The story so far is a collection of draft essays as a part of a memoir that Sunny is writing about her experiences going from small town Vermont to NYC and back. Work began in August of 2016 with plans publish in 2021.
Furbabies and Beanie Babies
When I was a little girl we got a husky. I must have been three or four, as my sister still lived at home. We named him Gizmo after the Gremlins. He was beautiful but he would growl when we tried to cross his path from the living room to the kitchen and he bit my dad twice. Eventually he ended up at a farm. Years later, watching reruns of Friends, I learned that Ross and Monica’s parents sent their dog ‘to a farm’ when they were kids which was code for putting the dog to sleep. My parents swear this dog really went to a farm. We live in Vermont so it’s pretty reasonable but I still wonder.
We tried for a cat when I was in the third grade. I named her ‘Comea’ as in ‘Come Here’ and she came from a box of kittens at the furniture store on Main Street. I was allergic a few hours later and she went to live with our old lady friend Edie in the blue house on the hill. That is also the first place I learned what a jello shot was and to stay away from them around the same time, but I digress.
Sometime in the 5th grade, my mom and I were shopping at the gift shop in town, Sweet Adelines, for Beanie Babies. The shop supported the Frontier Animal Society before we had the Pope Memorial Shelter and often had dogs hanging out. One day there was a curly haired black dog with the sweetest disposition, so my recently separated parents took the drive an hour and a half away to meet the dog and decided that Mickey could come home with me. Never a big Disney fan, I didn’t love this Schnoodles name, but ever the fan of little orphan Annie, I didn’t think I should change it and confuse his identify. Two years later in the 7th grade I came off the bus to my mom walking down the street towards me crying. I remember screaming if my dad was okay, or Mom or Poppy (my grandparents) and my mother tearfully told me, at the same time as I saw Mr. Mason our neighbor digging in the backyard, that Mickey had ran out of the house and was hit by a truck on the main road. I don’t think I have felt sadness like that ever again and I dread the day I do.
We also had Jersey, who was a gift from my cousin Frankie to Poppy when he moved to Vermont so my mother could help him care for my grandmother, Mom, when I was in the 9th grade. Jersey was from New Jersey and she was a blonde cockapoo. Poppy had at least three other poodle mixes in his life and named them all Peanuts. This dog was soon called Peanuts as well, a complication from his ‘old-timers’ as he called it. Jersey was never trained aside from running to the front door and barking her head off when Poppy would yell ‘Charge!!!” When my mother got cancer, so did Jersey. My mother went into remission from Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the fall of 2010. My grandfather died Thanksgiving weekend and I came home for Christmas to put the dog down. We vowed to have no more pets, but then my mother ended up with my sisters cats and I took my own path to having fur-babies – as people call them.
I now have three pets of my own and two more that live with us as I share a home with my mother in Vermont. Texas was my first pet as an adult, a big fat cat I rescued from the ASPCA in New York City. Jimmy is his little sister, by looks only, though they are truly twins. Jimmy was the runt of a litter born in the backyard of one of the kids I worked with on Broadway whose family nursed her for a summer while I worked 60 hours a week until she could come home with me and Texas. They fell in love immediately. I named her Jimmy after James Nederlander, the president of the company I was working with at the time.
A couple of years later, settled back in Vermont from the big city, I was experiencing health issues related to low energy and weight gain from past toxic stress. I had done my research and knew at some point I wanted a poodle mix of my own to get me out and about more as a sort of therapy dog. One December, I learned a colleague had Goldendoodles available. I wanted a girl, and he had a black one, just like my Mickey from years ago. I went to meet the puppies and one of the girls had a white patch on her chest and hugged me as soon as I picked her up. I decided to take her home. She slept through the night immediately and was a sweet companion throughout my diagnosis and now treatment and recovery of a rare illness. I named her Mayer, after John, whose music got me through lots of heartbreak. Mayer connected with my mom’s black rescue cat Midnight (she literally cat napped him for a colleague getting out of an abusive relationship) and I fully believe Mayer thinks she is a black cat as well. She is a 65 pound lap dog. I wouldn’t recommend getting a puppy three months prior to getting diagnosed with an illness that only 10 in a million have- but how can one tell the future?
Sometimes I think of my life in pet years as in, how many more dogs and cats can I have? The cats are easier to handle and quieter so I can see myself having lots more cats, but the dog is more of a constant companion who requires more of my energy. This isn’t to mention the pet frog we had for 22 years, Patrick Swayze – they really live a long time! I can maybe see myself having two or three more dogs in my lifetime but then I get sad thinking about the reasons why I will be ready for new pets. These three, Texas, Jimmy and Mayer, have been with me through the worst of times and have helped me turn them into the best. For now I will continue to enjoy the moments of hugs, kisses and cuddles they offer me. The only farm these animals are going to is the one that they enjoy when I go out of town, and can’t wait to get back to see them.