While in Riverton Heights, Washington, we young tykes witnessed the aftermath of the Depression, where many Japanese families lost their farms and had to live in their cars or trucks. The parents continued looking for work picking fruit and vegetables while trying hard to keep their kids in school.
Dad worked for the Seattle Star and sometimes took me into Seattle for a reality check. He and I delivered food to a family living in a big scrap-wood dwelling in an area called “Hooverville.” We had to conceal the food to prevent thievery. Everyone there was living on the edge. At home, Mom cooked meals for neighbors who had little left.
We were considered “country kids” as the main outfit was bib overalls with shoes optional, and our clothes were always patched. Our toys were few, but a heavy waxed box from the grocery store was a perfect sled for the long grassy hills. Anything we put wheels on was a bona fide race car.
A trip to Angle Lake was seldom, but we splashed and frolicked, enjoying ourselves with little concern for the world condition. Lucky, my mom’s collie dog, was with us always. That pup would jump on our race car just to be with us. Climbing tall trees was a favorite past time. Scooting way out on a branch and sliding down a branch one at a time was fun even though we were covered in pitch. Pets tagged along through cow pastures, which were part of the neighborhood.
War broke out, and our world turned upside down. Many families besides ours had to move. I couldn’t take Lucky. All of us missed him, and it was a hard time. Luckily, a neighbor took Lucky! When we lost Dad in war exercises, we moved to Madison Park. My grandparents took us in, and we slowly began to heal. There had been many dogs and cats in the area, but when the breadwinners went off to war, it made it difficult to care for pets, so they were driven to the countryside and set loose. Nevertheless, there were plenty of dogs to walk us to school, and we were happy to share leftover lunch with them. People in the Park found ways to care for homeless pets — none were skinny.
There were other animals to know and love. We caught polliwogs and kept them in open fruit jars. We’d compare who had the biggest. Then, surprise! Frogs! Yes, frogs all over the house. We were told to release them at Edgewater beach where they joined the herd. Adding to the circus, we bought turtles at Gouches pet store downtown. Turtles bought here had a distinctive mark: two red dots on top of the shell. Sometime later, after being let out into the wild, they too joined the herd at Edgewater beach and the Arboretum. On sunny days you could spot them lying about on rocks or logs having grown to the size of footballs.
Dogs and cats ran freely and usually had homes. Store owners welcomed them as they lay in the entrances to greet customers. Customers sitting in the Madison Park Bakery would be greeted by dogs who quietly walked in smiling (it seemed), tails wagging. It was most assuredly an “Amway” expression. They sat politely as patrons handed them small pieces of fresh pastry. Even ducks caught on although not as quietly. It was funny to see all of the critters get along.
One day a good friend asked me if I would come along to adopt a dog. We drove to the Humane Society and could hear the thunderous barking when we opened the car door. Inside, the cages were overfilled — it was more than I bargained for. I had to look away as they stared and wagged their tails. He picked a small pup who whined and was so excited, it was nearly impossible to leash him.
It is said when you save a pet, they never forget. His pet was all that and then some. He slept with him and waited to greet him by the door when he came home from school. He always had some toy in his mouth to drop at your feet for you to throw.
Johnny the flower guy at Bert’s Red Apple had adopted a dog from the Humane Society. He never left John’s side. He knew he had been saved. He was an Australian sheep dog with one brown eye, the other blue. He was always greeted heartily by Bert’s customers.
Bings’ restaurant owners, Stan and Lori, had T-Bone, a pitbull, who laid by the entrance forcing customers to walk over him. T-Bone just snorted and wagged his very short tail. At the beach, geese were the main event. One crinkle of a sandwich bag opening, and all manner of fowl appeared. If you could make it to a bench without stepping in green deposits, it was a miracle. Every now and then a beaver or wharf rat swam by, probably on the way to the beaver dam in Canterbury. Nowadays, there are sightings of coyotes, chicken hawks, woodpeckers and deer.
It would be grand if pets were always rescued and adopted to become part of families.
Madison Park has quite the population of dogs who are leashed and well behaved. It was fun to see them run in packs in the olden days where they ran freely. There isn’t anywhere for them to do that except in specialized dog parks or maybe the ocean beaches. At least, they know they are loved.