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Several folks have asked me if I’ve ever had a pet die. Yes, I have; however, my first dog, an American Eskimo, died when I was about two or three years old, and my second dog, Pokey, died my senior year of high school. It was winter, and Grandpa took care of burying Pokey, so there was no official, ‘good bye.’

In September 1970, I was walking home from Washington Elementary School and stopped to look in the large plate glass window at Burger’s Dairy Mart (Linders or Taylors to the younger Elwood folks). I noticed a little puppy standing on the step of the store. It had no collar, and seemed excited to see me – a typical puppy trait I was to ignore forty years later when I first met Navi and Chief. I waited a few minutes to see if anyone would claim him. Mary, the stout, authoritarian who worked behind the counter stepped out with a dish of water. Mary’s burly frame, dressed in a white work dress that resembled a nurse’s uniform, bent down to give the dog some water. Her chestnut hair, bunned up tightly, reminding me of the Burl Ives Snowman in RUDOLPH, never moved an inch as she bent over and rose again.

“He’s been out here all afternoon. Probably a stray.” She watched the pup lapping up the water, seeming to speak to herself more than to me.

Once Mary returned inside the store, I picked up the puppy and walked the remaining block and a half to 825 Main Street – the tall white house on the corner, and on one of the largest hills in Elwood. Once I got to Dick & Betsy’s hedge that separate our yard from the Herndon’s yard, I set the dog down, and coaxed him to the steps. Since he could barely make the ten steps that cut into the hill, he quickly figured out he could just run up the hill.

I do recall walking through the front door with the dog, and greeting Mother. I know, according to Mother, that I elected to go with the story that the puppy had followed me home.

Mother said she could tell he was a stray, and placed an advertisement in The Elwood Call-Leader. If no one claimed the dog within two weeks, he could stay with us.

Two weeks passed, and the Alpo eating pup became a fixture at the Jolliff home.

In honor of my good kindergarten friend, Debbie Poynter, who lived one block over between the Mangas and LaPierre families, I named the dog, Pokey, which was Debbie’s nickname. Now, the older Poynter sisters claimed the nickname was prompted by Debbie’s slow nursing habits. Naming my new pup after Debbie, who was jokingly nicknamed ‘John’ by my grandfather, was a compliment to my childhood friend.

Pokey was a young boy’s true pal. He slept with me, went on walks with me, protected me, went nuts if I got a spanking, and was always at my side, much like Flyer, Navi, Chief, and Logan have been. Whenever we’d leave the house for an extended amount of time, we’d return to find Pokey sleeping on my footie pajamas he’d pulled from beneath my pillow. Of course, we would also return to find chewed up gloves, shoes, gnawed table legs, and other articles we’d not planned to abandon so soon. One particular item was a young member of my Johnny West action figures who lost his feet to Pokey’s boredom. From that point on, Jeff West was simply known as “Crip.”

After about two years, a neighbor’s huge German shepherd, Lance, began coming into our yard and attacking Pokey, once biting into his neck. Poor Pokey, when going on walks, was terrified. After those attacks, Pokey was afraid of all strangers, and nipped at the mailman. Grandpa hated seeing Pokey chained up in the yard, and offered to keep him out at their home in the country.

Off Pokey went to live two miles north of Lapel. And there he remained for the next ten years. Since we spent so much time with Grandpa and Grandma, Pokey was not missed.

My senior year of high school I could not return to the country as often due to marching band. By this time, Pokey had become quite aged, and he could barely walk. Grandpa built him a deluxe dog house with so much insulation you could feel the warmth in the coldest weather. By Thanksgiving 1982, Grandpa or Grandma had to lift Pokey off the porch so he could go potty.

When I arrived to Grandpa and Grandma’s for Thanksgiving dinner, Pokey spied me getting out of the car at the end of the drive. With great energy, and determination, Pokey rose to his feet, and carefully walked down the steps, and out to the car to greet me. I will never forget that moment of dedication shown me by a beloved pet. It was the truest affection, and devotion.

Later, it was time for my senior musical, OKLAHOMA!. I returned home for opening night to grab a bite to eat before returning to the high school for make-up and to get my hair curled. As we sat down to the table, my 8 year old brother, Destin, and I got into a quibble. Without dropping a beat, Destin said, “Your dog’s dead.” Mother, to this day, claims she will never forget the look on my face as I turned to her for confirmation. “Grandma found him in the garage this morning. He was dead.”

Mother, while trying to offer sympathies to me, was also trying to shut up Destin who seemed to thrive in the one-upmanship of his 18 year old brother.

Grandma Donna had entered the garage that morning to find her dog, Duchess, cuddling Pokey’s warm body. Duchess was crying out as she wrapped her paws around the dog that had gotten grumpier with her the past year.

That moment in 1993, punctuated with “your dog’s dead,” has become a family staple in our cupboard of humorous, memorable family moments.

