NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Friday June 5th 2020

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Remembering Those Who Went Before

“Fondly remembering Winona, a Cairn Terrier, Casey, a Corgi, and all our pets who
‘brought joy and great interaction to our family’ “
…Laura Waterman Wittstock

By LAURA WATERMAN WITTSTOCK

Chubs
SkunnyWundy
Buckaday
Gahjeestohd
Fibber McGee
Alexander
Casey
Winona
Spice
Precious Sparkle Monte

In this day of massive mourning in the whole world, our previous plans for death may seem outright whimsical. My husband and I will have been married for fifty years if we make it to August 30th. Our loving plans call for cremation and then mixture with whichever of our pets we have had throughout our married days that the children choose to include. Some might be considered pets of the children and those would be kept out. Others would be too precious to put away. But we are hoping a few pinches from the list above could be included. A bit will go to the Seneca Nation of Indians cemetery where my parents are buried and likewise a bit will go to the Sheboygan, Wisconsin cemetery where my husband’s mother and father are buried. That’s the beauty of ashes. You can go wherever your children or loved ones wish to place you.

While the pets lived, they brought joy and great interaction to our family. We married in 1970 and the house we lived in was full of cats. We immediately got two. One was a tiny multi-color and one was a giant. A virus in the cat population in Washington D.C. and our tiny one succumbed to the killer that made lace of their lungs. The litter owners named the big one Chubs. We kept the name because it seemed to suit him. We were recruited for work in Minneapolis and we soon found a house to rent. Chubs slipped out and went straight up the elm tree on the boulevard. I panicked but was convinced he would come down, and he did. By the time we moved to Minneapolis, he weighed about 20 pounds and no dog would cross him. His favorite food was shrimp. All sort of normal except for one bizarre behavior. He liked all Indians but hated Caucasians. If a white guest reached into a cupboard for a hand towel, Chubs, laying in wait, would snarl and scratch their hand viciously. We learned to put towels out and check the cupboard for Chubs’ presence before guests arrived. He loved us dearly and would put his arms around us in loving embraces. His powerful body allowed him to jump from the floor to the top of the refrigerator in one smooth leap. When his hindquarters suddenly failed, the vet told us the end was near. We enjoyed a few weeks, before taking him in. As I said goodbye, he put his arms tightly around my neck. I was sobbing. The vet said the University of Minnesota wanted to autopsy Chubs because of his size and we agreed. We were told he was functioning on a third of his heart. We imagined he did not want to leave us. The truth was he lived a glorious life as a giant cat but paid a price for it.

Alexander, the 80- pound Dalmatian, slept peacefully between us on a double bed every night. He was careful not to push us out of bed, which he could have easily done, but he did make connubial bliss a little tricky. He lived far beyond Dalmatian life expectancy. Some surgery kept his larynx open until he just could not breathe and he went to his beloved vet for a last goodbye.

Buckaday was a stray cat that came to our house and did not leave. He competed with the dogs for tid bits from the table. He could sit up, lift his paw for attention and do any manner of interactions for our regard. His name was Ojibwe for hungry and we said it cost a buck a day to feed him. Once he caught a squirrel and ate the entire thing except the tail.
Unlike Buckaday, SkunnyWundy, named for the Seneca trickster, was a gentle, small tuxedo, as the cats with black and white distinctive markings are called. We tried to keep her in the house but she would have none of that. She visited neighbors and enjoyed their company. She did get the occasional fight abscesses and once I had to cut an abscess open with an X-Acto knife that had been sterilized. She recovered nicely. She lived to 19 always looking like an adolescent cat.

Going through the whole list might be tedious but I can’t leave it without talking about Gahjeestohd. She was named shining light for her dazzling personality. I picked her out of a puppy group. She ran over and jumped into my arms. It was a choice made by the spirits. I put her in a little puppy box and on the plane with me. She came to her family in Minneapolis and loved everyone. Her Cairn Terrier cheerfulness allowed her to make friends with all she met. But something soon was wrong. She waited all day for us to come home and often she was sad. Concerned, we asked the vet for his advice and he said, “Get her a dog!” All was well after Fibber McGee came to live with us. Gahjeestohd’s outstanding characteristic was she could tell moods so when I was sick she knew it practically before I did. She stayed next to me without food or water until I arose out of the bed. She was called our “nurse dog” and she was most beloved by the whole family. When she died at the gentle old age of 17 she was mourned as the brave woman she was, a true warrior.

My husband and I do not have a legal will. Almost instantly we thought about making one but our lawyer was not in his office. We have now worked out an online way to send things back and forth. It took us quite a while to figure out which charities to leave something to and how to give things to our children, grandchildren and our great grandson.

Apparently, from reports in the newspaper, we are not the only ones with this dilemma. Lawyers everywhere are rushing to figure out how to get wills done.

We are far from wealthy but we do have enough to leave a little something behind. I’m amazed to find out how little attachment I have to those things I thought precious when I acquired them. We know our children won’t have room for what we call stuff. We have tried to pass on only junk free items, but it is hard when photos or that special silk scarf is involved.

Next we have to downsize by clearing out the basement where 35 years of stuff have accumulated, some from a previous move – boxes of papers that never were opened. At least we are stuck inside where our work goes on. My husband is teaching his classes online using the popular Zoom and I am still volunteering for Wicoie, the nonprofit that supports language learning for very young children. The blameless parents of the students have had losses beyond imagination. That is true for many communities throughout Phillips and the whole city. Let’s turn our thoughts to them at least once a day and give what we can, whether talent, food, funds of course, and precious time. That’s what we are rich in now.

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