Critters in the Hood

It was spring in the early fifties with one of those perfect warm blue-sky days--the kind of day commonly known as sick leave. I began the day detailing one of my favorite cars of the past, a 1950 Ford Convertible. Sally was a Madison Park neighbor who shared many Saturday matinees with me. We were to have our first drive-in movie date that night. I really wanted to impress her with a perfect experience.

My faithful friendly companion Bridget, the Boxer, was always nearby never far from the car hoping for a ride. Sally arrived and as I said hi, Bridget greeted her with more than average charm. Even her owner commented, “Wow, she is really awestruck by you”. Where was this going? Yes, it was to mean only one thing, “Let’s bring Bridget!” said Sally. Really? Like I had a word in this decision-making process. It wasn’t going to be just another cruise around the neighborhood either.

A short time later, top down, Sally at my side, Bridget perched happily on the passenger’s side inhaling the fresh air. We sang “Sh-Boom” on KJR AM radio. Just past the Leschi Market we turned up hill to I-90 (a long-gone shortcut) and cruised east at 55 mph. (Few ever went over that limit).

We arrived at the Sunset Drive-in near the Bavarian Tavern and a Mom and Pop store in Bellevue (Loehmann’s Plaza now). We parked in the rear near the concession stand and said hello to friends who happened to be there from Madison Park. Those cars with spotlights played “Chase the Red Dot on the Screen.”

As the evening cooled, I put the top up. Bridget was thoroughly enjoying the back seat all to herself. Sally got treats from the concession stand and even brought a hotdog for Bridget. The best treat, though, was a jumbo bag of hot fresh popcorn! Who knew this was going to be that dog’s favorite? We laughed throwing popcorn in the air and guess who never missed a catch? She just never seemed to get her fill.

Finally, the movie started and with a blanket for warmth and an Oly in hand we settled in.

Not long into the movie, we heard a sound much like a child squeezing air from a balloon. I looked at Sally and in unison said, “Not me!” We laughed so hard it caused Bridget to look quizzically, head tilted as if to say, “What?” Rolling the windows down at record speed we did as any adult would do, laugh hysterically. People walking by commented and the car next to us rolled their windows up.

What lesson could be learned by this? None! We had no idea what to do next. Sally decried, “Take Bridget to that tall grass—relief station?!” The lesson--dogs who inhale more than an ample supply of air and popcorn are better off in large green pastures away from sensible movie watching people.

Back in ’68 there were two guys living on 41st who had an import business. They were to bring their latest find to the Red Onion. We all met around the big round booth and here they came with a carrying bag and set it on the table. Slowly they unzipped it. A critter the size of a cocker spaniel with two big curious eyes emerged. It was a baby lion—a cub!! It drank some beer from a dish and when it meowed the sound was baritone. You could tell its genus by the size of its paws. Once it grew into those paws it could no longer be called with a, “Here kitty kitty.” Within a few months they donated it to a Portland animal rescue agency.

That same year I worked with a friend who left her home in Brazil via a cramped jet fighter her brother flew. She owned two baby critters about the size of a squirrel called Kudamundi. They were very curious and affectionate. As we drank a very fine wine, the two of them ran around playfully. When guests arrived for dinner from her homeland, she told us of the dubious flight her brother navigated.

Ah yes, wine, laughter and Kudamundi’s—what could go wrong? They were curious about fingers and as they gripped to inspect, one of them bit my right index finger! I felt the pain to my shoulder. Our hostess said, “Oh, I forgot to mention, the female tends to bite—are you all right?” I answered, “Sure!” I think to myself, ‘Are you kidding me? It must’ve hit a nerve. Might look into a mouth guard!’

A lab named Duke was raised as a hunting dog by Jack Lomas, another neighbor. Duke walked the Ave near the beach, and liked to go after ducks, grasp one in its mouth—not injuring it physically, just mentally—and carry it away to parts unknown. The duck would quack all the while until Duke could display his catch. Jack usually laughed and commanded, “Duke, release the duck!” This was a talented dog not to be outdone by Timor the diving dog.

Stay tuned….