Clippings: Some columnists have all the luck

I know envy is one of those deadly sins, but I can’t help it. Other columnists can write pieces about their smart, charming and funny pets. Or heartwarming pieces about growing up with dogs and finding just the right one now, like my colleague Katie. That helped her win a New England Newspaper and Press Association Rookie of the Year prize.

I’m not jealous of that award. She earned it, and it’s a little late for the particular honor for me. (See picture.) But the topic? That would be nice.

My newsroom cohorts — and visitors to our home — will tell you that my family has had pets in recent years that, while beloved by at least some in their own ways, have been ... problematic.

It wasn’t always this way. Back when my lovely and much smarter better half and I met, we each had animals that were column-worthy.

Kristine had a shorthaired cat named Sarah. Sarah was calm, not too demanding of attention, but affectionate on her terms. And she developed a remarkable relationship with Kelly, my chocolate-colored Irish Setter mix.

Kelly was the exception who proved the Irish Setter rule. Usually they are high-strung, hard to train, and, well, on the wrong end of the canine IQ scale. I was Kelly’s second owner, getting her at about three months. Either she was some sort of savant or her first owner was The Dog Whisperer. She never jumped on guests, begged at the table, failed to listen to us, or did anything wrong while being watched. The infamous Christmas cookie incident of ’86 was the exception that proved that rule.

She and Sarah were a riot together. They boxed. Well, Kelly bobbed and weaved while Sarah got up on her hind legs and tried to whack her nose. And Sarah would walk between her front legs while Kelly would nibble her back, and Sarah would end up with a little wet kitty Mohawk running the length of her spine.

Now? We have my dad and my late mom’s rescue dog, a Portuguese hunting dog named Rosie, who we think is 13 or 14, and our cat Ginger, roughly 20, sibling to Fred, deceased in 2008.

Now, it’s not really Rosie’s fault she’s wound tighter than Robin Williams after four Red Bulls. She was abused as a young puppy. And she has mellowed. She doesn’t jump every time someone makes a sudden move, like covering a yawn.

But she barks, even at my dad when he comes home. She’ll watch me walk out to the mailbox, and bark when I come in. She barks at us when we walk up the stairs. And we had to put up a sign asking visitors not to ring the doorbell. That’s more excitement than Rosie can stand.

Also, Rosie also obviously spent her crucial formative years wondering when her next meal would arrive. Every day we trip over or step on Rosie because she is lurking behind us in the kitchen. She licks our hands and napkins at the table and leans against our chair and stares at us. When she is really desperate, she chatters her teeth like Perry the Platypus on Phineas and Ferb.

Ginger is equally high-strung, but mercifully is so deaf she no longer startles easily. The downside there is she has no idea how much noise she is making when she decides to have a 10-minute yowling fit at 3 a.m. Or she’s just evil. I’m not clear on that.

And she likes to jump on and off the bed about 10 times in a row in the middle of the night, announcing her arrival with a rowrr each time.

Also, you can’t pick Ginger up without fear of getting scratched. She freaks out. And we have to pick her up a lot, because Ginger, a long-hair cat, is doing her best to set the all-time feline hairball record. At the first ack-ack-ack, we try to move her from the wall-to-wall carpet into the bathroom. First, Ginger tries to flee. If not successful at that, she does her best to open an artery in our wrists.

Then again, that problem may be preferable to the latter years of Fred’s existence. Fred always had a horseshoes-and-hand-grenades attitude about litter boxes. When his kidneys began to fail, even a second litter box the size of a air hockey table that we placed on his preferred swath of family-room carpet didn’t lure him in.

Finally we bought a water-proof tarp and put it under the mega-box. About half the time he would hit the mark, and the rest of the time we would mop up and spray Fantastic. Of course, this throne on Fred’s favorite spot lay between our couch and TV set. Great for our quality of life when Fred would show up and do his business.

So I still dream about writing about Fido the Photogenic Wonder Dog who brings the newspaper in and helps the elderly down Buttolph Drive at the Commons cross the road and teaches our children the wonders of both unconditional love and responsibility.

Maybe the next batch.

Andy Kirkaldy is at

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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