Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dan Quayle is such a Cutie

I can’t be completely sure of all the details in the following stories. I did call my mother and sisters to ask for clarification on some of the events but it was a long time ago for all of us. I guess it will be good to put into words how I remember things even if there is some fuzziness to the truth of it all.

Dan Quayle
My younger sisters’ kindergarten class had a pet quail named Cutie. The students each got the honor of bringing the bird home for a weekend or extended break and it was a fun part of the learning process. I can imagine many parents were less than thrilled to be pet sitting a farm animal but my parents took it in stride. Again I can’t be sure if I remember correctly but I think that Cutie was a boy. My parents insisted on calling him Dan Quayle. I didn’t understand the political reference but was excited to have a pet for a while. At some point my Dad decided to build Dan a pen out of chicken wire. It was just a circular pen in the front yard about 3 or 4 feet tall and gave the bird room to walk around. My Mother later said she had felt sorry for him because he was in such a small cadge and that’s why they built the pen. Dan got to enjoy the great outdoors! Then he was gone. I don’t know why we didn’t know this winged creature could fly (even if it was only short distances). Why didn’t we put a top on the pen preventing predators from enjoying a vice presidential snack? Why was no one watching him? Whether he was eaten or escaped (and then eaten shortly after) Dan was gone.

A few years later (maybe 2) I convinced my parents that I could get a hamster. I was so thrilled even though he bit me through the hole in the box on the way home from the pet store. I had a pet! I named him Socks even though he had nothing resembling socks on his feet or anywhere else on his body for that matter. I just always wanted a pet named Socks so Socks he was. I really liked him and could hear him run on his wheel late at night from his home down in the dining room. According to Mom I was in Mrs. Blankenship’s third grade class at the time. The class had a pet Hamster named Cinnamon and just like with Cutie the kids each got a weekend to take her home. It was a surprise that Deep Wood Elementary hadn’t put out a red flag on the Konitzer kids bringing home pets but somehow I got a turn just like everyone else did.

I was so excited to bring Cinnamon home and introduce her to Socks. I didn’t know much about how babies where made but I knew it took a mom and a dad and that baby hamsters sounded cute as heck! It was love at first sight. I put Cinnamon in Sock’s cadge and shortly after they were happy as could be curled up like a couple of kittens in the corner. It was adorable! When Mom and Dad discovered them it was back to separate cadges and Socks was devastated. That night (instead of hearing his wheel beg for WD40) I heard him crying and screaming for his love to return. I had introduced him to his princess and then she was ripped away. I felt just awful for my brokenhearted pet.

I really wish I had the details on the next part of the story. No one seems to remember how it happened but we lost Cinnamon. Gone! The second class pet to disappear from the Konitzer residence. Gerbils, hamster, guinea pig and even goldfish around the school must have been spreading embellished horror stories about what happens over long weekends. “It’s true, they replace you with another floppy eared bunny and the kids never know the difference.” Let me really drive this point home. We had actually managed to lose not one but two class pets!

I remember crying in my bedroom while Mom called up Mrs. B to let her know what had happened. I was already an awkward outcast of a messy haired child and I was sure this would seal the deal. Mrs. Blankenship took it well. She was an excellent teacher and she loved me very much. I still keep in touch with her to this day and was grateful for her kindness. She had all the students write goodbye letters to Cinnamon and we had a going away party of sorts to help ease the pain. She handled it very well.

Then you won’t believe what happened. Weeks had passed and then Cinnamon showed back up! A kid from my class (Mom said his name was Cedric) found her in the street on our block. She was alive and as well as could be expected. Mom said this part must have been hard for Mrs. B. She had taught all those kids about closer and saying goodbye and then the pet came back from the dead. It really was unbelievable.

There were no more class pets after that. Socks found life livable again and things went back to normal. Then he got sick. A tumor started growing on his stomach and it was getting pretty big. There was really nothing you could do about it. I’ll take this time to tell parents that dogs and cats really are the best pets for kids. All the others are just a parent fighting the truth…they WILL eventually say yes to the puppy or the kitten. It might take 5 belly-up goldfish but a persistent puppy crazy kid is going to end up with a puppy! Save the heartache caused by the short life of pet store hamsters that are destine to get tumors. Socks was dying. One day it got really bad and I knew the end was near. I was there with him and he couldn’t get up. I held his water bottle for him and he drank and drank and drank till it was gone. I didn’t know if I should get up to refill his water or stay. I can’t remember what I did but it made no difference. He was gone. My Dad worked early hours so he was home but taking a nap. I woke Dad and told him that Socks was sleeping and wouldn’t get up. I knew this wasn’t true. I knew Socks was gone. I wish I had been strong enough to say what I already knew was true. I guess it would just have hurt too much to say it.

