The mid-‘40s was a time of scarcity due to World War II. The toys we played with just did not stand up to normal abuse so we found other avenues of enjoyment, like collecting pollywogs in the swamp where Canterbury Shores is today. 

Back home, we laid out our jars of prized pollywogs and noted it was strange that the little critters were all about the same size. All at once, the parents announce, “They’ve got to go!” 

How could they say no to our pollywogs, except that to our surprise, they were now jumping green frogs! Back to the wild they went. 

A trip to Gooch’s Pet shop around 14th Avenue and Pine Street helped mend the hurt. Baby turtles made us happy briefly, but they, too, found their way to the wild — Lake Washington, to be exact — where their distinctive, red dots can be seen as they lay sunbathing on logs or rocks. The ones we let loose are no doubt long gone, but surely other children have done the same, adding to an otherwise uncommon turtle population.

After experiencing water-bound creatures, we moved on to hamsters, rats, gerbils and mice, but nothing filled the void like a cat or dog. 

When we walked the chuckhole-riddled, muddy alleys of Madison Park on our way to J.J. McGilvra School, pet dogs provided friendly companionship, with their warm smiles and wagging tails. Madison Street was a favorite place for dogs to wander alongside and say hello, never refusing a treat. 

Mother duck, with her young in tow, visited the bakery — who could not drop a crumb or two? 

Squirrels always approached those sitting outside with their morning coffee. 

It was not easy maneuvering around the resident cat in a store who meowed as if to say, “Uh, I’m sleeping here, do you mind? Oh, go ahead and pet me, if you must.”

Animals ran freely. If one was chased, it was usually just play. 


Jack be nimble

My first pet dog, Poochinelli, was a small, mixed breed. We lived across the alley from a fireman named Curley, who accused Poochinelli of chasing his Bantam chickens. In defense, I told him he was just playing with them. 

Days later, Pooch was ill. Whatever he had eaten upset him, me and the Bantam chicken. We had to send Poochinelli to live on a farm. 

Jack Lomas, who lived on 43rd Avenue, owned a big, friendly Labrador named Duke. He was a bona fide hunting dog, but because Jack worked so much, Duke had little chance to show his skills. 

So, with a wagging tail, Duke walked proudly to the Ave one day with a mallard in his mouth. He approached Jack, sitting at a table in front of the bakery, and sat down dutifully. “Let go,” Jack stated, laughing heartily. 

Duke gently let the wide-eyed duck go, and it wandered off, quacking loudly.

Duke always joined Jack as he warmed the engine on Tugnacious, a tugboat tied to the ferry dock. One morning, Jack was way across the lake, and while rolling up the lines, he looked off the stern. He barely made out a black dot in the wake coming toward him. It was Duke, bound and determined to be with his master. 

Duke had a lot to say after climbing aboard and ended up catching some serious ZZZs. 

A trick of Duke’s was to sit and watch us eat pancakes, inching his way closer and closer, trying not to drool. Resting his head on your leg, performing a hard-sell stare into your eyes, he seemed to say, “Just one pancake, really, just one —please look closer into my eyes.”

In one fell swoop the pancake was gone, his expression never-changing — he was just poised and ready to accept the next bite. The only sound was his tail thumping on the floor.


Other canine personalities

Vic Myers owned a Boxer named Timor. Every morning, when the lifeguards opened the beach, Timor swam to the raft, climbed the ladder and waited for us to join him. 

We brought along a beer can, filled it with water and told Timor to sit. After throwing the can, we all watched it sink, and yelled, “Fetch.” 

Amazingly, he dove 12 feet deep into the water, fetched it and, with can in mouth, climbed back onto the dock, dropped the can in front of us and waited to do it again and again.

On Saturdays, when we waged wars in the Canterbury woods, dogs would join us as we searched for the enemy. Our well dug in and disguised, tail-wagging critters exposed our whereabouts. We chuckled at the intrusion to our seriousness.

Another neighborhood dog, Zephyr, was a collie mix, with personality-plus. He lived at the big house that stood where Madison Court apartments stand now on 42nd Avenue. His whole body gyrated when he wagged his tail, as he had been hit by a car.

In the summer, as most of us left our doors open, Zephyr came to greet us daily, but because of his injury he almost knocked himself over. It was important to make sure nothing was in the path of his huge tail.

One morning, there was no Zephyr to be found. I walked out onto the porch and saw a crowd gathering. As I drew closer, I heard Zephyr now crowded in a much-too-small cell in the animal control truck. He had been busted for having no tags. 

Someone asked, “Is there bail?” 

“$47!” the dog cop answered. 

“Do you take a check?” the guy queried.

As soon as he was sprung, Zephyr went to each and every one of us, howling thank you sounds. The truck left, and Zephyr hopped away as only he could do. 

We miss him along with all the other critters that have graced our lives. Several have met their demise in traffic that was going too fast. Here’s hoping the general public will respond to our pleas to slow down.

RICHARD CARL LEHMAN is a longtime Madison Park resident.