TRUE STORY: "Clipper is in a fight again! Go
out and get him!” My mother yelling at me early in the morning.
1954. A new subdivision in Ardsley, New York. She had let our
Bull Terrier out. Clipper loved to fight. And I, a responsible
eleven year old, had the emergency duty of rescuing chewed up
doggies, those who had the misfortune of being in the
neighborhood if Clipper was on the loose which was actually
quite rare. Most times I took him for walks on a leash. But this
did not prevent other dogs from wanting the traditional sniff or
occasionally charging my white, tethered terrier. Twice this
happened, once a Boxer, another time a Doberman. Clipper would
wait patiently ‘til they got real close. Then BAM he would
lightening fast flip these dogs on their backs and start
chomping vigorously on their necks … under their snouts. Not a
sight for the feint of heart. Of course I would be screaming at
the top of my lungs. Fortunately these two times the dogs did
break loose and flee. Throughout my teenage years I did my best
to avoid these confrontations.
Clipper died while I was in basic training … U.S. Air Force,
1961. I came home ‘on leave’ and my sister asked if I noticed
anything unusual. Not at first … then tears streamed down her
cheeks … then mine. Severe liver damage. Clipper was gone.
During the ensuing years our family often recalled what a
wonderful animal we had shared. He was family. His big brown
eyes always said “I love you,” “pet me.” Images of his racing
around the apartment when we came home still ‘visit’ me. And
also my mother’s lap where Clipper sprawled contently. Such a
friendly, ‘people’ dog. He ‘walks with me’ to this day.
And you?? Have you had a similar experience with a pet? Loving
one that is. Perhaps every child should take responsibility for
keeping an animal alive and content. Certainly caring for one
rends the self-centered cloak of a teenager. A good thing.
Appreciating the needs of other creatures. And hopefully this
continues throughout adulthood. A reward of course is
companionship. Many a senior citizen’s life would be barren
without a cat or dog. Caressing fur, feeling a beating heart
close and ‘communicating’ with a cherished pet … this can make
all the difference in sustaining a meaningful life during the
‘twilight years’. Everyone needs to feel needed. Even by one’s
Oh, I forgot to mention how he got his name. Clipper had a large
black patch surrounding his left eye. My mother imaginatively
thought of a pirate’s clipper ship. Voila! Years later I was
walking down a street in New York City and saw a picture of my
dog on someone’s chest. I was dumbfounded! It was a Bull Terrier
advertising beer. Nice to have my Clipper still around.
There IS, however, one problem with having a pet … for some:
Vanity. Unfortunately there are those who invest much of their
time and money into image … their own image. They want the world
to know how unique they are. So they buy and maintain a pet that
makes a statement. This is the world’s rarest and most expensive
dog. “My breed is the best breed.” And so forth. A great reason
for having a pet: So you can impress friends, strangers. Have
you ever stopped a dog walker on the street and inquired what
breed it is? Did you sense a little gloating? Maybe there is
nothing wrong with this. We should all feel good about
ourselves. Whatever it takes. And to be proud of your choice of
an animal … so what? Well, the only problem with this is the
‘impress others’ part. This is a juvenile, self-conscious habit.
Instead of loving your little ‘Max’ for himself you are using
him as part of you life’s window dressing. You want people to
like you for the ‘stuff’ you have … not for the person you are.
And if your pet is presented to impress people, probably much in
your life is meant to do the same. The saddest aspect of this
practice: You cannot know if people really like you for you.
Maybe they just fawn with feint praise feeling obliged to
compliment you on your ‘precious’ possessions. Maybe you enjoy
eliciting their envy and feeling ‘puffed up’ with your superior
means to obtain the ‘good things’ in life.
Whatever motivates and satisfies you, it should not be dependent
on what you want people to think of you. You must enjoy and even
love the world’s creatures for their own sake. And when it comes
to pets: They can be an extension of yourself, represent you in
a way, “good choice,” but they are also beautiful creatures
apart from you. You did not design them. You did not participate
in their evolution. So do not even consider taking credit for
them. Silly vanity can undermine one of life purest friendships:
Your loving pet … like my Clipper.
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