to care for another soul. We were a mess in Beaumont, Texas, but that's another book.

Jump to Dallas in 1989. That's the year I sobered up. A friend brought me a bird, a blue parakeet who'd been abandoned. I was finally able to give shelter to a needy other, so Blue Lou came to live with me. We were allies in the storm, he and I. He was a singer and a joyful little soul.

He was with me when I was trying to get sober. I will never forget that. What I found out from Blue Lou was this. Parakeets are over bred to sell in pet stores. They attract many of the wrong types. I've heard lots of sad stories over the years about mistreated birds. I've come to know a few personally. In all this over breeding, most of these birds die a young death and that's what happened to Blue Lou.

He got very weak and sick. Back then, I didn't know much about how to keep animals healthy with a good diet and such things. I've learned a lot since then, but during that time, I was subject to the misinformation you got from vets. I was at their mercy like most uninformed people.

I rushed Blue Lou to the bird hospital in far North Dallas. I was married to my husband, Scott at the time and we lived in a little house on the corner of Homer and Henderson, just east of Central Expressway in mid-Dallas. I rode the bus all the way out to the vet hospital and on the way home with no answers, little Lou died in my arms. I remember sitting out in front of our house. We had a porch swing and I sat there for a long time very sad. I was crying and thinking.

This was a turning point for me. I didn't know what I was going to do, but I knew it was something. The universe had big ideas, though. It always does.

Chapter Two - Schnuppie

Stern Schnuppie Shooting Star. That was her name. She was that dog. I got her like life does things for you. My mother was a hardcore alcoholic and drug addict in a small town. It was a place where everybody knew everybody's business. It was the 60's and a crazy time when people started to lighten up about drinking a little bit. Seemed like everybody wanted to party. My mother was friends with some of the Beaumont elite and somehow that included the McFaddins. I didn't know them, but then, I never really hung with the rich folks. That was my sister and mother for you. They had a lot of influential running buddies, those two.

Anyway, the McFaddin mansion is a huge draw now in Beaumont and when I see pictures of the place, I think about one thing. I think about Schnuppie. Again, I don't have one picture of her, but can see her so clearly in my mind's eye. She was beautiful. Schnuppie was a pedigree Schnauzer. The McFaddins had two dogs, sisters, they'd purchased from their breeder. That was a lot more prevalent back then, breeding and buying your dog. That was the thing back then. Scnuppie's sister had epilepsy and suffered from extreme seizures, so they decided to give Schuppie up so they could better care for her sister. That is how I wound up with Scnuppie.

Now this. Me getting Scnuppie was an early example to me of how the universe takes care of you by putting lives like mine and Scnuppie's together. I didn't know it at the time, but that scheme of things has become a ruling factor in the way I live. Whenever I start to try and control things, I remember there is a greater plan at work. If I step back and wait, magic things happen. Magic things like Schnuppie.

She and I were instant comrades, me and Schnuppie. We were inseparable. Like minds. We went everywhere together. We'd walk up and down Calder Avenue, to town and back. We'd wind ourselves up at Mr. Henry's stand on the viaduct and share a dozen tamales after a long hike. You didn't mind the heat so much back then. We were young and the world was ours, mine and her's.

With Schnuppie, life didn't seem so bad. I didn't mind my mother's drinking and erratic behavior, because I had Scnuppie to care for and her to comfort me. We were soulmates. Even that time my mother came home late at night that time after a long Houston shopping trip and wearing a weird tiger-striped bathing suit with a fishnet vee-plunge down the front. On top of that, she had on a black and white mohair poncho. She picked up a steel baton and told my sister, Schuppie and I she was going to put us all out of our misery and beat us to death.

Now this might seem a little bit strange to a more normal person, but it was every day behavior to the likes of us. The three of us, my sister, Schnuppie and I laid there in our side by side bunk beds of compressed pretend maple and prepared to die. I don't know what changed my mother's mind, but I guess she lost interest and I'm still here. Everything was better with Schnuppie. We loved tv and movies. Books and reading. I'd read out loud to her from my favorite books like Jane Eyre and all those gothic Victoria Holt novels I read over and over. We'd go down to the Obanion's and sit at the magazine rack and read True Confession magazines in the hot lazy afternoons. Both Schnuppie and I had adult taste and we liked a dirty story.

