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P. O. Box 250
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Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
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Aunt Ebb’s pet dilemma
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Friday, January 11, 2013


Although Aunt Ebb loved animals and often had an outside dog, she never allowed any pets in her house.

That's mainly because she was a fastidious housekeeper. Her mobile home was always as clean and neat as a museum. Everything had a place and everything was in its place.

There was simply no room for any pet, or person for that matter, that would make a mess or, God forbid, chew up something.

She felt the same about other people's houses as well, and would not hesitate to voice her displeasure when a dog or cat scampered across the floor.

And she would never, under any circumstances, eat a meal in a house that humans shared with a pet.

She made her reason for that very clear -- pet hair.

Even the thought of finding a pet hair in her food was something she could not bear.

Well, for most of her life that was not really a problem as she could very strategically cross off her drop-by-for-mealtime list any home that included an inside pet.

The strategy worked well, except at church dinner-on-the-ground events. Aunt Ebb would scurry about trying to find out who fixed what because she knew a couple of the church families had inside pets. She wanted to avoid eating whatever it was they brought.

But the really big problems came when my grandmother, and later my mother, became attached to a pet.

Grandma had never allowed pets in her house, but when she was older and living alone, somebody gave her a dog. I can't remember who gave her the tiny puppy (Aunt Ebb may have run them out of the county), but for whatever reason, she and the puppy quickly bonded.

The dog was a Chihuahua, and he was indeed a tiny thing, so small, grandma said, he could have been whittled from a little tree limb. Which is why she named him "Little Whittle."

He was obviously too small and skinny to live outdoors, so he was allowed the run of the house, much to Aunt Ebb's displeasure.

After all, she ate at grandma's house all of the time, and had never worried about inadvertently eating pet hair.

But she just couldn't quit eating there, and grandma assured her that, number one, Chihuahuas are short-haired and don't shed as much as other breeds and, number two, her food was always clean and hair-free.

In fact, grandma seemed to be a bit perturbed that Aunt Ebb would entertain the idea that even one dog hair would make it into her food.

So Aunt Ebb did eat, but very carefully, taking a little extra time to scrutinize each bite, and trying to be discreet so grandma wouldn't notice.

Of course, dogs are very sensitive creatures and Little Whittle had no delusions about Aunt Ebb's feelings toward him.

Just to aggravate her, Little Whittle, who was not much of a yapper for a Chihuahua, always made it a point to yap at Aunt Ebb, especially when she sat at the kitchen table.

Aunt Ebb would always run him off, though, and I could tell at times it was all she could do to not give Little Whittle a small nudge with her boot.

Later, long after Little Whittle and grandma were gone, my mother, who had also never liked pets inside the house (I was constantly getting in trouble for bringing in dogs) got a little kitten, apparently to keep her company.

I wish I had a logical explanation for the name she gave him, but I don't. And neither did she.

"It just came to me," she said. The cat, although very brown, lived its life being called "Blue Boy." (Not that it mattered to the cat.)

And Aunt Ebb had to go through the same thing with eating at my mother's house. This time, though, she openly complained about the possibility of hair in her food and made it a point to search the food thoroughly before eating, knowing full well it would irritate my mother.

Sisters will be sisters.

Aunt Ebb very obviously irritated the cat as well.

Blue Boy made it a point to jump up on the back of the chair or couch, wherever Aunt Ebb was sitting during her visits, and try to scratch the back of her head.

There was always a commotion, with Aunt Ebb screaming, "That frazzlin' cat!," and my mother screaming just as loudly, "Don't you touch Blue Boy!," as the cat managed to elude the swipe of Aunt Ebb's hand.

In fact, Blue Boy would look back at her after his little feet had hit the floor with a look that, if I didn't know better, was one akin to human gloating.

As in the case with Little Whittle, the Blue Boy battle was one Aunt Ebb could not win.

And if the truth be known, she probably admired both pets.

But she would never have admitted it.

As far as anyone knows, she never found one pet hair in her food.

But human hair ... well, that's a different story.

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