By: Milt Montague
All children love pets. Cats and dogs are the top candidates in this category of unconditional sources of love. They visibly and audibly return the love and attention lavished upon them by humans. The four Montague children were no exception to this cardinal rule. When their parents decided to get a house cat, the decision was loudly seconded by all of them. [The decision was based on practicality. The neighborhood was commercial and crowded with old five story buildings, stores and push carts in the streets and of course rodents.]
Milt had three sisters older than himself. Anita was the youngest of the threesome. They all liked the cat, but Anita formed the closest relationship with the family pet and named her Honeysuckle. One day, for whatever cat reason and to all the children’s consternation, Honeysuckle disappeared. After a few days of worry, she was replaced by Honeysuckle 2. Anita loved to hold and stroke her new pal, Honeysuckle. One day, Anita’s mom noticed a circular, small, red patch on Anita’s cheek right where she loved to hold Honeysuckle. Dr. Mom’s diagnosis was, ringworm. The culprit obviously was the cat. Honeysuckle was gone.
Uncle Sam was their dad’s younger brother and lived in the same neighborhood.. He loved animals, especially dogs, and always had a few in his apartment plus some cats, birds, and bowls of exotic fish. He related to Anita’s distress over her pet’s loss and a few days later showed up with a small bundle of brown fur. To everyone’s delight it was a just weaned baby German Shepherd [police dog].
They named him Sooner, because as soon as he wet his bed of crumbled sheets of newspaper, it was replaced by dry ones; he wet those too. Nourished by the entire family’s love and attention, Sooner grew quickly into a playful and loving puppy. The entire family convened to give him [Sooner was a male] a proper name. After much discussion they finally agreed that Lightning was most appropriate for a police dog
and it became official.
As soon as Lightning was old enough, he was shown his duties. The parents, Abe and Helen, were retail merchants. Their store sold bedding and dry goods [things for the home, i.e. bed linens, blankets, pillows, quilts, etc.]. The family lived in an apartment above the store. The apartment had an entrance through the store and also a separate entrance from the street. Lightning spent his nights in the store. His job was to be the watchdog to protect the the family’s source of livelihood.
In the morning, he was let out into the street, “to clean himself”. He usually returned soon after to play with the children. Once in a while, he would disappear for a day or two, but always returned. One time when he was gone for more than a week, Milt really missed his buddy [the legendary relationship between a boy and his dog] and tried to find him. He walked up and down all the streets in the neighborhood whistling and shouting his pal’s name. After several hours, Milt dejectedly returned home….. alone. The very next morning Lightning appeared with a rope around his neck that led to a frayed end, where he had chewed himself free.
When he was fully grown, Lightning was a beautiful brown and black playmate for the family. He also had a successful career as a watchdog. Never once did he ever bite any member of the family, even in the excitement of play. He was a handsome animal and when he stood up on his hind legs he was taller than Abe, Milt’s father.
One snowy day Abe hitched Lightning to a sled, sat Milt on the sled and jogged alongside as they toured the neighborhood, as all the neighbors smiled. Lightning seemed to enjoy his new roll almost as much as MiIt. It was, for Milt, a day to remember for the rest of his life.
LIghtning, as a member of the family, ate table scraps and loved to chew on the marrow bones supplied by the butcher next store. When Milt’s mother was preparing dinner, he would sit quietly at her side waiting for his scraps. As she was scraping carrots, he would whine quietly to remind her he was there and she would reward his patience with an occasional carrot. He was the only dog that was known to be fond of carrots.