The Dogs of my Youth
One day mom brought home a puppy. We called it Honey Patch because of its markings. All I remember is that it cried all night and shat all day. It didn’t last long. At that age I’m pretty sure I did the same thing, but they didn’t get rid of me.
It was summer when King the Collie arrived. He showed up all on his own. He knew how to cross the street, I didn’t. He had no collar and no one had reported him missing. He just walked up to the front door and came inside. Orange, brown, and white with majestic flowing hair and kind brown eyes. The strong, silent type, he rarely said a word. He stayed with us for a while, but one day he decided his visit was over and moved on.
Spot was my sister’s dog. My aunt and uncle foisted him off on us when they couldn’t deal with his neuroses. They didn’t tell us that. