In fact, I don't really recall any families in our neighborhoods that had pets. In San Diego there was Curtis, my friend Ross's big brother, who often kept snakes. And in Cleveland, Ohio, when I was very small, I recall one neighbor that had a handsome Irish setter that we rarely saw. Over all though, animals were scarce in my childhood.
After my family moved to Northern Indiana in the mid-sixties, my family's juggling act began working with a dog act from Chicago. The act was Arwood's Pink Poodles. When we first started working with the Arwoods, the act consisted of a father and son who performed acrobatic tricks and had the pink poodles perform assorted dog tricks. The son was about my age and we became good friends and remain friends to this day. I don't know if he still owns any dogs or not.
In 1966 my family moved to East Tennessee and encountered a new phenomenon--stray dogs. I had never seen stray dogs in previous places where I had lived. In Tennessee more people owned dogs and dumping unwanted dogs was more common. Apparently at that time animal control either wasn't as active or was not usually contacted.
This was as close to dog ownership that I ever came. Dogs would periodically dump our trash cans looking for food. These dogs were unapproachable because they were so afraid of humans. I became attached to a beautiful dog I called Blackie. I left food for her and she eventually became comfortable with my presence. After much wooing I finally was able to feed her by hand and pet her. She began staying at our house and defending it as her territory.
Her other "dog friends" would continue to stop by and Blackie would regularly take off and roam with them. Later she would return "home" where she would eat and sleep. I could not call her my dog--she was not willing to be owned. Instead it was more like she adopted me and accepted our house as her home base. I don't really know how old she was or where she came from but she was with us for several years. Then one morning we found her dead in our front yard. I don't know if it had been a natural death or if she had been poisoned. Animal control came and took her away.
In the mid-seventies I lived at the border of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in a log cabin which I shared with three friends. One of my friends purchased an Irish Setter which he called Red. There was also a German shepherd living with us that we called Big Dog. I don't know who, if anyone, owned the shepherd. At that time, everyone living in the cabin was working except for me. I stayed at home to tend to the house since it was in a remote place and we were concerned with break-ins. Sometimes I would hike into the park and the dogs would always follow me. Somehow these dogs always just seemed like my friends. They just hung out with me.
I've never owned a dog, but I've made friends with a few. A dog friend is kind of nice. I can't say they were ever my best friends, but they were pleasant friends. If I ever live in the country again I'll probably get a dog to live on the property. I can't say I'll necessarily own the dog. After all, who really owns who?
Did you have a dog when you were growing up? Did many of your neighbors own dogs? Did you have a favorite dog TV show? How do you feel about trained performing dogs? Have you ever made friends with a stray dog? Have you ever met up with a rabid or otherwise dangerous dog that threatened you? Is there a dog in your life that owns you?