Dogs and cats come close to being on the same footing as people who have made up our families. When I remember my youth, there’s nearly always a dog running alongside. When my mother picked up the “Kodak” and called me outside to make a picture, I stopped along the way and picked up a cat to dangle from my arms as I posed.

We lived in a prime location to receive stray dogs. You could not see the “pike” from our house, so unwanted dogs were dropped off at the lane and they easily found their way to the doorstep. We didn’t want them either, at first, but my mother could never refuse to feed anything that was hungry, so the bond was made.

The first dog that I remember was old when he arrived, but his slowness made him gentle and a suitable companion for me as a child. He was a combination breed, medium-large with dark brown hair touched with black, and irregular white markings on his face. I named him Rover, a popular dog name at the time.

He loved me and I loved him, but one trait set us apart, as you will understand. He had a driven appetite for killing and eating skunks. After a kill, there was a skunk smell all over the place for weeks. There could be no petting, and he would dig his way underneath the house to sleep, sending the fumes he carried upward into every room.

Rover’s replacement came loping down the lane half grown. I creatively named him Ring because of the white ring around his neck. By stretching the imagination, he resembled Lassie, but there the likeness ended. He didn’t like strangers and showed it by actions, not just barking. He chased the chickens and sometimes acted ugly on that scene too. But he was my dog, so we put up with his shortcomings.

Cats were so plentiful around barns and buildings that only a few of them were named--those that hung out on the back porch and wound around my feet purring loudest. I guess cats were favored over dogs somewhat by me because I was easily won over by their pretty fur and playfulness.

Old Tom stands out. He was a good mouser, didn’t get into too many fights that resulted in notched ears and he related kindly to everyone. Most of his nine lives were lived out well. In time his yellow coat looked mangy, his runny eyes lost their brightness and it was really hard for him to move. As his loving family, we decided to put him to sleep and end his misery.

My father bought chloroform at the drugstore and we all cried as we placed it and Old Tom under an inverted washtub behind an outbuilding. When the instructed time and more had passed, my fathertook the stiff body out into the woods for its final resting place and we tried to put the memories behind us.

One night several days later as my mother was cooking supper, she heard a cat climbing up the screen at the back door and a deep “meow.” Turning, she saw Old Tom, thin but looking rested, undoubtedly asking to be fed. Feed him she did, and he was allowed to live as many more lives as he chose without any interference from us.

There were wild animals, too, that I attempted to condition as my pets ... (to be continued).