The stories in this book are about the many friends I have met in my life – and some I imagined, that have helped me see myself, and shown me that love conquers all. I will tell you which are imagined and which are true life.
Some of my friends were furry, others had hard shells, and some had wings. They are still around and about me, keeping me happy and on the right trail. As I think about them, my heart warms and happiness wells up inside of me. The times with each one of them are invaluable. I want to share these experiences with you.
I will start out with my first friend as I first arrived on this planet. His name was, King. First, a little introduction to the reason I remember and am writing these stories.
I thought everyone communicated with animals. According to Boone anyone can communicate with animals. To do that you have to want to, and you must not feel that you are above their level of intelligence. Because of, King, my first encounter with animals, my feelings were of that nature. Speaking to King like he was one of the family was the only way I knew. King was there when I was born and left us when I was thirteen.
Throughout my life my attitude towards animals remained the same. Even finding a pet fly, like the one Boone wrote about. My fly was called, Freddy, as was Boone’s. That one was a little much for my family, but they saw it happen and so they believed it. Freddy would land on my finger when his name was called. He would stay there and we would carry on a conversation. There were many Freddys in my life. And whenever a fly would buzz around, my kids would ask if that was Freddy.
Decided to make a list of my animal friends and write their stories. After King, there were many friends, but King was the king of them all. There was Peoples (I felt she was better than people) who sailed with me, standing on the bow through crashing waves. She jumped on the roof of my car one day when I was going to the store, she stayed on as I pulled out and remained there until we reached the store. That became her favorite spot when riding with me; she liked the breeze, it reminded her of sailing.
Below is the list of friends I will be writing about, with a sprinkle of fiction stories included. I will label all of the fiction stories.
King, my first introduction to my friends
New Kensington, Pennsylvania is the place of my birth, the date was: September 13, 1929. It was a very good year (no need to go into that, history has it covered.) At that time my Grandmother, who lived a few blocks away had a beautiful German Shepard called “King.” King truly was just that, a king. He was majestic. He looked like Strongheart, the first Movie dog. I grew up with King, until he moved on to another plane at the age of fourteen.
We moved in with my Grandmother soon after I was born. My Grandmother had a large house at the end of the street, surrounded by woods. I spent many happy times there. My Mother told me about the many times that king came to my protection when I was a baby.
One story was about the times she wheeled me about five blocks to the local grocery store to do some shopping (Alas, no malls in those days - How did we ever manage?) King was always instructed to stay home, but he discreetly followed at a distance. My Mother always parked the baby carriage outside of the store while doing her shopping.
Grocery stores in those days were a small family owned businesses, usually with one door and two large windows looking out on the sidewalk. She was never in the store very long, but when she came out, King would always be there, standing guard, growling at anyone who approached the carriage. Sometimes there would be a crowd standing there, watching King. No one ever got close to me.
As I grew older I never thought of King as anything special, he was just part of the family, as was my Grandmother, Sister or Mother and Dad. I didn’t realize that not all people have dog as brilliant as King. I played games with him, and talked to him like a buddy. Which he was
One day, while walking to the store with my Mother, we approached a house, where a large, ugly, Boxer lived. His pastime was scaring and chasing people. We were on the alert, as always, and King was supposedly staying at home. When we were opposite the boxer’s house, he came dashing from around the side of the house, down the hill and a cross the street, straight for us. He never made the sidewalk. King came out of nowhere, like a bolt of lightening and hit that dog so hard on its side, that it knocked him down and king was on top of him.
When the Boxer regained his feet, he used them - he ran back up the hill to the protection of his house. King chased him up the hill, and then we called him. He came over to us, looking a little apologetic, seeing as how he didn’t stay home, but we gave him love and gratitude, and he continued on to the store with us.
We moved to Springdale, which is across the Allegheny River and a few miles down from New Kensington. King came with us. King was never tied or penned. At that time most people who had dogs, let them run free. There weren’t so many frightened people as there are now and most dogs weren’t mean. The neighborhood loved King.
One day, after living with us for about two years, King disappeared. The first thought was that he returned to visit my grandmother - but that never happened. Coming home from school and not having King waiting to greet me was a very sad affair. The whole neighborhood was on the lookout for him.