We ended up living across town and I was in high school, my freshman year. Schnuppie got lost at one point and I was lost without her. It went on for about a month and then one day I got this really strong feeling. The universe again. I could feel Schnuppie and looked up. There was a ball of gray down the road and I called her name. Loud. It was Schnuppie and she was running hard and fast to me. She must have jumped about three people-lengths up into my arms. It was one of the best feelings I'd ever experienced. Before or since.

My mother was committed to Rusk State Hospital for the criminally insane. It was Christmas 1969 and we broke her out with the help of my dad, the one who had the new family. I guess he was feeling a little guilty and since it was Christmas and all, he drove the getaway car. My mother had to get out of town and got work in Jackson, Mississippi. We basically cleared out in the middle of the night. My mother told me Schnuppie couldn't go since we were riding the Greyhound to get to Mississippi and they didn't allow dogs. Schnuppie was given to the family who'd been keeping her when she was lost and I never saw her again. I think of her every day. Like I said. She was that dog. I know Schnuppie is up in heaven waiting for me. I can feel her just like I could that day she came running down the street to me. It's another something from the universe for people like me who love animals. On one side, you witness all the horror and the sadness of things people do to animals. But, on the flipside, you get the treasures of life itself and the incredible great beyond. Here's to you, Schnuppie.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

What I know is dogs...Chapter One - Gypsy

It all started back in 1960 or so. I got a baby sister and a dog. I called her Gypsy. The dog, not the sister. My dad was a schoolteacher where I went to first grade and also drove the school bus to get us to work and school. The same place. Oh, yes. My dad was also the Baptist preacher where I went to church. So 24/7, he was the leading man in the movie of my life.

I don't have a picture of Gypsy. She was shaggy like a small version of the dog in My Three Sons. But, Gypsy was dark gray rather than a light shade like the tv dog. I think his name was Tramp. Gypsy would run out to the school bus every morning and bark while I boarded and when we got home, she'd be there waiting for me. Gypsy was my best friend.

Anyway, life was good. Except for a couple of things. My mother had a nervous breakdown after the birth of my sister and had to be hospitalized. My sister and I were farmed out to relatives. I don't know where my sister went, but I was pulled from the first grade and sent to an aunt and uncle in Tyler I believe. I don't even remember the town, but I wound up spending the days in a nursery school where I was older than everyone else. It was a dirty place and smelled like dirt and dirty children.

When my dad came to collect me from the aunt and uncle, we didn't return to our country house, big white clapboard farmhouse with wild kale and polk salad growing out back. We didn't come home to Gypsy. My mother was still in the hospital. I was taken to her parents, Buddy and Do's house in Beaumont. It was a cool house on the corner of 11th and Harrison Street. I would spend the greater part of my childhood in this home until later when it was sold to Dan Blocker to build a Bonanza Sirloin Pit and Dunkin' Donuts in its place. The Dunkin' Donuts is still there all these years later.

Anyway, my dad had news for me. He was married to another woman. She lived down the road from our old farmhouse and had kids of her own. Her daughter was my friend from school. Daddy told me the daughter had Gypsy now and for me not to worry, because Gypsy had a good home. It was a win/win, right?

I think looking back, Gypsy was the beginning of my obsessive compulsive animal rescue life. Later on, I'd get into pit bull rescue. I had a lot in common with the pit bulls, all of us society outcasts and none too thrilled about it. I had an understanding with them, those dogs. But, that would come much later. For now, I had to get over Gypsy. I can still see her face and hear her yappy little bark when the school bus would pull up to our house. She made all the kids happy when she'd greet us and put a wonderful curly que on a kid's day.

It would take many years for me to get over Gypsy. I still don't think I really am and it's been over sixty years. Our house was down the road from the lady who wrecked our maybe not so happy home. We were about a country block from her mother's home, another little white clapboard with wild kittens where I'd spend many of my formative years. And, right next door to her was the county livestock auction barn. I'd see many things there, like cattle prodded inside with their horns shorn off and dried blood dripping down their frightened skulls. It was a terrifying place. The whole area was. Terrifying.