A friendly feud by
(48 Stories)

Prompted By Family Feud

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Yoyo, Charlie, and George are fixated on — what else — me eating.

  • When the weather turns cold

  and the skies turn gray

The indoors becomes our outdoors

  and our minds give way. 

Don’t bother Googling that ditty, because you won’t find it. But it does fit Anne and me and the trouble we often get into around this time of year. It’s when we become bored, and it’s the kind of boredom that could lead to a family feud, were it not for two saving graces:

  1. We both love animals. (but we disagree on how many is enough)
  2. Anne has a wonderful sense of humor (but nothing. It has probably saved us from divorce)
Nearly every winter, it seems, my wife and I engage in a friendly feud about how many pets are enough.

The dangerous months

As I scroll back in time, through the three-month span of December through February, I realize these are the months that so many of our 25 dogs and 5 cats have come into our lives over our 22+ years of marriage.

Anne and Blue

During these months, Anne and I choose to beat those winter blues by combing through the websites for discarded pets, finding the most doe-eyed of the bunch, then going and adopting them.

Anne is usually the troublemaker who gets the ball rolling. But nearly always, once the new animal has won my heart, I’m glad she is, and does.

Anne and I met online, back on New Year’s Eve 1999, and our coming together gave new meaning to the oft-stated dating post requirement, “Must love dogs.”

Still, during my times of protest over adding yet another dog, there is a tinge of tension around our place. It lasts until I see the error of my ways in doubting Anne’s sanity. It’s hard to stay angry with a woman who knows how to make you laugh.

In spite of herself

It’s not that Anne doesn’t know that the last thing we need is another dog or cat. It’s not like I’ve lost track of the number of sane moments when she has pleaded with me, “Jim, if I ever start talking about getting another dog, please just shoot me. OK?!”

Although I’ve never seriously thought about doing that, there have been times when I pondered padlocking the doors of our home from the inside and melting down the key.

The honors list

That said, the latest three adoptees, our Foxhound George and our English Setter Blue, have proven to be worthy successors to their long line of ancestors who have since crossed the famed rainbow bridge. Those dearly departed were dogs like Margie and Charlie, the two Golden Retrievers who still claim large pieces of our hearts.

Charlie and me

The two Maggies

Then there was Maggie, who caused a vacuous vet tech to become vexed when we boarded both Maggie and her sister (of the same name) at the same time.

“But how will we tell them apart?” she actually asked. “I mean, they do have the same name!

We’re talking about a reddish Chow and a very black Lab here.

Feeling sorry for her, we lowered the vet tech’s stress level by color-coding the two Maggie names.: Red Maggie and Black Maggie.

“Oh, thank you!” the grateful young woman gushed.

Then there was Hazel, the rescued cat who warmed up to us more like a dog would, and who helped us raise every pup we brought home during her lifetime. Hazel is the cat who made me rethink my skepticism about felines.

More logs on the fire

So these three latest additions, Yoyo, George, and Blue have kept the great-dog tradition alive in our home.

The first of these three is a greyhound who came to us as a young retiree from the track in Tijuana. Before she reached the age of 2, she had already convinced her owners she was in the wrong career.

After scanning her racing record and seeing the number of times she was marked as “DNF” (did not finish), we knew we had to call this lovable dog, Yoyo. I mean, she would just stop flat in mid-race and return to the starting gate.


As for George, he has the best eye contact of any dog I’ve ever had. So many times have we stared into each others eyes, I could swear we are talking to each other and understand each other perfectly.

Blue is the latest boarder at Willis Farms and, quite possibly, the zaniest and neediest dog I’ve ever met. This is a dog who would just lay down and die if she didn’t have a family showing her unbounded affection, 24/7. She is absolutely wonderful.

Boredom blossoms

All three are perfect examples of how our boredom in the early winter months has resulted in making ours an even happier home, in addition to helping boost the value of Ralston-Purina on the New York Stock Exchange.

Still every time I head over to Costco, as I’m doing tomorrow, to pick up another 40-pound bag of dog food and a giant box of 120 Greenies to see us through next week, I wonder if this is what a septuagenarian  couple really should be doing.

A painful step

I think about times like last month when I was recovering from knee surgery, yet still taking the three dogs for daily walks, all at the same time. On this particular day, Yoyo the Greyhound spotted a rabbit dashing across the street. Perhaps remembering what she was bred for, she took off after it.


Unfortunately, this happened at the moment I was in mid-stride, stepping off the curb into the street. Yoyo (followed by George and Blue) bolted, my leg (the bad one) came down hard on the street, and my recovery was set back a couple weeks.

In the back of my mind was Anne’s oft-uttered plea: “Jim, if I ever start talking about getting another dog, please just shoot me!”

“Nah,” I said to myself. “Wouldn’t do any good.”

The word has long since gone out about us to all dogs and cats in need of rescue: “Check in with these two first!”

