Today is World Pet Memorial Day. It is a holiday supposedly created by the American Veterinary Medical Association but it is very difficult to find any mention of it on their website. It is also strange that an American organization would create a world event. Just as strange is the fact that the “National” Pet Memorial Day, in September, was created by the “International” Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories.
Regardless of who started it, I thought it would be a good time to talk about my dog Tasha. This does not diminish the memory of all the other pets we have lost but since I have not written much about Tasha on this blog I figured you might want to read more about her.
I believe it was April, 1976. I was twelve years old when my dad brought home a full grown female Doberman Pincher. Her name was “Natasha” but I don’t know who gave her that name considering where she came from.
The story I remember was that Tasha was a stray that was wondering around the neighborhood of a friend of my dad. Apparently, the two of them caught her and my dad brought her home. She had her tail docked and her ears cropped (although one ear flopped over a bit) so she must have belonged to someone. If someone dumped her it would be surprising.
She took to me right away. Back then I would watch television while lying on the floor. I don’t know why I wouldn’t have preferred the sofa. Perhaps the uncarpeted floor was cooler or perhaps other family members had taken the prime viewing locations. Whatever the reason, I would lie there and Tasha would lie next to me with her head on my pillow.
My memory is a little foggy so I don’t remember if this happened once or if it was a regular occurrence but one day Tasha started with her head on a little corner of my pillow. She then gradually took over more and more of that pillow. When I tried to retrieve some of that precious real estate I got growled at. I then got up and left her with the pillow.
Dobermans had a bad reputation back then. I heard they were used as guard dogs and many owners would beat them as puppies to deliberately make them more aggressive. Of course, they were bred to be personal protection dogs so they needed to be aggressive but also obedient. A trained Doberman would never attack without command.
I have read that today’s Dobermans are bred to be less aggressive and more of a companion dog but Tasha was already a great companion dog. I will admit, though that she did have some aggressive tendencies.
Shortly after we got Tasha one of my dad’s friends, Jack, came to the house for a visit. Jack was older than my dad and a bit of a hillbilly even though we lived in northern Illinois. He thought he would have a little fun with Tasha and started to pretend to harass me. He would slowly reach out his hand like he was going to grab me. While he was doing that Tasha was growling at him but he continued because that’s what Illinois hillbillies do. After about 30 seconds of warnings Tasha lunged forward and bit Jack in the hand. She didn’t hurt him badly but she did draw blood and put an end to his game.
When we got Tasha she wasn’t fixed and my parents didn’t get her fixed right away. That was a mistake because she loved to go outside and run and would sometimes escape, run around the neighborhood, and then slink back home an hour later. On one of those outings she got pregnant.
My younger brother and I shared a room. We had bunk beds and Tasha decided to give birth under the bed. I think we were away at school at the time. When we found her there it was a huge pain because we had to take the bed apart to get to her.
By then we had moved to a bigger house and had a partially finished basement that we used as a TV room. We put some blankets down and moved the puppies there. There were seven puppies if my memory is correct. One of the puppies had deformed front legs and I worred it wouldn’t make it. Tascha accepted the new location for a short time but wasn’t exactly happy with it.
My parents both worked and us kids went to school so Tasha was alone for a good part of the day. The first day we were gone after the puppies were born, Tasha decided that she wasn’t happy with the location we chose for her so she moved all her puppies to the sofa. When we got home we discovered that two puppies had fallen between the cushions and suffocated, including the one with the bad legs. It was very sad.
That evening, determined to keep her off the sofa, we layed three or four kitchen chairs on it. It didn’t work. She somehow managed to get herself and her puppies on the sofa between the chairs. We lost another puppy that day. I don’t remember what we did then but she was not able to get on the sofa after that.
One day a friend of my brother came through the basement door from the garage quite quickly which startled Tasha and she jumped up and bit him in the arm. Even though she drew blood it wasn’t an attack. It was more like a stern warning to stay away.
When the pups were old enough, my parents put an ad in the paper for free Doberman mix puppies but they didn’t tell me they did that. I came home from school and the phone was ringing off the hook. Dad’s friend, Jack, took one of the puppies and the other three were gone that evening. It seems people were interested in Dobermans and didn’t care that they were half-breeds.
Tasha also had a weird habit of suddenly getting agitated every once in awhile when people she didn’t know very well left the house. Occasionally, she would even nip them a bit. I was surprised to hear Richard Pryor talk about that in one of his skits. He said Dobermans will let you in the house with no problem. They’ll even show you where all the valuables are, but when you try to leave they turn into the Exorcist. “You can’t leave yet! I want to play!”
When my sister moved out, my brother took her room and I no longer had to sleep at the top of the bunk bed. Tasha then slept in my bed every night. That lasted until I was seventeen and bought a waterbed which was way more common back then. Tasha did not like getting on the waterbed and ended up sleeping on the floor. I felt bad about that but I didn’t anticipate that being a problem when I bought it.
Tasha loved food and would eat just about anything. The only requirement was that she had to see me eating it first. I could offer her a grape and she would refuse it but once I started eating them grapes suddenly became a great treat.
She also developed many styles of begging. If the puppy dog eyes didn’t work she would extend her paw. Surely shaking deserved a treat. If that didn’t work she would rest her head on my knee and give me the saddest look she could muster. Her go to was the drool. Whenever everything else failed she could count on the drool to get her food. It was pretty gross trying to eat while watching drool come out of her mouth so I always gave in and gave her something. I also always saved a little food on my plate and brought it up to the kitchen to leave for her. She knew whenever I was done eating and got up she was going to get something and got very excited.
She followed from the front when she thought she was going to get food. I would stand up and start for the stairs and Tasha would race up the stairs and wait for me at the top. This was something my dad once used to tease her. He got up with his plate of food and as soon as Tasha ran up the stairs, dad would sit down and wait. After about 30 seconds Tasha would come back down to see what was happening and the trick would start again. By the fourth time I had to yell at my dad like he was being a misbehaving child.
Tasha passed in April 1986, almost exactly ten years after we got her. Yes, I was a 22 year old still living with my parents at the time. I had plans on moving out but I feared what Tasha would think of me for leaving her behind. I was pretty sure I would not be able to take her with me.
She seemed perfectly healthy but one day she suddenly started foaming at the mouth. I thought she got into the cabinet and ate the laundry soap or something. When I let her outside she crawled under the deck and I had a hard time getting her out. She then hid somewhere in the house although I don’t remember where.
My parents brought her to the vet and left her there overnight. That night they got a phone call from the vet’s office saying that she didn’t make it. It was very heartbreaking. Apparently, she had stomach cancer. I can only hope it wasn’t because of all the food I was giving her. I was not the most healthy eater back then.
I moved out shortly after Tasha died and never had a dog again. The one exception was a Dalmatian named Ernie that we had for about a month. I was living with my now ex-wife. I believe it was around 1992. She brought Ernie home because a coworker had a husband that would abuse him. Unfortunately, my ex-wife was too much of a clean freak and after a week relegated Ernie to living outside. I felt bad for Ernie and soon found him a home with a co-worker of mine.
It wasn’t until I met my current wife in 1999 that I would have a pet again. This time it was a cat that eventually turn into two cats then three then four then six. Well, I think you know the rest of the story.