|My Buddy: Cubby
| Cubby History
Cubby was born on 8/30/92 to Buddy and Goldie, both owned by the Kevin Smith family in southwest Chicago. There were
eight puppies, one female that the family kept and seven males. We narrowed it down to the two quietest puppies, then
picked Cubby because he was the more affectionate when we picked him up; very scientific. I had to find an ATM to get $275
(best money I ever spent) and I held Cubby as we brought him home on Halloween. I remember it was on a Saturday that
Cubby was named after my Wichita cousins’ Collie when I was young. He, in turn, was named after my mother’s family dog
when she was young. Cubby is, of course, a popular name in Chicago, especially as our house was less than half of a mile
from Wrigley Field. But that was just a happy coincidence. Because we got Cubby on Halloween, I thought of the word “boo,”
which made me think of Yogi Bear’s friend, Boo-Boo, from old cartoons. Cubby’s AKC registered name is Cubby Boo-Boo
Bear, which for some reason tends to make serious dog folks laugh.
We planned to crate train Cubby during the day when we were away and at night, but the latter plan changed the first night.
As soon as he cried when alone at night, we brought him upstairs. He was so well behaved that after a month or two he had
run of the house when we were away, but we kept the crate in the kitchen and he continued to use it as his “den,” taking
treats there and going there for naps. I remember Cubby’s first winter as being cold and snowy.
When he was six months old, we took an obedience class. The instructor was a big, fat guy who owned Chihuahuas and
intimidated all of the dogs. After that class, I took Cubby to a more serious obedience school in Evanston, where many of the
owners showed their dogs in obedience. I entered Cubby in a couple of shows in northwestern Illinois and we made a
weekend of it, visiting Galena. As I recall, he came in 3rd both times. I also entered Cubby in a really big show in Cleveland,
which I combined with a visit to friends there.
It was an extremely hot summer day, almost too hot for the dogs. There were so many dogs entered that there was a long
wait. I made friends with a family showing their Golden and they let us sit in the shade of their camper. As I recall, they
called out the winners starting with 4th place and I was surprised and delighted when Cubby came in 1st.
Besides obedience, I showed him a couple of times in “breed.” I was so ignorant about it that I entered him in more than
one class (which is a no-no); and even with some last-minute training by an experienced show dog handler I was quite
awkward. But we had a fun time, with our friend Clark visiting from St. Louis. Cubby won his class (As I recall, he was the
only one entered) but not anything further.
Cubby had a regular social circle. Every morning, I drove him to a spot in Lincoln Park where his friends met. We kept that
up for a couple of years. He also had neighborhood friends, canine and human, from our walks. His best friend was Nancie’
s dog Bugs. I was extremely depressed during that period and Cubby basically kept me going.
After obedience, we got his Canine Good Citizenship, then his therapy dog certification. We regularly visited Children’s
Hospital, making rounds from room to room. We also did a session at night, in the gymnasium, with the psychiatric inpatient
kids. Essentially what I did was to train the kids to train Cubby (sit, fetch, stay, heel, etc.), which gave them a sense of
accomplishment and empowerment. We also worked a summer camp program for severely handicapped (mentally or
We regularly visited a nursing home, making rounds from room to room. We made some good friends there and it was sad
when they passed away. We had some successes such as when an uncommunicative patient would suddenly open up, or
a patient seemingly crippled with arthritis would suddenly begin using their hands, after contacting Cubby. We also went to
another nursing home with Nancie to sing carols on Christmas eve.
One day I saw an ad in the newspaper for a local talent agent specializing in animals, aptly named Beauty and the Beast. I
sent some photos, including that great one of Cubby bounding out of Lake Michigan with a stick in his mouth. After some
months, I got a call for our first assignment. Cubby primarily did print ads, mostly for furniture, with major department stores.
Unlike many of the animals, who were not necessarily social or well trained, Cubby was easy to work with. Mostly they just
wanted him to sit or lay in one spot and, with his “stay” experience from obedience shows, that was easy for him to do. He
was the most working animal model in Chicago. We did one TV ad, with Grant Hill (then of the Pistons), for McDonald’s.
Grant Hill was impressed with Cubby and asked me to go to Detroit to train his two Lab puppies.
Cubby was so well behaved that his exceptions were remarkably few. I do recall that he was not happy when I started
working outside the house. He demonstrated that once by chewing some of his obedience ribbons, which was ironic.
When I moved to Atlanta, I tried to recreate Cubby’s activities. But their therapy work here was not as sophisticated; and there
was no animal talent agent.
Shortly after we moved here, I received a call from the owners of Holly (also known as Mrs. Cubby). I had met them one time
when Cubby was working a big dog show on behalf of Rainbow Therapy Dogs and a woman came up to us and admired
him so much. She wanted to breed her Holly with Cubby. I drove back to Chicago when Holly came into heat. It was the first
time for each of them and Holly’s mom tried to help things out by holding Holly’s tail to the side, but somehow in doing so
she sprained Holly’s tail. So the breeding had to take place impersonally, with a vet getting sperm from Cubby and
immediately injecting it into Holly. Cubby had the hots for Holly and it used to be that he got excited whenever we spoke her
There were five puppies, three boys and two girls. My friend Nancy, the zookeeper, did a temperament test at seven weeks.
Holly’s family kept the biggest boy. He looked the most like Cubby, although he may have ended up much larger.
After that, I froze Cubby’s sperm from time to time in CA (Synbiotics). I read about animal cloning and, in its early days, had
Cubby’s DNA samples taken and shipped to TX (Genetic Savings & Clone) once when Cubby was undergoing surgery.
Cubby has a microchip (AVID) implanted between his shoulders.
A couple of years ago, I asked the folks at Washington University in St. Louis, where I had established a scholarship in my
mom’s name, what they would think of a “Cubby Boo-Boo Bear Scholarship.” They did not bat an eye about the name. It is
for a student whose work enhances the human-other animal interaction in a positive way. That last part is meant to exclude
animal testing. For example, the first recipient was a woman majoring in Anthropology, who worked part-time and during
vacations as a veterinary technician. Now we are planning to make it an endowed scholarship. Charitable contributions
can be made to the Cubby Boo-Boo Bear Leona May Matassarin Portnoy Scholarship at Washington University, by check
or credit card, through Donna Battershell, Campus Box 1210, Washington University, One Brookings Dr., St. Louis, MO
63130; telephone 314-935-5219. Thank You.