A Thanksgiving Thanks To Animal Roommates
Meet a man with no pet peeves
By Ed Goldman
Flynn not only daringly leaps from branch to branch—he also does an occasional little flip that seems wholly unnecessary. But try telling that to a born show-off.
“My agent says I’m working for peanuts.”
My lifelong love of critters seems to be intensifying as I age. And when I think of things I’m thankful for—tomorrow, of course, being the annual 24-hour period during which we cram unaffiliated foodstuffs into our maw and then watch football games to demonstrate our gratitude—the animals who’ve lived with me are at the top of the list.
We had my first dog, Smokey, for about three days when I was eight years old. My mom then discovered (or decided) she was allergic to him and we gave him back to the family from whom we’d adopted him. I can still remember crying bitterly about it and blaming my mom for months. Part of me still believes she just didn’t want the mess and bother of a puppy, making me glad I’d been potty-trained early.
Fifteen years later I was returning from dinner with some friends and we came upon a panicky little dog in an intersection, near-paralyzed with fear as cars raced toward her from two directions—as though she were trapped in a potentially tragic baseball “pickle,” with the second- and third-basemen toying with her as she ran to and fro.
I asked my friend who was driving to stop the car; he did and I brazenly jumped out of the backseat, scooped up the dog and plunged back into the car with her under my arm. I told my friends what Thomas Mitchell as Doc in the original “Stagecoach” says to a bartender after he takes a gun away from a murderer: “Don’t ever let me do that again.”
The dog, a doxie/herder mixture we named Portia, lived with my first wife and me for two years in Southern California and then for our first year in Sacramento. Then my wife and I split up and she and Portia returned to Long Beach. I was sorry to see her go. (I mean, to see them go.)
My second wife, Jane, with whom I’d live for the next 29 years, and I adopted another mutt, this time from the ASPCA, when our daughter Jessica was about three-and-a-half. Jessica named her Camellia in homage to the flowers in our front and backyards—but mainly, she informed us, “’cause they’re pretty an’ she’s pretty.” Camellia died a little after her 14th birthday, just before Jessie headed off to college and, a few years later, I became a widower.
I didn’t have a pet in my life again until I inherited Osborn the Magnificent, my beloved tabby who passed away this summer at the age of 19, and about whom I wrote often. He had been my only cat and I cherish the years we enjoyed together as bachelor roommates. By the time he was about 10, he’d gone from being independent and near-feral to a cozy, constant companion. He always slept on my bed, whether I was in it or not, and at times was downright talkative.
Sometimes I hear a human baby crying in the distance and I think, for just a heartbeat, that it’s Osborn, dropping in to finish a few thoughts he died before getting to express.
Since his passing, I’ve received a number of generous offers to adopt a new or about-to-be-born kitten. But I’m not ready for that—and these days, I travel more often than I have in years with my OSSO (Oh-So-Significant-Other). It used to upset me when I’d leave Ossie behind, even though he was wonderfully cared for by Laura Sterner, a musician and all-around pet-whisperer, and sometimes my pal David Ligon, a filmmaker, creative-ad guy and the communications director of The Sutter Club.
I’m grateful this year for so many things: my overall wellbeing, the growing popularity of this column and the aforementioned and adored OSSO.
But I’m also thankful for the animals who employed and managed me, kept me out of trouble and enriched my life. Pet ownership isn’t necessary right now. I can enjoy watching the loose-jointed gymnastics of Squirrel Flynn from my window and never have to feel guilty if I decide to travel. That doesn’t mean I won’t miss him if, upon my return, I discover he’s found a new performance venue. An actor without a contract can be so fickle.
A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela
President and CEO, Golden Pacific Bank
photo by Phoebe Verkouw
Many years ago, Jim, my co-worker, unfortunately suffered from a terrible, aggressive cancer. The chemo treatment was brutal, leaving Jim tired and homebound.
One day, Jim felt surprisingly better and showed up in our San Francisco workplace. He lowered himself into a chair, looked around the office, desks littered with files and said something I will never forget: “It feels good to be here. I didn’t realize how much I loved work. I miss the business and the energy. I miss the people.”
This shook me up as it was not something I recalled that Jim would usually comment about. Our usual conversations were strictly business.
It got me thinking.
Did I take time to appreciate “the daily grind?” Certainly, when I’m away from work, I enjoy my time off and vacations. But Jim did make a good point. There is something reverent about collectively working with others to achieve some common job goals. And more than that, it’s a pleasure to share space, and to talk, listen, discuss, complain, observe, and gather up memories together.
Sadly, Jim lost the battle with cancer. His service was filled with co- workers who set aside any mixed feelings about Jim and just presented themselves as grateful for the gift of Jim’s life, and the simple enjoyment of working with him.
On this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s share a moment, even remotely, to appreciate our daily work, our comrades, and our collective shared lives. Let’s follow Jim’s example and honestly reflect and just take the time to say, “Thank you, it’s good to be here.” It really is, you know.