This afternoon, I prepare for the departure of another pet – or rather, a fury family member – my wonderful cat of seventeen years, Logan. The day has practically shut down with this tender, loving vigil of farewell, and I am so grateful to the many, many friends who are sharing in this moment, reminding me that they, too, think of their pets as members of the family.
Pokey saw me age six to eighteen, and Logan was with me from age twenty-nine to forty-seven. All together, I’ve had pets over half my years living, and I cannot think of a more wonderful companion, or gift.

Continue to rest in peace, dear Pokey. Thank you for being a boy’s best friend…

And thank you, Debbie Poynter, for graciously allowing me to borrow your childhood nickname!

 

As I write this while sitting up in bed at my hospital table used for working mostly late into the night, Logan snuggles next to me. This is a familiar sight, and the warmth of her fur next to me is even more comfortable. When I pet her, I faintly hear that familiar purr that has always been a comfort, much like listening to the ocean’s waves crashing against the shore. It’s been familiar for the past seventeen years.

In June 1994, I decided it was time to get a pet. Since I traveled a good deal between Dayton and New York City, a dog would not have been practical. So, June 19th, I went to the home of a Centerville marching band family and selected the most energetic little male cat. In honor of my beloved mentor, Joshua Logan, I named the kitten “Mister Logan.”

For the first two months, while I waited to see if he would survive better than my indoor/outdoor plants, I took him to the veterinarian who convinced me I should probably just call the kitten, “Logan.” Mister Logan, as it turned out, was a girl. He asked for her birth date, and all I could remember was that she was born mid-April. “Pick a date,” he encouraged. So, I selected April 13th – Thomas Jefferson’s birthday.

Several months later I rushed through the door of the vet’s office, carrying Logan wrapped in a towel. Something had fallen on her that morning; she was crying loudly, and dragging her backside. “There’s nothing we can do for her, Mr. Haas.”   The tears began flowing down my cheek. When I asked if we should put her to sleep, the vet assistants, trying their best to stifle chuckles, assured me there was no need to put her down.

“Logan is fine. She’s in heat.”

I thanked the ladies, and then tucked Logan under my arm, walking out of the building with all the dignity I could muster.

Logan has always been popular with my students, and their families. When Benjamin Gross played the piano as a young 6 year old, Logan would lay across his lap, or stand to hug him. For some reason, Benjamin was Logan’s favorite.  When anyone sits in the living room, their laps are generally filled, for Logan has always hated to see an empty lap. When I work in my study, Logan loves to lay on the side of the L-shaped desk to keep me company, and when writing in my bedroom/sitting room, Logan is always by my side.

This morning, it is different. Logan, after seventeen years, and one day short of six months, is slipping away. She is comfortable, but her breathing has become a little more shallow. I lifted Flyer, who has been blind nearly a year, onto the bed to say, “good bye.” Flyer sniffed at Logan without a hissed rebuttal, and laid down on the bed by Logan. Navi and Chief sniffed Logan and seem to comprehend something is different this morning. Even the extra-playful Navi is subdued this morning, curled at the foot of the bed keeping watch.

August 2010, I was a mess as we prepared to put down Flyer who was suffering with pancreatitis, and assured by the vet she would not survive. Fortunately, Flyer did survive. The outpouring of affection for this dog was incredible. This morning it seems to be the same for Logan. Many have experienced her personality and antics for years, thus making her quite the popular cat.

At Stubbs Park and The Fraze Pavilion, Logan was a familiar presence during concerts, basking in the attention, and gobbling up any food offered her. On airplane travels to and from NYC, Logan always rested comfortably in my backpack stored under the seat in front of me. While Mother sat on my back patio drinking her morning coffee, she solved the mystery of Logan’s escapes from the townhouse: Logan opened the sliding screen-door, and closed it herself! While walking through a festival with Logan on my shoulder – a typical perch in her younger years – I heard a lady let out a light scream. I turned to see Logan eating her elephant ear which she was holding up as she walked through the crowd.

I had to purchase voice mail when it first came out because Logan knew how to press the correct buttons on my answering machine, thus erasing new messages. A year later, I had to remove numbers from the novelty of speed dialing on my new phone because Logan would press the speaker button and then hit a speed dial button to carry on a conversation with whomever answered. Several students got to witness Logan’s phone conversations, especially the Nienaber family.

The fond, memorable stories of Logan are countless. For seventeen years, I have been blessed with an incredible, fuzzy-faced companion, who will always hold a special place in my heart. Through the course of this blog’s post, she has continued to snuggled closer. I am sure she knows she is loved, and that she has been loved dearly for many years, and by many folks.

It’s been a great life for Logan, and for me. We have had wonderful times together – times that have turned into beautiful memories.

As one friend wrote on my Facebook page, “They are not just pets, they are family.”

And very shortly, the Jolliffe-Haas family will bid farewell to one whom I’ve jokingly referred to as “my first child.”

Good bye, little Pal… my beloved little Fuzzy Face.

Know you are loved…

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