One of my fonder childhood memories is not the time I spent playing with the mixed breed border collie we had living with us in the hamlet of Apalachin, New York, but rather a moment that came some months after we gave that dog away to a family living four or five miles down the road in Little Meadows, Pennsylvania.
I was probably seven or eight years old, and I can no longer even remember the dog’s name. But I do vividly recall the day when I decided I would ride my two-wheeler alone down the two-lane highway to Little Meadows, and I would see if the dog was still there after all this time had passed.
I had no idea where exactly the dog was living in that little town, but I didn’t need to. As I rode the bike down the main drag, I suddenly heard the yapping of a blurry ball of fur racing toward me. It was my dog — or used to be my dog — and he had not forgotten me.
As I wrote in this space in the April 17 issue, people love to hear and read about animals, especially dogs, as the public reaction to the death of Jessica Savitch and her dog, Chewy, made clear. My April 17 column encouraged several faithful readers to take the time to write up personal notes of thanks — unusual in this day.
In a hand-written — imagine that! — note, faithful reader Thomas Evans of Hightstown wrote:
Dear Mr. Rein,
Congratulations on your “animal editorial” on April 17. This may well be my all-time favorite from you.
It is a dog’s — and other animals’ — world, at least in holding people’s interests. Besides our pets, this area is well-endowed with lots of beautiful wildlife.
And your writing — as always — brought it all together.
I also received this E-mail, from Judy Quintman, a reader whose name I didn’t recognize:
Picked up my weekly copy of the paper at the Somerset library this morning and after reading about Bjartur [the stuffed Icelandic ram at Landau’s store] felt compelled to comment.
In 1969, along with two friends, I began publishing the Somerset Spectator, a weekly newspaper serving all of Franklin Township. Immersed in the politics of the town we filled page after page with all the doings of the town council and every board on the town’s roster. Looking back I know we took ourselves way too seriously but hey, it was the 1960s.
The most mail we ever received was about a story one of our columnists wrote about a parrot. Yes, a parrot! You can lead thirsty readers to water but you cannot make them think.
Thanks for your wonderful column this morning. It made my day. It is with great effort that I have resisted every possible pun (she wrote sheepishly). And funniest of all — the only letter I’ve ever written to you ends up being about a stuffed ram, which proves your theory after all.
At the risk of comparing readers to dogs, I do have to say that the satisfaction of knowing that any one person has read what I have written equals in every way the moment of joy I felt so many decades ago when the old family dog remembered me after that prolonged absence. Craven for attention as most writers are, though they won’t admit it, I not only bask in favorable comments but I also take pride in responses that disagree with my views, poke holes in my logic, and take me to task for sloppy writing or poor grammar. At least they noticed me.
I had a similar warm and fuzzy feeling at Communiversity when a longtime U.S. 1 reader asked me if I would consider re-running my column on Chris Christie. Column on Christie? Did I write something about him? Yes, this reader reminded me. I looked it up: December 16, 2009, when I urged the then governor-elect to lose some weight and get in shape. A healthy governor, I argued, would help ensure that New Jersey profit from eight full years of continuity in the statehouse, something that hasn’t happened since Tom Kean left Trenton in 1990 (Christie Whitman’s term ended a year early when she was appointed to the Bush cabinet in 2001).
Now, at the further — and much greater — risk of comparing dogs to certain other household pets, I quote from an Internet posting forwarded to me by another reader of my April 17 column:
If you want someone who will eat whatever you put in front of him and never say it’s not quite as good as his mother’s . . . then get a dog.
If you want someone always willing to go out, at any hour, for as long and wherever you want . . . then get a dog.
If you want someone who will never touch the remote, doesn’t care about football, and can sit next to you as you watch romantic movies . . . then get a dog.
If you want someone who is content to get on your bed just to warm your feet and whom you can push off if he snores . . . then get a dog.
If you want someone who never criticizes what you do, doesn’t care if you are fat or thin, young or old, who acts as if every word you say is especially worthy of listening to, and loves you unconditionally, perpetually . . . then get a dog.
BUT, on the other hand, if you want someone who will never come when you call, ignores you totally when you come home, leaves hair all over the place, walks all over you, runs around all night and only comes home to eat and sleep, and acts as if your entire existence is to ensure his happiness . . . then get a cat!
If dogs are like the people who appreciate our stories, then cats may well be some of the people we write about — cool cats, fat cats, and some very aloof cats, for sure. I will be looking out for them, especially now as the dog days of summer approach.