Every Saturday in 2013 I’ll be sharing a post for the Mom Before Mom project. The goal is to tell the stories of life before motherhood, the stories which root the woman in every mother. So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first? Every week I’ll be answering a question, journaling my life stories. Read along or write along with the wonderful bloggers linking up every week.
Prompt #9: Did you have a favorite pet? A crazy one? What were their names? Tell us a story about your animal companions or lack their of.
Chan-chan. My first dog, black shaggy haired love bug. He was more my grandfather’s than mine but what was his was mine. Chan-chan spent his days at work with my abuelo who owned a jewelry store. His wet, black nose would always peek out from beneath the counters. I spent many an evening standing on a kitchen chair next to my abuelo opening a can of dog food, carefully mashing it up into his bowl. I love that smell. Not so much because I think it dog food smells tasty, not at all, but because the scent reminds me of working alongside my grandfather to care for Chan-chan.
Years after Chan-chan died and I had gone through many other pets, I was reminiscing with my godmother about my beloved Chan-chan. She was perplexed. I explained to her about my gentle four legged pup from my early childhood. She laughed. Apparently, my dog’s name was Sunshine but my parents, in their rich accents, pronounced it chan-chan and so I was fooled, for a good portion of my life, into believing I had a dog named Chan-chan.
One afternoon after Sunshine passed away, I walked in the door from school to find my grandfather holding the collar of a lively golden beauty. I’m not sure what her mix was but she was long and tall with a beautiful face and the creamest cream colored coat. And this one was mine. I remember the excitement of picking her name. Her given name was buttons which just wouldn’t do. I lied on my stomach on my bed and on the couch and on the floor day dreaming names for her. I remember calling my abuelo up on the phone to ask if Gem was a good name. It didn’t fly. Somehow she became Cindy and it fit her perfectly with all her bounce and pep.
She was my buddy and the closest I got to a sibling as a kid. I talked to her for hours and pet her to my heart’s content. She hated to be left alone and tore the house apart when we left her for long periods of time. She’d pee all over the floor with excitement once we got home. She was with us for a good handful of years, if not more. I adored her. She really was my best friend for a long time. Before I discovered diaries, I had my Cindy. She kept all my secrets and dreams and wonder.
Cindy suffered from seizures. It confused me and hurt my heart every time she had one. Just before I got to high school, it came to the point where a decision had to be made about whether or not to put her down. I left for school one day and when I returned my parents told me they’d put her down. They never talked about it with me. They never asked me about it. They just wanted to protect me and went ahead and did it anyway. I was shattered. It was the first time they hurt me. I didn’t talk to them for days.
In the interim, there was Spike, my godmother’s bulldog who was a big ball of bubbly. The most chill dog I ever did meet. And such an appetite for my mother’s Cuban food, no wonder he was such a butterball.
I love animals. I was blessed to grow up not just with dogs but also with a godmother who lived on a farm. She raised sheep and her neighbors raised cows. I spent a lot of time feeding sheep and goats, cleaning up cows for the 4-H fair. It was simple and beautiful. I was a city kid and it was a gift to connect with nature on her farm.
I never wanted to be a vet like so many kids dream. I’ve always just been a fan of having an animal companion. As a kid I always wanted a few dogs to call my own. I’m hoping that dream comes true one day.
Next week’s prompt: 3/16 What did you want to be when you grew up? Do you still harbor a desire to be that? When did you realize your dream was or wasn’t possible?