Shared Stories: Pets or Pests?

Yolanda Reyna grew up without family pets and afraid of dogs. When she married, her husband’s dog was a new experience.  Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Yolanda Reyna

When I was a young girl growing up, I don’t recall having any pets in my home.  What I do recall were pests such as cockroaches and mice. That was about the only thing I saw wandering around my house (besides people).   

I mean, I didn't think they were my pets. But honestly, I got used to them, you see, as I was growing up.  My family and I lived in very poor conditions. 

But as far as pets like a dog? Well I only knew one thing - I was afraid of them! My recollection of dogs was that they roamed the streets.  I just knew of dogs being outdoors, not indoors, let alone sitting on a sofa or wearing doggie clothes!

I remember one time my mother let me walk to the store (by myself) to buy some candy.  Oh, I must have been around seven or eight years old.  As I started to walk down the sidewalk, out of nowhere came a little dog (it could have been a Chihuahua).  

That teeny weenie little thing just started barking at me. I was so paralyzed with fear that I could not move. I started to cry so loud that I think I scared the poor little thing away. My mother eventually came to my rescue. 

After that incident, I never really cared for dogs or any animals. It's funny how something like that can just change your outlook. But also growing up, my siblings and I were normally chased by dogs when we walked to school. I really could not understand how and why people loved animals so much!

When I met Robert, the father of my children and my ex-husband, he had a dog named Max. Max was a golden retriever. He was a big dog. Robert loved him so much. He kept him in the backyard. I wasn't too fond of the dog, but I did appreciate how much Robert loved him. 

I didn't dislike the dog, I think I didn't know how to appreciate him. I had been dating Robert for about six months when Max ran away.  He was gone for two weeks. Robert was devastated. 
He even cried! I thought, what a baby. 

After two weeks, Max appeared with no warning. Somehow he managed to make it back home. Robert had told me the story of his return. I was shocked! 

After dating Robert for a couple of years, we eventually got married and had two children, Reina two years old and Lil Robert one years old.  I had already grown accustomed to Max. He barked a lot! It was annoying!  He could be a pest at times! 

But then I realized he was sort of protecting us.  Because dogs bark at everything. They have a sense like no other.  He barked at everything and everyone! 

His favorite time of the day to bark was when the mailman was approaching.  It was like clockwork! Every day at around 3 pm he would bark and bark! 

So I’d say, “Great, the bills are coming in,” or, “Oh! My unemployment check is arriving!” Max had different barks for different people. He had this wailing bark when he knew Robert was coming home from work.  It was amazing!

Robert really loved Max and Max loved Robert too.  I saw the bond between them. Each time Robert came home from work, of course he’d greet his family first, but then he would go straight outside in the backyard and greet his dog. 

The love they had for each other was nice to see.  Robert would sit on a chair and let Max sit on his lap.  He let Max lick him all over his face!  

Robert had Max for quite some time, since he was a teeny weenie little thing. He told me the story when he first got Max. How he was so little he fit in the palm of his hand or how he let Max sleep on his chest at times. 

Max was only around my children and me for almost four years. I met Max December of 1989 and he left us around 1994. It was the saddest day for Robert and it is sad to say I was forced to call animal control. 

One day while Robert was out in the backyard attending to yard-work, Reina our two- year-old wanted to go outside with her dad, but I was very nervous of her being around Max. I never allowed her to get near him. 

Robert only allowed Max to get near her when he carried her in his arms. Robert assured me she would be fine if I let her go outside. So while I was in the kitchen, I could see Reina around the patio area.

No sooner than I blinked, Max appeared and was humping Reina from her little behind! Reina being only two years old, didn't have a clue what was going on!

I literally witnessed this! I raced outside and Robert turned and witnessed it too! He yelled at Max! It was hilarious but yet scary. 

That was all it took, plus, with having two children, Robert really didn't have time for Max. He never walked Max nor did he take him for any vaccinations. 

I did not want the dog around. So I told Robert I think we should consider giving him to someone that will spend more time with him.  I just didn't want Max around. I know it sounds cruel but I was thinking of my children. 

I called animal control and they took Max away. Robert agreed but I made the final decision. To this day, I often think about that time and the love that Robert and Max shared.