Homesick? Or just miss Snowball?
It seems that dogs and their tragic demise marked the passage of time when I was a kid. When we lived on York Avenue here in Warren, Snowball, a beautiful white Eskimo spitz, was our family dog. I spent many hours as a 3 and 4 year old crawling around on the floor and napping with him under the stove that stood on 4 high legs in the kitchen.
One day, Snowball limped home with his usually spritely tail bent down and his head hanging very low. He crawled up the porch steps and lay at my feet. It turned out that he had really mixed it up with that dreaded purple-tongued chow down at the corner and had gotten the worst of it. His tail and neck were broken and, although I didn’t understand it all, Mom and Dad had him “put away.”
When we moved to Genesee in a beautiful new home, we got a new dog, a little white cocker spaniel-looking mutt. Mom and Dad had already named him Snowball II. I adored that little dog and he kept me company while I dealt with a severe bout of tonsillitis.
In the summer of 1942 we made it all the way to Canada for a vacation in spite of gas rationing that allowed only 4 gallons a week on our World War II “A” ration sticker. We had been husbanding gasoline for weeks in order to have enough to get to the border. There was no gas rationing in Canada.
We couldn’t take Snowball with us and had arranged for the Moss family to take care of him on their little farm in West Farmington. There he would be with their little curly-haired mongrel named Happy.
In Canada we stayed at a wonderful little hotel and the swimming and fishing were great. Then it happened. This was the first time in my life that I had experienced homesickness. It was such a debilitating affliction that I wound up in bed. I missed Snowball terribly.
When we returned to the States we drove immediately to West Farmington to pick up Snowball.
To my utter astonishment, Snowball totally ignored me when we got there. In the two weeks we were gone, Snowball and Happy had really buddied up. Both of them expertly herded the cows to the barn at milking time and Snowball, whom we thought hated water, would plunge unhesitatingly into the Grand River with Happy.
Snowball and I quickly renewed our friendship, and we returned to Warren. Mom decreed that, since Snowball had become such an outside dog that he could now stay outside.
Jack Senard, a friend of the family, had built a huge doghouse for us. Although we had put it at the edge of our property, our neighbor complained bitterly about it, since it was taboo to have one due to the neighborhood restrictions.
So, this was where Snowball stayed. The doghouse was so big that I could easily crawl inside — and did.
One late night, Snowball ran to meet Mom and Dad as they drove into the drive. Unfortunately, Dad accidentally ran over and badly injured Snowball. Doc James did the best he could to set Snowball’s broken pelvis. He put his hind quarters into a severely restrictive cast. Snowball could only drag himself along using his forelegs. Now he was allowed to stay in the cellar.
In spite of Snowball’s handicap, he would do his best to crawl across the front lawn to meet me when I came home from school. One Saturday morning, Snowball didn’t come to the top of the cellar steps. I found him lying on the cellar floor. He was dead. Doc James said he had died of pneumonia.
Oddly enough, the very man who had complained about our doghouse bought it from us to put it in his back yard for his dog.
In spite of the fact that I’ve been all grown up now for nearly 70 years, I still get a little twinge of homesickness when I’m away from home for more than a little while.
And nowadays, when I clean a window, sometimes the paper towel squeaks a little — or is that Snowball whimpering?
Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at email@example.com