Dogs, Cats, Salamanders, and Scarlet Johansson. Oh my!

Dogs, Cats, Salamanders, and Scarlet Johansson. Oh my!
By Harry Hallman Updated March 13, 2023

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. 😊

Originally posted on The Kensington Neighborhood Alumni Group on Facebook.


1 comment

  • Growing up we had a cocker spaniel named Doc, he was adorable. We were in the middle of a snowstorm and somehow Doc got out of the house. My sister Retta and my dad walked the streets of Kensington to find our little dog. After what seemed like hours, Retta and dad walked in the front door carrying Doc. We lived on the 3000 block of Swanson Street and Doc was found at Front and Somerset, quite a long way for a little dog to walk in a snowstorm. How happy my family was to see Retta, dad and Doc walk through the front door.

    Lorraine Dwyer

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