My younger sister and I would spend all summer catching lizards and then the rest of the summer catching bugs for them to eat. We caught the bugs by leaving the light on in the garage after it was dark out. They would swarm in and we would snatch them all up and feed them to our “pets” that we kept in a minnow bucket. Knowing now that lizards are cold blooded I wonder if they were miserable with no warmth. It was Texas and hot in the garage so really they might have been too warm. Either way these were our pets for the time being.

One day when school was back in session a strange but sweet dog was running around campus. She was a yellow lab and wonderfully friendly and obedient. She followed us home and after making little to no attempt to find the rightful owners she was ours. We finally had a dog! Her name was Alex (Alexandria) and we loved her to death. I woke up every morning and walked her around the block (despite the fact that I might not really have been old enough to do this safely). We lived in a great neighborhood so it couldn’t have been all that bad. Some mornings a weird car would drive by slowly looking at us. I saw it several times and never assumed it was a child predator looking at me but instead thought they might be looking at Alex. I was worried they knew where she belonged and were going to take her away from me. We took her everywhere. The neighborhood was new and there was a lot of construction around the block. We took her to the sights while we dug through the trash piles for cool scraps we used for crafts. She was the coolest dog. Once on a morning walk I actively tried to get her to chase a cat and she wouldn’t do it. Her bed was in the garage and she wasn’t allowed in the house. One day I opened the door to the house and actually called her to come in asking her to break the rules and she wouldn’t do it. This dog was smart, obedient, sweet and fun, playful but also calm. I know we had basically stolen her but a kid doesn’t think that way. She was perfect.

It was summer again and Mom and flown home to visit my Grandmother in Wisconsin. I was home with Dad and I remember both sisters being there but normally one of us went with Mom so I’m not sure. Staying home with Dad was as cool as going to see Grandma. Dad would take us to McDonalds, buy soda, grill hamburgers and we did other fun stuff too. One night Alex went missing. We didn’t have a fence so she was always on a long leash in the front or the back yard but that night she was gone. We went searching for her and couldn’t find her anywhere. She wasn’t at the construction sights, she didn’t come when called, and she was missing. She didn’t come back the next day. Alex was gone. I have never told anyone the truth about that night. I came home and let her loose. I don’t know if I thought it would be fun and adventurous to go looking for her, I don’t know if I felt sorry for her leashed up in the yard all the time. I know for sure that I thought she would come back. I know for sure that my family really loved her and missed her. I’m so sorry. I was a kid. I was 7 or 8 and it has taken 20 years to admit what I had done. I hate this part of the story not because I carried this with me for so long but because I really believe I loved her most of all. I was a very odd awkward child who would day dream about having friend and companions. She was my friend and I missed her greatly.

Kim Fehlis told me that Tabby was a stupid name for a cat. Maybe she was right but I had named him myself. I was in 5th grade and I had talked Dad into getting me a kitten. Dad smoked at the time and spent a lot of time in the garage so I would sit on the step and talk with him. Somehow I had worn him down and then he performed the miracle of convincing my mother. We went to the shelter and picked out a 5 month old skinny Tabby cat. After a much too short interaction in the greeting room we put Tabs back in his cadge and left to fill out paperwork. When I placed him back in the cadge he put his paw up to my hand though the bars and I just knew this was my cat. I chose a name for him quick because I was terrified one of my sisters would pick a name first and if it stuck there would be no changing it. Kim could scoff all she wanted (on a side note she later had a cat named Kitty).  Tabby was the very best most wonderful cat in the whole entire world. I wanted him to be a dog so bad and trained him to walk on a leash. He hated that leash and won the battle when I realized he would follow me wherever I went without it. When I would walk in the evening people would say “is that a dog or a cat?” I loved that. He came when called, drank out of the toilet, slept in my bed and made me so happy.

Tabby is an old man now. He doesn’t have much time left in him and the vet says he’s sick. He is safe and well cared for at my parents’ home in Texas. Next week I’ll be traveling back home for job training in San Antonio. I’ll have a chance to visit Tabby and I know I’ll be saying goodbye. I have been away a long time with my adult life so I can only hope that he will remember me. Even if he doesn’t there is one thing I know for sure, I’ll never forget him.

Carrie Ann Brewer

I took this photo of Tabby on 35mm and was so proud of it! I was always taking photos of Tabby.

Tabby and I the week of my Sister's Wedding

Tabby the Day I left for North Carolina


  1. I love the way you write Carrie. I found myself going back and forth, saying "HAHA!" and "awwww" out loud. You are such a good "mama" to your pets. It's so sweet. I remember hanging out on your parent's porch a couple times and Tabby would come out of nowhere, looking for some attention. I'm always timid around cats. I'm afraid they'll sense I'm not a cat person and swat at me for liking dogs more but she is always sweet. I'm sorry to hear that her time may be soon.
    I'm so excited about your visit! I know you'll be busy but I really must see you. Even if I have to drive down to San Antonio. Let me know when you'll be free! Safe travels.