Remember your first pet? - Dr. Marty Becker


Remember your first pet?

Thursday, Apr 9th, 2020 | By Dr. Marty Becker

Marty's first dog Skeeter

Remember your first pet? Of course you do! As you read “first pet,” the memories instantly flooded back with the species, breed, name, color, size, gender, where she/he slept, what games you played, on and on. I’ve asked this question one-on-one in conversations with movie stars, sports heroes, business titans, and politicians during the 17 years I was doing ABC TV’s Good Morning America, and to audiences of both veterinary professionals and the public in groups as large as 8,000.

When I ask people to remember, there’s always a massive exhaust of positive emotion that fills the air or the arena. I don’t how many centers of the brain come alive, if the funny bone or the ten muscles it takes to smile are activated, but I do know the heart swells and the soul does a Dropbox-worthy transfer of snapshots, moving images, sights, sounds, smells, and tactile memories.

As a six-year-old boy, my first dog was a Toy Manchester Terrier named Skeeter, slang for mosquito. This was the early 60s before spay/neuter was widespread, and he sported a set of fuzzy dice disproportionately large for his size. He weighed in soaking wet at 14 pounds, and his testicles belonged on a 44-pound pitbull. Skeeter was the first indoor dog the Becker farm/ranch family ever had. Here are other Skeeter firsts:

  • First dog to only eat commercial dog food
  • First dog we gave all puppy shots and a commercial wormer
  • First dog allowed on living room sofa and chairs
  • First dog to watch TV
  • First dog to sit at his own chair at the dining table
  • First dog to ride inside the car or pickup truck on trips to town or around the property
  • First dog to go on vacation with us (both camping and a cross-country trip from Idaho to Alabama to visit my Mom’s parents
  • First dog to have a bejeweled collar. Riffing off the old Wisk laundry detergent ad, we called it “Bling around the collar.”
  • First dog that we talked to on the phone when away
  • First dog we actively sought out doggy kisses from
  • First dog allowed to sleep in the bed

Skeeter had some unique traits for a dog in rural America in the 1960s. First of all, he ate what we ate at the kitchen table. But before we ate, my Father Bob would yell for Skeeter to pray, and he’d put his paws on the table, head between them, and woof-woof as his head moved up and down. Of course, we cheered him on and gave him tasty morsels afterwards, which made look forward to blessing the food.

He also was the first dog that ever slept in bed with the family, specifically, with me. My single bed (does anybody have those still except in dorms and the military?) was high. Skeeter would coil, leap, land, and burrow under the covers, turning a couple of times at my feet before collapsing in a coil of fur. About halfway through the night, the little furry hot water bottle would infantry-crawl up my body until just his head was under my chin drawing in fresh air.

What I would give to have a photo of that, but I don’t really need one, as the image is so clear in my mind.

I’d love to hear about your first pets!