Yesterday, I shared the story the day that Jasper and Jenny met their new housemate, Keesha, the frisky, loving puppy. If you remember, I also mentioned that while my family always had a pet or two, Dave was allergic to animals. His family had three children, but was devoid of animals. So how did my allergy-prone husband end up with not one, or even two, but three pets in the house???
We had been married for a very short time when I made my usual weekly trip to the local supermarket to pick up some groceries. That day in June 1979, was different, though, because a young family was there trying to find homes for several tiny kittens. They claimed the kittens were six weeks old, but they were very, very small. I think they were likely 4-5 weeks old and really not old enough to be taken away from their mother.
However, the kittens were up for adoption and I have always had a weakness for gray tabby cats – and there was one very cute little gray tabby in the litter. That little cutie came home with me. Dave took one look at her, said he was allergic to cats and she wasn’t ever coming in the house. Well, that lasted about two days. He named her Jasper, which was the name of the street on which we lived, and she quickly settled into her new life.
Jasper loved being with both of us and it turned out that Dave had outgrown his childhood allergies. Being around her wasn’t any problem at all. Jasper had a habit that reinforced my belief that she was less than six weeks old when she came home with me – she loved to knead on me, whether it be against my skin or on my clothing. She also loved to cuddle and be petted.
She was definitely the queen bee of the household. There were no pesky kids or other animals and she could roam the house at will. Jasper even went on day trips with us, as friends didn’t mind having her visit with them. Since she was an indoor pet, when she was outside, she always had on a harness and leash. She wasn’t fond of them, but she tolerated them.
In June 1980, we decided that Jasper needed a playmate while we were gone all day at work. I think a friend told me about a family that had kittens who needed a home. Again, I was the instigator. When I visited the family and had a chance to pick one of the kittens – there were four or five as I remember – another gray tabby caught my eye and Jenny came to live with us.
Unlike the day that Keesha came home, we didn’t think to take a picture when Jasper met Jenny, but let’s just say that Jasper wasn’t a happy camper. She wanted nothing to do with this intruder and immediately jumped up on a counter where Jenny couldn’t reach her. The next morning, I put down food for each of them in separate bowls. Jenny happily ate her breakfast. Jasper, who was always quite high strung, ate some of her breakfast and then crossed the kitchen and promptly regurgitated her food all over Jenny.
That was the worst of it, though. Slowly, they became friends and Jenny was ecstatic when she could climb the ladder that Jasper went up to get away from her.
Their personalities were quite different, as was their physical build. Jasper was a big cat – about 14 lbs. as an adult, but not overweight. Jenny was very petite and only weighed 7 lbs. Jasper was the more nervous of the two, but Jenny was a lot more feisty. Eventually, they became best buds and were always together.
They often slept curled up together and looked like one giant cat.
Their lifespans were equally different. Jasper died when she was only nine years old, of a liver infection, in October 1988. Jenny lived until just past her 20th birthday, passing away in April 2000.
Keesha was the wildcard in this mix. She was one of the sweetest, most loving pets anyone could ever wish for. She was a lot more interested in hanging with the cats than they were in having her around. She was also “my” dog. She stuck to me like glue, sitting at my feet until I moved somewhere. Then she got up and followed. At night, she slept next to my side of the bed.
Keesha was also a great earthquake alarm. I think dogs hear something that humans don’t. Living in California, we experienced several earthquakes. When they happened at night, Keesha would growl before shaking began. The first time it happened, I awoke and wondered if a prowler was nearby, but then I felt the shaking.
Now, Keesha was “my” dog except in one instance. That instance was when my mother came from New Jersey to visit. Then, she dropped me like a hot potato and became Grandma’s pet.
Keesha had a great memory – she remembered the constant attention and love my mother gave her. She also remembered all the bits of dinner that my mom slipped to her under the table!
We paid a professional trainer to help us train Keesha. She was a great guard dog. When our son was born and people came to the door, she was very protective of us. I could also take her outside with me to garden in the front yard. People and other animals could walk by us up the street (which had no sidewalks.) Keesha would sit right at the curb and bark at them, but would never go off the curb into the street unless I told her it was okay. Once I asked a neighbor who was home during the day if Keesha ever barked. We didn’t want her annoying the neighbors. Our neighbor said she rarely heard Keesha barking, but if she did hear her, she always went to investigate because it ALWAYS meant that a stranger was somewhere outside.
Keesha had one strange habit, though. We bought a beautiful, very good sized doghouse for her and put in on our backyard patio. It turned out that she rarely went inside it – we never figure out why – but until she grew too big to fit there, she loved to scrunch herself into the space between the back of the doghouse and our house!
Keesha was with us until just past her 13th birthday. As she got older, she seemed to have a bit of trouble getting her back half up and moving from a sitting position. The vet said it was likely arthritis. However, just after Christmas in 1998, Keesha starting having a major seizure. We rushed her to the animal hospital, but she didn’t make it. Afterwards, the vet said he thought she might well have had a brain tumor that grew slowly, affecting her ability to get up and eventually bringing on the seizure.
As I reminisced while writing this post, I remembered a funny story about Keesha, whom we often called “Keesh.” Our son was probably six or seven at the time and, as I worked in the kitchen, he wanted to know what we were having for dinner that night.
My reply: quiche. What he heard: Keesh!
I had to quickly explain the difference between the two as he thought the dog was going to be the main course. Oddly enough, while we rarely have quiche for dinner, we had it tonight and it’s been a long time since I thought of that story.
Jasper, Jenny and Keesha were well loved members of the Stufflebean family and they are very much missed.