Two weeks painfully passed with no sign of King. The street we lived on was on a hill; at the bottom of the hill was the main street, running through the town. After school I walked home different routes each day, hoping to find King.
Then, one day, walking down the hill towards my home, I saw something next to the hedge that bordered our lawn. As I neared our house, I could make out a ball of fur lying on the sidewalk - it was King. I ran down the hill, yelling, “King! King!” He raised his head and tried to get up, but he was in such bad shape that he couldn’t rise. I knelt down beside him, gave him a big hug, then helped him into the yard.
My mother came out with a pan of water, which King slowly lapped up. We brought food out to him and I sat on the ground next to him, stroking his fur. I stayed with him until he gained enough strength to walk up on the porch to his rug. He laid down with a big sigh, and I was crying.
We have no idea, what happened to him, but he returned and that was all that mattered.
Living on Miami Beach as an adventurer and ladies man was not the place for a dog. Duchess was no ordinary dog. I’m sorry that the details of her adoption escape me, but her memory will always be with me.
Duchess was probably eight or ten months old when we hooked up. My friends asked me what I was doing with this mangy looking, scraggly dog. I don’t know why, but my response was that she was going to turn into a beautiful wonderful lady. Thus, she was named, Duchess.
I lived in a small servants house behind the main house on a street north of forty-first street on Miami Beach. Yes, Duchess was mangy, her fur was in tufts and she was skinny. The first thing I did for her was to take her to a veterinarian in Miami. The first thing th vet did was to take his scaple and scrape a piece of skin off of her eye-brow. It was done before I could stop him, and I was furious.
He said he needed to make tests to diagnose her problem. After some time in the waiting room, he came in and told me that if I didn’t feel too strongly about the dog, that I should get rid of her. If I chose to keep her, it was going to cost me a whole lot of money to get her cured. Since all animals were my brothers, I would never get rid of her. My first feeling was to bash the vet in the mouth, but I held my temper and told him, "Give me my Dog! I’ll take care of her."
Back on the beach, Duchess was treated to slices of a small steak and given a bath in a product called "Bathe-away." I apologized for her wound and told her that she was going to be well, and that she would be beautiful. Early every morning we went for a swim in the ocean. Slowly she began to get her fur back.
She traveled with me all of the time. I dated lots of pretty woman on Miami Beach and Duchess was always along. If she didn’t care for the woman she would squeeze in between us in the front seat. One dancer that I was very attached to was also Duchess’s friend. Duchess approved.
I was a photographer at that time and did the darkroom work for the photographers at the Deauville Hotel. Duchess slept on a shelf over the developing trays while I prepared the photos for the girls on the floor.
As time passed, Duchess did indeed become beautiful. I had photo concessions in three night clubs on Miami Beach and Duchess always accompanied me to the clubs. She was always welcome in the clubs. All of the musicians were her pals.
One club was in the Roney Plaza Hotel across Collins Avenue from my darkroom, which was in a small hotel on twenty-third street. We walked to the corner and when the light changed, I'd say, "Okay Duchess" and she would run ahead to the lower entrance and into the club. The doorman always felt slighted because she never stopped to say hello. By the time I got there she was sitting under the piano, eating a treat from one of the waitresses.
A story about Sarah Vaughn and Duchess in a famous resturant in New York city, P.J. Clarke's - to be included in this book.
This link will take you to some of the photos of Duchess from the time she was a puppy to a full grown duchess. They will be included in this book.
A friend, living on Miami Beach, bought a turtle for her two small children. The children never got attached to the turtle, but yours truly did, and gave him his name - Joe. Don’t know what the attraction was, but I was hooked. After the season, she and her children returned to New York. Guess who got, Joe.
Born in Germany 1918 - Died in Los Angeles June 24, 1929. Brought to the US by a writer, Jane Murfin, and a producer and director, Larry Trimble. Films starring Stongheart were: The silent Call (1921), Brawn of the North (1922), The Love Master (1924), White Fang (1925), North Star (1925), and The Return of Boston Blackie (1927)