In 1894, Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book in which he wrote of Mowgli (probably my new name), a little boy who was raised by wolves in the jungle. During that time, Mowgli learned self sufficiency and wisdom from the jungle animals.
I feel a similar close relationship with the sixteen dogs who have shared my 94 years on this earth. We grew up together, ate together, slept together, played together and grew old together. Along with my human family and friends, dogs have always occupied an essential place in my life.
All of my dogs were very different. Some of them were pedigreed, some were mixed breed, some cute and some not so, some a little nasty, a few arrogant – all just like their human counterparts. But they were close to me – my friends.
I remember some weird things about some of those dogs –
Duke – a beautiful all-white English Setter with only a black eye, had a sometimes nasty disposition. When he took a chunk out of the postman’s leg – we gave him to the then US Senator, Henrik Shipstead.
Pepper – a Boston Terrier, somehow learned to climb up trees.
Uncle Sam’s Tiger – (illegally owned when I was in the army during the Korean War) regularly STOLE BEER from unsuspecting, relaxing army personnel. He also happily ate human food offered to him on a fork by my mother. My wife’s mother, Grandma Sis, claimed that she “hated dogs.” She would constantly sneak scraps of food to Tiger when she thought we weren’t looking.
Punkett – Punky, The Earl of Wentworth Ave. where we lived – a male, wire-haired Terrier, as a puppy resembled a cuddly stuffed rag doll. He had his own way of doing things and was not willing to be trained. We put him outside to do what dogs usually do outside. Then he came back in and promptly, proudly pooped. Punky also decided that our dock at Lake Manuela was infinitely long! He sprinted off the dock – into oblivion!
Torocito (Toro) – from the era when we owned The Casa Loco Cabin on Lake Manuela, spent hours taking rocks out of the lake, up a small hill and then pushed them back down to the lake, endlessly.
We bought two all white Boston Terriers (should usually be black) and named them Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hydee. Hydee had almost no nose, unlike my prominent proboscis, and wheezed constantly – but was very playful. Jekyll was almost an immovable “blob.” In fact, we regularly had “snoring contests” between Jekyll and Grandpa Sol. Jekyll usually won – but not always!
All of the family wanted to sleep with Hydee and Jekyll. It took a mathematical genius to figure out which dog slept where AND in which of the five different beds on each of the 7 days of the week.
Hydee and Jekyll also loved to be dressed in “people” costumes.
Augustus III (Gusto) – For some unknown reason, he insisted on attacking the running “white” water in every fountain and stream or rushing water.
Gusto also angrily bit the hand of Federal Judge Doty who had improperly made a menacing move toward Gusto. Judge Doty proudly displays the Gusto Scar
Louie – gained notoriety one warm summer day. Aunt Marilee was sitting on a bench, enjoying the day when Louie came up, lifted his leg, and urinated all over her.
Zeus – Zeus did not dislike the mailman. Instead he decided that he particularly liked the mailman’s leather bag for carrying letters. Zeus jumped into the bag every day.
Sam – the most beautiful dog! A German Shepard with bright blue eyes – surrounded by dark lines – looked like makeup.
Buddy – a golden retriever, had monthly seizures – but chased a tennis ball incessantly.
Amery – a black Labrador, everyone’s friend. Hated fireworks – disappeared one 4th of July in the deep woods. How to find a black dog at night, in the woods? She found her way back the next day.
Befriended Laura Nolan when I could no longer accompany her on walks.
Amery and I won the prize for best dressed “Hot Dog” and handler in the Loring Greenway Dog Parade.
Being 94 years old is tolerable and living in an electric wheelchair, my Lamborghini, is necessary and I have easily adapted to it; but being without a dog is miserable – Dogs have been everything for me – my partner and my enjoyment.
Everyone knows that objectivity should be my middle name. I lived in the west wing of the third floor of Loring Way Condominiums in Loring Park for 10 years. By coincidence, the third floor, west wing was occupied only by dogs and necessary humans. The east wing of the third floor of Loring Way was occupied only by cats and necessary humans.
When I was asked to compare the dogs vs. the cats, I put on my completely objective hat and wrote as follows –
Land of Lornway
In the Land of Lornway
By Ray Harris
Oncе upon a time in the reveredland of Lornway, there existed two separate, powerful and adjacent kingdoms. Threast and Threwest. As elsewhere in history, these kingdoms shared and still share a boundary providing the potential for friendship, cooperation and, certainly disputes – much like the Mason-Dixon line in America, the Maginot line between France and Germany, the ever-evolving border between Israel and the Palestinians, and the space between North and South Korea.
The inhabitants of Threast and Threwest, throughout history and even today, while living in close proximity to each other, have much in common but many more differences and distinguishing characteristics.
The Felines* of Threast vary somewhat in size and greatly in color, mostly with substantial amounts of ungainly body hair. Generally smaller than their neighboring Canines, they are also quieter and have a longer life expectancy. Felines have a suspicious demeanor and are aloof, even covert. They seldom willingly leave Threast and never allow their neighbors from Threwest to live in Threast. Felines are selfish and self-centered and have no interest in anything outside of their Feline Kingdom. They arc cowardly and prefer to hide in order to avoid confrontations but are occasionally known to emit threatening sounds and display vicious claws.
The Canines^ of Threwest, on the other hand, love to venture out of their kingdom, to explore the world take risks, and demonstrate their interest in other forms of life – squirrels, rabbits, and primarily humans. Canines are especially attached to humans, constantly displaying traits of friendship, loyalty and unconditional love. Canines vary greatly in size, color and demeanor. Some are gruff, others are meek but all consider themselves protectors, providers and even therapists for their human friends. While occasionally destructive when very young, Canines are reliable and welcoming to others. The Canines in Threwest have even successfully integrated Felines as regular members of the Threwest Kingdom, something the Feline kingdom of Threast has never done.