Back to the feud...

I know, I know … this reflection is supposed to be about feuds instead of a lovestruck family of humans and animals, Well, Anne and I are probably a couple months away from our next squabble over dogs and cats.


Then again, maybe not. Anne just told me she has found a site offering Black Friday deals on Collie puppies. She’s got that look in her eyes and, as I’m looking down at Yoyo, she is covering hers with a paw.

Just great.

Profile photo of Jim Willis Jim Willis
I am a writer, college professor, and author of several nonfiction books, including three on the decade of the 1960s. Several wonderful essays of gifted Retrospect authors appear in my book, "Daily Life in the 1960s."

Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. Wow Jim, your tale (tail?) reminds me of a conversation I once had with my friend Barbara.
    We had just met as new teaching colleagues and somehow starting talking about pets.

    “We have a cat,” I told her, “and altho I do love animals, for us one is enough. And I certainly think anyone who has more than two is nuts! How many do you have?”

    “Four”, she said.

    • Jim Willis says:

      Dana, the thing that really amazes me is that Anne does such a great job making sure our home is kept so clean, visitors are always amazed when it smells so fresh and looks so unlike the kennel it is! When we have guests over, as we will for a Christmas party soon, we always hang a sign on our front door. It reads, “Must Love Dogs.”

      • Sweet Jim, how many do you actually have?

        We have a sign on our front door that says, DON’T LET THE CAT OUT NO MATTER WHAT IT TELLS YOU!

        • Jim Willis says:

          Dana, we have three at the moment, plus three cats. When the dogs get bored, they start noticing the cats and the circus begins. Your sign reminds me of a cat we used to have called Bunker. She was a rescue and she was quarantined back in a corner cage at the shelter by herself. Since she wasn’t sick, that should have been a red flag to potential adopters. We of course ignored the flag, took her home, and she starting chewing up every electrical cord she could get her teeth on. It’s the one cat we had to return, but we’d go back and see her regularly. One day we noticed a sign on her cage. It read, “Do NOT, under any circumstances, let this cat out unsupervised!” We asked about that and were told Bunker had chewed through a cord supplying power to a life-support machine for a dog in surgery.

  2. Dave Ventre says:

    Dogs and cats are, IMHO, preferable to most people.

    Point of order; I am not sure that greyhounds are actually dogs, and not very large cats working undercover. We are on our second, a big black tuxedo-patterned male. He has some bad habits that greyhounds are not generally known for; resource guarding and aggressive territoriality toward other dogs and people (including us on occasion).

    And they are powerful! Soon after we adopted him, on 7/4, a firework went off not too far away and he bolted. Since he was attached to me, he yanked me right off my feet and dragged me through a pile of gravel left for street repairs. Many cuts and scrapes resulted…but he was unscathed!

    But we do so love the breed.

    • Jim Willis says:

      Thanks, Dave. I agree greyhounds can be quirky, although the one trait they all share is that they are the world’s fastest couch potatoes. We had one who insisted on waking us up each morning at 3 a.m. to go outside and pee. Every single morning. We had to install a back door in our bedroom so one of us could just reach over and let her out and in. Another huge male was a voracious counter surfer. One loved to race her brother around a nearby track but always felt it was his job to finish second. But Yoyo has been one of the most stable and serene of the bunch. I guess it’s paid off: she is 12 and still loves her daily walks!

  3. Suzy says:

    Lovely story, Jim, and if this is the only thing that you and Anne “feud” about, you are a lucky man! Guess I will not be coming to your house though, because, while I am okay with dogs, I certainly do not love them, so your sign would keep me away.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Lovable story, Jim. I really enjoyed the way you introduce us to Anne and the need for animals to shake off the winter blues. Each of your dogs is so distinctive. Glad that the rabbit chase didn’t set your knee recovery back too much. But getting a collie? Really? I’m not sure you and Anne will “feud” over this, but send a photo to our group if another lovable pooch winds up in your homestead. I have a funny feeling about this.

    • Jim Willis says:

      Thank you, Betsy. You’re right about the distinctive personalities of our boarders. Anne and I must give out positive vibes and a sense of security, because the animals have nearly always (I’m thinking of a two exceptions named Yuki and Mr. Stubblefield) gotten along well together. And our three current cats even share the pallets with the dogs at night!

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    As the parent of a vet who never met a messed up dog she didn’t bring home, I get it. Right now, in addition to her blended family of 6 kids, she has 4 dogs and 2 cats. The latter happened because a client gave her a pregnant cat to board in her basement until it gave birth. She thought this would be fun for the kids, but I knew what was coming. The owner claimed the mother cat and a kitten, another vet took a second kitten. And then there were two. The kittens are adorable but not ready to deal with the dogs upstairs yet. It’s quite a circus!

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    A sense of humor and love of animals might just heal the world, let alone mid-winter doldrums. Your extended family sounds lovely. Great story.

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