Dogs, Cats, Salamanders, and Scarlet Johansson. Oh my!
The other day while I was lying on my two-thousand-dollar lounge chair by my million-dollar pool in Hollywood and talking to Scarlett Johansson, she asked if I had pets growing up in Kensington. OH WAIT! That was a dream I was having when I fell asleep sitting in my old Levin’s chair and watching a Netflix movie.
Anyway, it got me thinking about Kensington pets. I often write about the various places and people in Kensington, but not much about our pets. Pets are an important part of our lives.
When I was very young, I remember we had a cat, but I can’t recall his name. One day he snagged a hotdog from the table, and I found him leaning up against the wall with it half in his mouth. He looked like Mr. Pennybags from the Monopoly game. I’m guessing it was the first time I laughed because of a pet. It certainly wasn’t the last time.
Sometime in the mid to late forties, we got our first dog, Bonnie. She was a red Cocker Spaniel with big floppy ears. A few years later, Bonnie had a one-nighter and then had four puppies. When her time came, I wasn’t allowed to see the birthing. Bonnie was very protective of her puppies, as a friend of mine found out when she tried to pick one up. The friend ran out of the house, crying.
We kept one puppy and named her Ginger (because of her red hair). Bunny went to my sister, and the other two found a good home. There were two things people back then didn’t seem to do. One was that they never neutered pets. The second thing was they never walked their dogs, at least that I saw.
Bonnie and Ginger had the run of the house, and the small backyard of our Wishart Street house was their playground and toilet. Bonnie passed away when I was eleven or twelve. I took it pretty badly, but I couldn't show it because of the Kensington boys code. I almost got into a fight with a friend that told me, “Bonnie was just a dog; what’s the big deal.” She was a great deal more than just a dog to me. Ginger passed when I was stationed in Vietnam. I miss them both still, as I do all the dogs I have had since.
Of course, kids in Kensington had other types of pets as well. We had a great Parakeet, and a few times at Easter, we would get some chicks. I loved it then, but it’s a bad practice since most die. If they live then and get big, they take “a trip to the farm.”
Another lousy practice was when you could buy a Salamander when the Circus was in town. Kids loved it. We would beg to get one and promise that we would take care of it. Of course, by the next day, it was either dead or lost somewhere.
One pet, well not a pet, but rather a guest in our alley, often showed the same tenacity and attitude of most Kensington people. They were tough, got the job done, and had a helluva good time doing it. I’m talking about the good old Alley Cats. They would come around late at night, and they sounded like babies crying as they called out, trying to get a “date.” They also loved to pee on any Christmas trees you might have in your yard.
I hope you were able to have pets when you were growing up. They are part of the Kensington family. Tell us about them.
Note: Every dog that was part of the family before I wrote the Mercy Row novels appears in those novels. By appears, I mean I wrote about them. 😊
My brother and I with Bonnie, Ginger and Bunny. 1950
My mom with Bonnie's puppies. Late 1940s.
My brother Bill with then now older Ginger. 1963
Cindy, my mom’s dog after Ginger. Cindy ate cholate every night and lived to be 20 years old. My mom also ate chocolate every night, and she was around until she was 87. Just saying.
My mom with our Parakeet. 1958