Over the centuries, Felines and Canines, while speaking different languages, have co-existed. Although they have reputations for fighting “like cats and dogs,” (slang for Felines and Canines), much of this animosity is simply perception. Speaking of perception, the media improperly portrays positive things as “the cat’s meow,” or “cat’s whiskers” or that cats “have nine lives” and only occasionally make mention of cat house” which connotations we all recognize.
Canines are acknowledged as “man’s best friend” but are treated unfairly when negative inferences are made to being in the “dog house” or in the “dog days of August.”
Felines and Canines of Lornway are currently demonstrating their ability to co-exist in peace, maybe not in harmony, more likely an armed truce. If issues arise and peaceful living is ever in jeopardy, it may be necessary to establish a “Dispute Resolution Committee” so that disagreements and differences of opinion can be mediated without the need to create and pass bylaws and rules of behavior!
*AKA kitty pussy, Tom ^AKA puppy pooch, Fido
The author, Ray Harris, is an advocate and authority on animal kingdoms and behavior. He just happens to reside in 306 Threwest, Lornway, with his human partner, Helen Metz, and their Canine partner, Amery the Wonderdog, an acknowledged mediator, who has offered to convene a gathering of Threast and Threwest residents as a gesture of goodwill toward ongoing accord.
In all humility, I provided an outstanding and completely accurate comparison of dogs and cats.
An even better comparison was not written by me! I know not the author’s name but I want to give him/her credit for being a genius. The following is their handiwork –
GOD CREATES DOG FOR ADAM & EVE
It is reported that the following addition to the Book of Genesis was discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls. If authentic, it would shed light on the question, “Where do pets come from?”
And Adam said, “Lord, when I was in the garden, you walked with me every day. Now I do not see you anymore. I am lonesome here and it is difficult for me to remember how much you love me.”
And God said, “No problem! I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever and and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will know I love you, even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish and childish and unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourself.”
And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam.
And it was a good animal. And God was pleased.
And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam, and he wagged his tail. And Adam said, “But Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom, and all the good names are taken, and I cannot think of a name for this new animal.”
And God said, “No problem! Because I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.
And Dog lived with Adam and was a companion to him and to Eve, and loved them. And Adam was comforted.
And God was pleased.
And Dog was content and wagged his tail.
After a while, it came to pass that Adam’s guardian angel came to the Lord and said, “Lord, Adam has become filled with pride. He struts and preens like a peacock and believes he is worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught him that he is loved, but no one has taught him humility.
And the Lord said, “No problem! I will create for him a companion who will be with him forever and who will see him as he is. The companion will remind him of his limitations, so he will know he is not worthy of adoration.
And God created CAT to be a companion for Adam.
And Cat would not obey Adam.
And when Adam gazed into Cat’s eyes, he was reminded that he was not the Supreme Being. And Adam learned humility. And God was pleased. And Adam was greatly improved.
And Cat did not care one way or the other.
My love of dogs extended well beyond the written word. I took action and spent a lot of money on their behalf. So much action and money that my daughter Sarah still wonders why I spent so much time and “greenbacks” on the dogs, rather than her children.
In 2007 (noted in one of my previous blogs), I headed a group, Dog Grounds Inc., which leased a small piece of Loring Park property. I contracted at wholesale minus approximately 50% to have the contractor, Kraus Anderson, build the Loring Park Off Leash Dog Park. I also hired a chainsaw sculptor to create a seven dog, vertical Totem Pole, as well as a steel artisan to construct the “Bridge to Erewhon” – Bridge to Nowhere – a takeoff of the famous Samuel Butler “Bridge to Nowhere.” The dog park was and is a huge success!
Now, in 2023, Dog Grounds Inc. is donating the dog park and the artwork to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Lisa Goodman, the 7th Ward Councilmember – on behalf of Dog Grounds Inc., read aloud at the park board meeting, my final statement about dogs.
My Final Statement about Dogs
Hello, I’m Ray Harris. I am 94 years old and I live in an electric wheelchair.
I’ve led a charmed life!
I’ve always been self-employed.
My extended family includes four wonderful children and their even-better spouses!
I have six out-of-this-world grandchildren
An equally important part of my family have been each and every one of my 16 dogs who were with me when we toddled together, ran for a while and then hobbled – for 92 years until the wheelchair took over. Today I’m going to share more about this part of my family. As I said, I’m 94 years old (658 in dog years). All of them are now gone. I’ll probably be gone soon Let me reminisce. Yes, I’ve had 16 dogs in my life.
There was Duke an all-white English Setter with one black eye.
There was Sam, a gorgeous, blue-eyed German Shepherd.
There were two all-white, Boston Terriers named Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hydee.
There was Buddy – the Golden Retriever who inspired (and modeled for) the artwork being given to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
There were many more – color, gender, and backgrounds didn’t matter.
Even though I was always self-employed, I always had a partner – my dog!
Today, I am giving in loving memory of all my dogs, my partners in life.
Let me recall a few of the things I learned from them:
When we had a good day, and were happy, we danced, romped together, and wagged our tails (my rear end) mightily.
Even though we were bigger or stronger, we always restrained ourselves and respected everyone.
Daily walks gave us joy and solace, rain or shine, the more the better.
Bad days (there were plenty) – nuzzle and pretend to understand keep your ‘nothing is that bad’ perspective.
We thrive on attention – there is never enough.
Don’t pretend to be important. Just be yourself.
Every day is better than the day before!!! Act like it.
Be loyal to your partner.
Be together. Eat together – sometimes scraps and sometimes steaks, but together.
When father time calls, we’ve lived a good life!
We’re not afraid we are content.
Drawing by Alexandra Holmgren, granddaughter of Ray