top of page

Opinion: Sparky said happiness is a warm puppy

Valentine’s Day with its hearts, flowers, and chocolates has passed by for another year. The sentimental holiday for lovers can bring high expectations and terrible letdowns when they aren’t met. Here’s hoping your significant-other never disappoints or breaks your heart.

President Harry Truman is supposed to have said of the political climate in the Nation’s Capital, “If you want a friend in Washington D.C., get a dog.”

I often wish I had a dog. The complete devotion of dogs makes them great companions and they never question or judge you. Dogs don’t care if your clothes are wrinkled or your hair is a mess. Dogs are great judges of character. I don’t trust people who hate dogs. But, I do trust the wisdom of a dog that seems to hate a person.

When my husband and I were newlyweds, our household had a whole pack of dogs. We lived next door to his parents on five acres his family owned in Dixieland. My in-laws both had small lapdogs in the house and their guard dogs outside.

Our barn dogs were named Sparky and Bernard and belonged to Fred’s dad Gordon. As a retired butcher, he would often visit the butcher shops of his former employers and bring home big bones for his puppies. Fred’s mom Ann had a black and white Pomeranian called Billy Bump. That dog ruled the roost and my mother-in-law hand fed him people food cooked especially for him. The dog ate better than we did. Sometimes when she tried to feed him, he would turn his nose up at the food she prepared for him. I would observe this little drama between my mother-in-law and her beloved pet and think, give me that dog for a week and he’ll be eating dog food and happy to have it. Turned out I was right as long as he thought he was stealing food from the other dogs.

Our dogs had free access to the whole place. Living on family-owned property allows one to have animals of all kinds.

Growing up on my dad’s five acres on Martin Street, he too had a menagerie of just about every farm animal. He raised cattle, pigs, rabbits, goats, horses and an aviary full of birds. Ducks, geese, a wide variety of chickens, guinea fowl and a swan or two, he enjoyed playing the gentleman farmer.

I always thought the idea that women marry men who remind them of their fathers had no merit. Then I met my husband who loved animals as much as my dad. An old movie about the range wars between cattlemen and sheepherders comes to mind. I guess my rebellion to the concept came by marrying a sheepherder.

In my 20s and 30s, we kept sheep, exotic Japanese Silky chickens, and many dogs and cats. Cats are great assets on a farm. They can keep the vermin population at bay.

Cats and dogs, if not spayed or neutered multiply quickly. According to the ASPCA, dogs can breed twice a year with litters of six to ten puppies. In just seven years, one unspayed female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens; one unsprayed female dog and her offspring can produce 97,000 puppies.

Our county animal control department and its support team Friends of Madera Animal Shelter go to great lengths to find homes for all the fur-babies in its care. Homeless Madera animals are taken north to the Bay Area and even out of state to find them what is known as “Forever homes.”

Responsible pet owners invest in the procedure to help stop the animal overpopulation.

Homes of hoarders who have too many animals are an outrage. These houses are unhealthy to the point where the entire house smells like a dirty litterbox.

Unless animals have their own air-conditioned building or are kept inside even with our mostly sunny California weather, the winter temperatures get too cold to keep animals outside.

I remember the fun and pure joy a dog brought to my life. I also remember the accidents and messes having a dog entails.

These days I live in a rented house. For a pet deposit, I could have a small dog here. The problem is some days my rheumatoid arthritis makes it hard to get out of my own tracks. It wouldn’t be fair to a dog, to belong to someone who can’t take it for a daily walk.

The only dog I have now I share with a comic strip boy named Charlie Brown. Snoopy has a rich fantasy life and so do I. Cartoonist Charles M. Schultz, nicknamed “Sparky,” when three-days-old based his iconic pooch on his childhood dog named Spike. Fans of the comic strip know that he honored this much-loved pet by naming one of Snoopy’s brothers for him.

As I write this in my lonely writer’s atelier, I can see my dog Snoopy wearing a graduation mortarboard proclaiming, “The Tassel is Worth the Hassle.” He also wears an Uncle Sam top hat for the fourth of July. Celebrating the Great Pumpkin, he wears a jack-o-lantern suit and bunny ears for Easter. Rejoicing for Christmas, he decorates his doghouse and according to a Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon wins first place for his decorations.

My dog Snoopy never makes a mess, never needs feeding or walking. He also can’t meet me at the door with his tail wagging. I can enjoy other people’s dogs, at least the well-behaved ones.

Long days and pleasant nights, have a great weekend.

• • •

Readers, may contact Tami Jo Nix by or following @TamiJoNix on Twitter.

bottom of page