In 1993, a friend of mine bred his half Afghan Hound / half Cocker Spaniel (female) to a Rottweiler. (Yeah, I know.) I got one of the puppies, named Roma.
Unfortunately, the earliest photo I have of her on my system is from September 2000, when she was 7 and Jesse was 3. (So she was 3 when he was born.) But she was relatively small, only weighing about 32 pounds. And she had the best and worst traits of her heritage. From her Rottweiler father, she got the white patches on her chest and toes, and of course the Rotty butt. And she also had his attitude: she was positive that she was tough.
She got her tail and coloring from her mom, although she didn’t get any of the curly hair. And she was dainty, always crossing her paws when she was laying down to show how much of a lady she was. And that tough attitude? Went away as soon as someone yelled (or another dog barked). She also hated when her feet got wet.
In October 1996, shortly after we discovered I was pregnant, my dad died. He had adopted a Shepherd mix from the shelter, and he renamed her from “Sybil” to “Babe”. He figured that she was about 3 when he got her, so she was 9 when she came to live with us. She was my protector; she always placed herself between me and the door. As she got older, her favorite places to sleep were either right next to my bed (I had to be really careful when I got up) or on one of the wider stairs.
This means that both dogs were older when we brought Jesse home from the hospital: Roma was 4, and Babe was 9 or 10. And they were so confused by this new puppy that joined us. Unlike them, he was allowed in the kitchen when we were cooking and eating. (At the beginning, we’d put him in his travel seat and put it on the kitchen table. They were stunned.) He went everywhere with us, while they typically had to stay home. His bed was raised, unlike theirs. (Actually, Babe hated dog beds until she saw that Roma loved hers. And then we had to buy Babe one because Roma wasn’t tough enough to try to kick Babe out.)
But even though they were older, they tolerated him. Of course, at the beginning, he didn’t do much. He started crawling in November 1996 (on Thanksgiving, actually), and this confused them for a while. They were never quite sure just what he was doing and why he was moving so weirdly. But one January, we were all in the kitchen (after dinner, when they were allowed in), and Babe was laying in front of the kitchen sink. Jesse crawled over to her and started crawling up her side. (Yes, we were paying attention.) And we watched as Babe very slowly stood up, giving Jesse time to “find his legs” and stand with her. And then she took a step forward, and stopped. Jesse took a step forward, and stopped. They continued this process for about six feet, which is when Babe had enough. She took several steps forward, and Jesse fell to his knees and laughed. And then he got up and started walking.
Everyone got older. And by November 2000, we decided that Jesse really needed his own puppy. Roma was 7 and Babe was 12 or 13, and while they tolerated him, they didn’t enjoy him. And he couldn’t figure out why they never really wanted to play with him. We decided that we wanted to get a Labrador because they were supposed to be good with kids. And Jim just happened to find a breeder in New Hampshire with a little of six-week-old Labs that were looking for their forever homes.
And so we brought Cassie home. Now it seems like she was just so tiny at 18 pounds. But it was love at first sight for Jesse and Cassie.
When we first brought her home, Jesse chased her for what seemed like hours around the house, for some reason yelling “run for your lives!”. He was laughing, the other two dogs just sat and watched, and we just enjoyed the havoc. For the first month or so, she slept next to my bed (given that I was the one in charge of getting up with her to take her out), but soon, she was trained, and she started sleeping with Jesse.
BTW, the earlier photo of Babe shows her trying out Cassie’s bed. Roma also tried it out. As a result, Cassie started trying to use the cage, although she always managed to get in there when someone else (in this case, Babe) was already there. Several years later, I was able to get a photo of Cassie and Roma sharing the cage. (Cassie never cared. Roma always looked like she did, but again, she wasn’t tough enough to boot even a Lab out.)
Along the way, Sagwa, a tuxedo cat, joined the family. Sagwa was born to a feral mom, so he has these beautiful long white whiskers. And he wasn’t too sure about being part of a family, especially since they figured he was about seven months old when we got him. But we worked at acclimating him to the house, keeping him on a leash and in a separate area for the first couple of weeks so that he could get used to the dogs.
In 2004, we said “good-bye” to Babe. (She would have been about 14 at the time.) Jesse and I were in New Zealand at the time, and I remember when we heard. We were in a hotel in Sydney, and Jesse and I cried, and then we went out and walked for a couple of hours. And it was weird coming home to a house without her…my protector had crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
In 2011, we said “good-bye” to Roma. Yep, she lived to be 18. (I don’t know what it is about our home. It’s where animals come to not die.) She had lost a lot of weight over her last several years, but there were times when she would still romp and even try to play (although it was typically one toss of a ball and not many).
In 2012, we welcomed Midnight to the crew. She was this tiny little ball of fur, a black-on-black tiger (also born to a feral mom).
And along the way, we had also gained six birds, two snakes, and a bearded dragon (lizard) named Norbert.
In April 2014, we said “good-bye” to Cassie. I was heart-broken…we all were. She was Jesse’s buddy. She represented his childhood. I remember when Jim and I would stand at the bottom of the stairs at night when Jesse was little and listen to him “read” her stories. Until 2010, she continued to sleep with him until she could no longer get into his bed. (We transitioned him from a twin bed to a queen just so that the two of them would fit.) But she still slept at his side for the next couple of years and greeted him as if he’d been gone forever when he came home from school.
Jesse kept asking for another puppy. But he was 16 then, getting ready to finish his junior year in high school, and thinking about college. Or joining the military. Or both. And in May, I was just too tired to think about getting another puppy, figuring that I would again be the one doing the primary training. So I kept putting him off.
But the story continues…
(Note: I was having a bit of trouble with my math at times. Hopefully, I managed to fix all the ages.)