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Childhood Memories: The Family Pet That Started It All

A patient kitty, a pair of ducklings, and a pup of “unfortunate breeding” were just a few of our readers’ first animal companions

In a recent Talk of the South newsletter, we asked readers to tell us about their first pet. Here are some of the many responses:

Her name was Dixie. She was a pretty little liver and white English pointer. When my dad brought her home as an anniversary gift for my mom she said, “You got me a hunting dog?” Mom didn’t hunt. In the house, she was timid and tolerant of a rambunctious child, but in the field she was more confident and graceful. She wasn’t just my first pet, but my first bird dog. I joke that I might be an only child, but my sibling was a pointer, so I was always competing for attention. —Alexandra D.

I won the prize for the best decorated bicycle in the Fourth of July parade. I was ten years old and the prize was a mixed-breed puppy. —Martha P.

My daddy brought me home two baby ducklings when I was very young. To this day, ducks are one of my favorite critters and I’d much rather see them happily swimming in a pond than in my gumbo. —Kathleen M.

A black and white female dog of “unfortunate breeding,” according to my mom. The only time I ever saw another dog like her was outside the coin laundry on Dauphin Island, Alabama, and I feel sure they were related. She had skin problems and a rat tail and legs far too short for her round body, but she had the face of an angel and loved us with her whole heart. Her name was Binky. —Maggie L.

We inherited a young, cross-eyed Siamese cat that was beating up the neighbor’s dog. That boy grew up and happily let three little girls dress him in doll clothes and push him around in a baby buggy. He lived to be nineteen and set the bar for cat sainthood. —Melinda P.

Like so many Lassie lovers in the early sixties, we had a collie mix named Ladybug—Lady for short. The sweetest thing about Lady we only learned a few years back during a visit with our mama in the Alzheimer’s unit. She told us she never had to worry when we played outside because every time she looked out the window to check on us, there was Lady herding us and keeping us safe. —Jill S.

We had an orange cat called Morris, which was named after the 1970s “spokesmodel” for 9 Lives cat food. He was a true hunter—he brought back birds, squirrels, and snakes to our front door from the woods behind our house. One day he finally met his match, no doubt against a wolf. He dragged himself back to our door badly injured and passed away at the vet. I cried for weeks and still think about him fifty years later. —Craig D.

I was a little girl, just eight years old, growing up on a farm in Washington County, Kentucky, when I got a dog I named Frisky. This lovable little ball of black-and-white fur followed me everywhere—whether to the garden to pick green beans and tomatoes or to the back fields to gather the milk cows for my parents.  It was a sad day when Frisky wasn’t there to meet me when I got off the school bus. I was never able to find out what happened to my beloved Frisky. —Gwinn T.

After successfully taking care of my fourth-grade class hamster, Chumleigh, for a week, I was granted a hamster of my own. Since I have three younger sisters, my dad only allowed male pets in the house to amp up the testosterone.  —Stephanie D.

My first pet was an orange cat that hopped around like a bunny. We affectionately named him Jumpy after his mannerisms. I’m still not convinced that he wasn’t part rabbit. —Carla M.

My husband would not let the girls and me get a dog. He was always a cat person. Unfortunately, he and I separated, and guess what I bought the girls for their first Christmas as a single mom? Our sweet Sadie girl. —Marty M.

Sally Dog wasn’t my first pet. I bought her at a horse show in 1994 after losing a dog and a horse in an unpleasant divorce eight years prior. I didn’t mean to get a dog, but when I looked in the kennel at the horse show I was attending, I told the seller, “I’ll take that one,” meaning the pup on the left looking me in the eye. Smart and loyal, she became my best buddy for over thirteen years. The afternoon of the day I lost her a beautiful rainbow came out after the rain and I knew she was sending me a message that she was okay. —Lise C.

She was a lovely harlequin Great Dane, named Duchess. She was the runt of litter weighing in at 88 pounds. She was my best friend, guardian of the night, and the very best tear remover. —Laura R.

My first pet was a hunting dog I named Spot, a springer spaniel. He was a great bird hunter and we always had plenty of pheasant when Spot and dad came back from the woods. We lived in Washington state then. My mom had MS and was in a hospital bed in our living room. Spot would not leave her side until someone else was with her—not even if he was hungry or had to pee. On days when I could go to school because someone was with my mom, Spot would wait at the top of the hill to usher me home when I got off the school bus. I know he is a special dog in heaven. —Lynn C.

Our son Josh bought a Chesapeake Bay retriever he named Bailey who as a puppy loved apples—a love that remained with him for the rest of his life. Soon after, we became the adopted parents of this wonderful dog when Josh went to law school. We lived on a wildlife preserve (White Clay Creek) located where the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware all converge. The White Clay was closer to a river in size, and Bailey loved to swim upstream as much as she loved to eat apples. When we moved to Statesboro, Georgia,  Bailey switched from Pennsylvania apples to wonderful Georgia apples, while also switching her swimming preference from the creek to a large pond at the rear of our home. —Paul F.

A Siamese kitten named Meshach. I was eighteen months old when I got her and she was eighteen when she passed away. She was my constant companion. I would push out my toy pram and that was her cue. She would let me dress her up in doll clothes—she’d jump in the pram and away we went. It wasn’t all rainbows and light…she had an affinity for all of my Barbie’s feet. Apparently they were delicious. All of my dolls ended at the ankle. We named her Meshach because my grandmother had Shadrach and my aunt had Abednigo. —Jill S.

Dee was my first puppy—a mix between a cocker spaniel and who knows what. She was a dark brown short-hair beauty. She went everywhere I went on my bike and would stand guard over it at school and the picture show. She lost the use of her right hind leg when hit by a car, but it never slowed her down. When at the lake, she was first in the boat when it was leaving the dock. If by chance the boat left without her, she would run at top speed around the bank until I turned around to pick her up. I always thought of her as my dog, but in hindsight, I was her human. —Van H.

A dog my daddy called “a mixed-up terrier.” He followed me everywhere, so everyone knew where to find me when we played hide-and-seek. He wasn’t allowed to sleep on my bed except when I was sick, which made me kind of look forward to that. —Ann W.

A blue-gray parakeet named Angel, who lived for nine years. He sat on our shoulder for hours in the evening while we tried to teach him to say, “Angel is a pretty boy.” —Margaret I.

We had a springer spaniel who loved our crayons and produced those fascinating colorful poops. He would watch the light from a flashlight rise up a tall pine trunk. Then he’d sit there, fixated on the dark treetop, until you brought that light beam back down. Such a good dog. —Barbara R.

My first pet that was all my own was a foot-long green snake I found in the yard. —Jim M.

As a four-year-old, the Easter bunny brought me a border collie puppy.  We tried out many names but kept coming back to one special name: Bunny. She was my best friend and “sister” (I was an only child) for fourteen wonderful years. —Sylvia M.

My parents wanted my older brother Chip and me to have a pet, but a female so we could experience the added wonder of birth. We chose a cute kitten from a neighborhood litter that, after numerous inspections, we were assured was female, and named her Mable after a childhood book by that title. She turned out to be the biggest, toughest, roughest tom cat in the neighborhood but the name stuck. No kittens there! —Tom C.