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PhilRuffin and Gabby-smPhil Snyder, Executive Director

Press Articles


englewood sun logoBy Phil Snyder, Executive Director Suncoast Humane Society

Published in the Englewood Sun on January 22, 2017

They say that anyone who grew up around animals knows that you develop a special relationship with your pets. One newer study on the child-animal bond shows that not only do these relationships have an impact on positive interpersonal behaviors, but for some kids, they are even stronger than the bond they have with their siblings. But after all, when growing up, aren’t our pets sort of siblings to us?

We all remember the pets we shared time with as children. I am sure that some of us have favorite pet memories that we think about from time to time.

My first pet was a black Cocker Spaniel that we named Pepper. Not setting a good example for his son’s future in the humane field, my dad brought Pepper home as an unexpected Christmas gift, in a shoe box. I don’t know for sure but I think Pepper had been purchased at a pet store. Of course in those days even Montgomery Wards and Sears sold pure bred puppies through their catalogs, so who knows?

I do know that Pepper had all the characteristics of a puppy mill dog. She grew to be about three times the size of a normal cocker spaniel. Her temperament was such that you had to tip-toe past her if she was sleeping, in order to keep all ten toes. One later memory is when my brother was born, Pepper staked claim to the rug under the baby crib. Not realizing the consequence, my older sister let the mail man in to see her baby brother. The mail man left with teeth marks around both ankles even though he wasn’t really stealing my brother, as Pepper thought. When my friends would visit they would stand on the sidewalk and yell my name, fearful of knocking on the front door and having Pepper greet them by bolting through the screen.

Believe it or not, Pepper lived to be 13 years old; regardless of her over protective attitude and her non-compliance to the Cocker Spaniel standard of perfection. She had many positive traits and created many wonderful memories, and a few not so wonderful.

Growing up, I enjoyed many summers staying with my grandparents on their 200 acre farm. They had a dog named Smokey and I had a horse named Clover. Smokey was a fun loving little shaggy rascal that was allowed to run the farmland and intermingle with the cattle and hogs. My grandpa never admitted it, but he truly loved Smokey to death. After the evening chores were done he would give Smokey some time by throwing sticks and playing fetch.
You would think that 200 acres would be enough land for this dog to roam, however one day he crossed the road to check out the neighbor’s farm. Tragically, on his way back Smokey was struck and killed by a car. It was so hard to believe because we would never see over 2 to 3 cars a day on that country road, but Smokey’s timing was obviously off that day.
My grandma and I were shaken terribly and stood there crying while my grandpa was talking with the people in the car. I don’t remember him showing any emotions as they talked about the accident that sealed Smokey’s fate.Later in the day however, I was walking past the barn and saw my grandpa inside holding a paint brush. When I asked him what he was doing he turned, with tears in his eyes and showed me the large cross he had made with the words, “Here Lies Smokey Who Was Too Pokey.”

…he really did love that dog.