Animals make for some of the best of stories. I wasn't thinking of that Sunday morning. I checked the kitchen clock. It was after 6 and not too early to visit Bill and Irene Donahay, who live in Cole Farm. Usually I arrive via the bay once or twice a
Animals make for some of the best of stories.
I wasn’t thinking of that Sunday morning. I checked the kitchen clock. It was after 6 and not too early to visit Bill and Irene Donahay, who live in Cole Farm. Usually I arrive via the bay once or twice a summer to catch up on news over a cup of coffee, looking out on what little remains of Greene Island. Defying all odds, seeing we’ve been hit by several storms since a group from Gaspee erected it, an American flag still flies from a pole that is the only thing above water at high tide.
On Saturday, Jim Hickey, who also lives in Cole Farm, told me Bill and Irene had sold their house and would be moving to Florida to be closer to family. It was the first I had heard of their plans and wanted to hear the story.
The Donahay home is open with great vistas of the bay. I found the Sunday Journal on front door stoop. Looking in, I saw a rag mop dog asleep on a rug. I didn’t hear or see any movement. I rang the bell once and the dog raised its head and went back to sleep. I waited. Nothing. Maybe their early morning routine had changed. Perhaps it would be best to call and return later.
Then, from the open window above, I heard Irene.
In a moment, Bill, in his slippers and robe, was shuffling across the kitchen to unlock the door.
Irene soon joined us.
“I think you see me more in my pajamas than anyone else,” she said as she fixed coffee. We laughed. As the coffee brewed, Irene took the dog out.
A glance around told me Hickey’s information was spot on. Shelves were cleared and cardboard cartons were ready to make the trip south. They would be moving to an apartment in West Palm Beach, a short drive from several family members.
“This is Brooklyn,” Irene said returning with the dog, “blind and deaf.”
Brooklyn knew the routine. Breakfast came next and he was waiting for Irene to produce it. She explained the dog wasn’t theirs. They were dog sitting it for a friend of a niece.
Somehow that got us onto animal stories.
I recounted my son Ted’s ongoing battle with beavers that keep plugging up a culvert in the drive leading to his home to the point where the expanding pond in front of the house threatens to wash out the road. Ted cleared the pipe of sticks and mud only to have the beavers plug it up by the following morning. DEM offered suggestions that Ted followed and the beavers circumvented. As a last resort he contacted the trappers DEM named and they plan to return when the season opens.
Faced with a fat woodchuck, Bill and Irene got a Have A Heart trap with plans of relocating their garden pest. As they watched, the critter deftly entered the trap, avoiding the trip, and in full view ate the apple they had placed inside. They tried again, but it was a repeat show. Finally, a friend suggested to get a smaller trap. That worked and Bill and Irene drove their friend to the countryside 30 miles away. They suited up for the grand release, donning gloves and boots in case the animal sought revenge. They opened the door and the woodchuck took off so quickly they barely saw it.
“We laughed and laughed,” Bill said.
In another wild animal episode, a skunk found refuge in their garage. They were told skunks love peanut butter, so gingerly they entered the garage, leaving a trail of peanut butter crackers out the open door. It worked and thankfully the skunk never returned for seconds.
But Henry deserves top billing. He was a miniature poodle.
“The best and smartest dog ever,” Bill said.
Henry developed a habit of chewing his leg. They brought him to Tufts University veterinarian school, which recommended a diet of rice and lamb. When that didn’t work they proposed sending him to a psychiatrist who would conduct a 24-hour observance of the dog. That was it, Irene had heard enough. The lost straw was a projected cost of thousands.
Irene also put her foot down when she and Bill married. Until then, Henry slept in Bill’s bed. Irene wouldn’t have that.
“I’d never slept with an animal,” she said. “At least a four-legged animal.”
Henry was given a pillow and put outside the bedroom door. He whined in protest, but eventually accepted being displaced. Then came payback. During the day, he snuck into the bedroom and rolled the blanket into a knot that he chewed holes into.
One wonders how the psychiatrist would have treated Henry. Eventually he stopped chewing his leg and lived to be 15. He will continue to be immortalized in a painting and a steel statute used as a doorstop that will go to Florida.
I’m thinking that’s a long way to go for morning coffee, but who knows – maybe I’ll knock on their door someday.
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