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Evelyn R. Smith: Passion can't be fenced in

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- We saw him the day he was born, one of five pups in a litter, at the home of good friends.

At 3 weeks of age he licked our faces, and with tail wagging, piddled all over us. At 5 weeks he yelped his head off when we started to leave, making it plain that he wanted to go with us. So, tucked beneath an arm, we brought him home.

Thus, came Fitzgerald, an English cocker spaniel, into our lives. The thing we noticed most about him all his life long was that regardless of the circumstances, his energy was boundless and his tail never stopped wagging.

To calm him down, we enrolled him in obedience classes. That didn't work.

Full of life, Fitz loved the ladies, and he fell in love with Twinkle, a little mixed breed next door. When she came into heat, Fitz broke through the neighbors' basement window to get to his beloved. She had six pups.

For the next two years, folks called from miles away to come get our amorous dog. By that time, had his offspring been lined up, I think his pups would have reached from our home in Charleston to the nearby town of Elkview. Something had to be done, or he was apt to be shot on one of his trysts.

Our veterinarian, Dr. Gordon Phillips, suggested we neuter Fitz. "He can't keep his mind on obedience training," said Doc, "when all he ever thinks about is girls." Soon, Fitz was on the operating table at Phillips Animal Hospital. He left a couple of hours later, tail still wagging. It was over -- we thought.

Neutering, along with obedience training, succeeded in bringing a measure of self-control and discipline into his life. He became a devoted, loving and obedient member of the family. And his tail never stopped wagging.

Fitz loved to travel with us. It didn't matter if he were in our car, on a train or in a canoe. He just liked to go. We traveled to 44 states with him, enjoying every new place.

In the early part of 1967, Union Carbide sent my husband, Ted, to the Union Carbide plant in Texas City, Texas, for 18 months. Fitz and I went along. Our leased home had a large yard with a 3-foot-high open-wire fence around it. Fitz was completely at home.

When we walked Fitz, we would take him by our neighbor's house across the street, where Mitsy, a darling little cocker spaniel, lived. She would greet us from behind her own 3-foot-high, open-wire fence. Mitsy and Fitz visited by rubbing their noses together through openings in the fence. All was well. Until ...

One morning my neighbor called, frantic and angry. "Fitz is in our backyard with Mitsy, and I don't want my dog to have pups!" she yelled."

I responded that it couldn't possibly be Fitz in her backyard because he was now 12 years old, arthritic and had been neutered at age 2. "I'll be right over," I said.

In her backyard, with little Mitsy, was Fitz. They now knew each other intimately.

I couldn't believe that our dog, in his arthritic old age, had jumped both our fence and our neighbor's fence to visit his girlfriend. But clearly he had.

I suggested she call the Texas City Animal Clinic. "The veterinarian who takes care of Fitz will assure you that he is neutered and cannot father puppies," I said.

Dr. Carroll calmed my neighbor down. "Yes, Fitz was neutered years ago," he said, "and while I've never heard of a neutered male animal mating with a female, one thing I am certain of is that your dog will not have Fitz's puppies."

I took Fitz back across the street to our home. Tail wagging furiously, he was grinning ear to ear.

Greatly puzzled, I sent a letter to Doc Phillips, asking how in the world it was possible for Fitz to mate with a female when he had been neutered more than 10 years before. A week later came a postcard with an explanation:

"Good memory. Love, Doc."

Evelyn R. Smith, of Charleston, may be emailed at erstrs@aol.com.


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