Shishka was a tubby Samoyed with a polar bear look and an adorable personality. She was well cared-for and her white coat always clean and fluffy. She was owned by the Rays, who lived on the lake side of the Boulevard. But in a way, Shishka was everybody’s dog. All the kids in Mountain Lakes treated her like their own pet. She had the run of the town and was welcome everywhere. I guess we had no leash laws in the early fifties.
I was eight in 1954, so my sister Mary was six and my brother Joe was four. We were exploring the woods near “Big Rock” on Laurel Hill Road when we ran into her, sniffing around, maybe tracking a chipmunk.
“Shishka!” we shouted.
And she romped and bounded, as a dog does who has just found a playmate. We spent the rest of the day trekking through the woods with her and brought her back to our house up on Tower Hill Road.
Dad’s pointer, Chloe, had died months before and we didn’t have a dog that summer so we asked Mom, “Can Shishka stay over? She won’t be any trouble.”
Shishka asked too, panting and wagging.
So Mom called Mrs. Ray and got permission for Shishka to spend the night. We missed having a dog, so we all made a fuss over her and petted her a lot. She slept in my room, and the next morning, Dad delivered her back home to the Rays. Shishka was the only dog I knew of who came by herself to stay overnight the way a kid does.
Soon after, Dad drove out to the Montclair Welfare Animal League and paid ten dollars for an English Setter named “Buddy” who could go hunting with him and Grandpa at the Troy Hills Game Association. Buddy was a nice enough pet and had “a good nose for pheasants” but not much personality. He could never have been “everybody’s dog.”
Tony Fennelly lived at 69 Tower Hill Road until her family moved from Mountain Lakes in 1960. She is an Edgar-nominated writer of mysteries who has lived in New Orleans since 1969.