Friday, August 22, 2008

Happiness is a Warm Puppy

The other day I found a nice clean used copy of the 1960's book featuring Charles M. Schulz's characters called Happiness is a Warm Puppy.  Rereading the little book it occurred to me that I was reading an entirely different way than I did when I was young.  No surprise there. Rereading childhood favorites is a risky business.  Sometimes a rereading reveals whole new layers of meaning that only life experience and the context it provides allows a reader. Sometimes the book turns out to be awful, a story that is overly sentimental, cliched, or just dated.  This book was and still is charming.  Part of it is nostalgia, I'm sure.  Part of it is that a highlight of my adult life was getting to meet Schulz at a California writing conference in 1997.  But also the book offers simple insights into what makes people, of any age, happy.  Happiness often comes packaged in a furry package, sometimes of the puppy variety, but sometimes in the shape of a cat, a bunny, or other sort of pet.

This photo from about 1925 is of my grandfather, Howard Tess.  I don't remember my grandparents ever having pets (Grandma thought they were dirty), but there are several pictures of Howard with animals, mostly dogs.  I also have pictures of him with a cat, with calves, and with the pony he bought for me and my younger sister.

This photo from 1932 is of my father, Ralph Pierce.  Dad always loved animals.  Many of the early pictures of him show a farm dog, but I know he loved cats just as well.  When we were little he also sometimes caught wild pets, especially raccoons and  crows.  Sometimes when he was mowing hay a cat or wild animal would be injured, and he had real trouble hiding his sorrow when he had to put them out of their suffering.

Here I am about 1952 with my preferred pet.  Many of my childhood photos show me with farm cats.  This was Mom's cat, Snookums.  Ever since I have had a place to call my own I have had a kitty, and luckily my husband is a cat lover as well.  Our current cat, Bucky, is a great lap cat.

In 1963 one of our favorite furry pets was Smoky, the bunny.  Here my youngest sister, Mary, looks just a little worried.


Tita Mama said...

When I was growing up my mother never wanted us to have pets because of the upkeep they required. So except for the few pets that my brother was allowed (outside only), I never had any pets. As a matter of fact, I was scared of cats and didn't much care for dogs. Then I grew up and married an animal lover. Now we have two dogs and two cats and those animals bring me so much joy and loving, that it would be hard to think of not having any pets ever again. How I managed to grow up without having known the joys of a pet, I will never know. But things have been righted now in my senior years. Happiness IS a warm puppy. I enjoyed your post.

JoAnn said...

you sure were a cutie, Sherry.


Ann said...

My nine year old is a huge Charlie Brown fan, reads over and over a collection of Peanuts books I had as a kid. Great post about pets!

Teri C said...

Great little photos Sherry and wonderful post.

Judybec said...

What a warm and fuzzy post Sherry! Cute photos --you've warmed my heart. I'll always have a special place in my heart for animals!