Baby Finis with John

 Finis at 92 with Charlie

    I believe I'm the oldest member of the shelter organization. I read about the group's efforts in the paper and said, "I'd like to join that." Pets have been important in my life.
    My mother always had a dog named Pat. When one Pat died of old age, another dog showed up right away to be the next Pat. Most of my relatives have pets, and we talk about them at family reunions.
    My first dog, John, and I were born on the same day: August 12, 1908, in Noble, Texas. John lived to be 13, and I'm still here. John was a terrific center fielder. My brothers made our own baseballs, so they weren't as hard as regulation balls. John could catch those balls like dogs catch a Frisbee nowadays. I don't know if John was fixed or not. In those days, we didn't think about things like spaying and neutering.
    Princess was my dog for years. Princess was a mix of many breeds, mostly terrier, and she was spayed. My wife and I took her everywhere with us. Wherever we were visiting or traveling, we'd lay out her towel and say, "Princess, get on your rug," and she did. When it was time to put Princess down, I took her to the shelter. I didn't stay, because I knew I'd cry. I cried anyway. We missed Princess when she was gone.
   In 1986, my wife and I got Sabrina when the dog was two or three years old. Sabrina was a beautiful golden retriever mix, and she had been spayed. Sabrina and her pal Bosley came with a California townhouse my daughter rented. The landlords were moving and couldn't take the dogs with them, and my daughter said, "Please let me keep them." But when she moved again, she had trouble renting with two dogs and a cat, so we took Sabrina. Sabrina lived until 1999. One night I let her out to do her business, and she never came back. We never found where she had gone to die. Since then, people have told me, "Oh yes, old dogs do that." But I wish we could have found her body. Then I could be sure no one had stolen her or mistreated her.
    My current dog is Charlie. She has some golden retriever too, but she's a mix. Her mother and the litter were rescued from under an abandoned house near Mineola. "They were covered with fleas," the volunteer told me, "but we saved the mother and most of the puppies." Charlie was five months old when I got her from the shelter, and the next month I took her to be spayed.
    I've lived in Jacksonville since 1932. I hope I live to see a new animal shelter built in this city. We need it so badly.

~ Finis L. Harris, Jr.
August 12, 1908 b July 9, 2003

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