She’s a Southern girl. Part Border Collie with a little bit of Aussie Shepherd and Spitz.
I got Chelise in New Orleans. Yes, I know that is not the way most people spell Chelise but trust me, it was the only small battle I could win about her name at the time. I wanted to call her something literary. Sigh. I did not intend to get a dog. I had a cat. I was living in an apartment (albeit a nice sized one) and I was working a full-time job. But I went to the pound with a friend (always a big mistake) who was looking for a replacement dog. Replacement because he had adopted a dog there and then when they went to spay him, the dog had some disease and they had to put it down. So he basically had a gift certificate to the pound that he didn’t want to use.
Then I saw Chelise who was scrawny and covered in bugs. I figured she was about 9 months old back. She leaned against the cyclone fence and it was love at first sight. I remember being worried about have the same pound spay her. When I went to pick her up she was still out cold, sleeping in a pile of urine. They let me take her home even though she wasn’t awake and I remember carrying her up those very many stairs of the apartment and hoping I didn’t drop her. Benjamin (my cat) was fascinated with the sleeping dog who didn’t move even when he poked it with a paw.
I gave her a sponge bath and waited for her to wake up.
This is the oldest picture I have of her. I think she was about a year old.
Here she is a few years later. Filled out a bit more but she still has the goofy black eye that I fell in love with.
When I lived in New Orleans she was always happy to see me come home from work. I thought she was part kangaroo the way she would jump into my arms. I’d have to be quick to put my purse down so I could catch her.
Not so much anymore. I often have to go find her to let her know I am home. Part of it is I think she is starting to go deaf and part of is she just doesn’t care as much as she used to.
For the longest time my cat Benjamin was her best buddy. (She mourned him for months after he died.) The two of them would wait anxiously for me to come home from work. We had a special cushion made to fit on this chest so they could look out the only window in this very tiny place we lived in when I first moved back to California.
Back then she could still jump up on all sorts of things but now that she is older and has had back surgery, she hesitates before deciding if she really wants to make the next step up or down between the library and the rest of the house. Now that we finally have a big house with a yard it is sad. She doesn’t go upstairs at all and really doesn’t care to be outside for any longer than it takes to do her business.
She is the least food motivated animal I have ever had in my life. At least now. When I was in New Orleans and she was still so afraid of everything and hungry she would do more for food but not anymore. She saves her treats until after dinner. No matter when you give them to her. No matter how many you give her. She just lets them pile up. At the end of the night she could have 5, 6,7 treats piled up. And while she will eat a milk bone or a greenie, she would much rather have a piece of a plain tortilla or lick the ice cream bowl.
She does, eventually eat them though.
She’s a bit of a snob.
She’s not fond of most men and doesn’t like other dogs. She takes a while to warm up to anyone new.
And she’s easily bored.
She is also the first dog I’ve ever had who didn’t know how to play with a ball. In all the years I’ve had her I’ve never been able to teach her how. She doesn’t play much at all. Never did. She has some stuffed toys and will sometimes run after one once if you throw it, but only once.
She’s also a bit silly.
Whenever I sneeze, she leaves the room. And my office has two sets of French Doors, one from the library (where she spends most of her time) and the other from the living room (where no one spends any time.) If I close the ones to the library and leave the ones to the living room open, she can’t figure out how to go around and get in the other way.
She appreciates a good nap.
In fact, nowadays that’s what she spends most of her time doing. Sleeping. Behind the chair in the library or in the corner of my husband’s office. Sometimes in my office but not often. Getting her to eat anymore is a major chore and she doesn’t want to be petted or brushed so it is always a struggle. She just wants to be left alone and sometimes I find myself resenting the caretaking I am doing without any of the fun of having a dog.
But then I remember being in New Orleans with only Chelsie and Benjamin to keep me company. I remember how Chelsie and I would run laps around the inside of the gated apartment complex (because it was too scary to run anywhere else) and how she would always stop to roll in a muddy puddle (of which there were always many) and then jump up and shake like it was the best joke she had ever heard. I remember when a stray mama cat deserted the last kitten in a litter and I brought it home. My own cat wanted to eat it but Chelsie let it sleep between her outstretched paws and growled whenever Benjamin came close.
But most of all I remember how very lost and alone I felt living on my own for the first time (even though I was in my 30s) and how easy it was to get depressed and feel like my life was never going to get any better and how knowing I had to get up and take her outside was often the only thing that got me through the day.
And I figure being a caretaker to her in her old age is a mighty small price to pay for all she has done for me.
I love all the great booklists that bloggers have put together like Jen Robinson’s List of 200 Cool Girls from children’s literature, Journey Woman’s list of Great Antagonists of Kids’ Lit! and the list of 100 Cool Teachers in Children’s literature over at A Reading Year. But as I read the lists I realized that something was missing. Something that quite often walked around with legs and a tail and a personality that that dared us to forget them.
Yes, I am talking about a new list, 100 Animals (or maybe more) that hold our heart from children’s literature.
Here’s the catch – no talking animals, only realistic portrayals of dogs being dogs, cats being cats, and so on. What do you say? Who should be on the list? I’ll start it off. Once we get to a nice round number (dare I hope for 100?) I’ll compile a master list.
100 Animals (or maybe more) that hold our heart from children’s literature
1) The dog Old Yeller from Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
2) Another dog called Winn-Dixie from Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
3) Flag the fawn in The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
4) The very special dog Shiloh from the book Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
5) Hunting dogs Old Dan and Little Ann from Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Your turn! What animal in children’s literature has a hold on your heart?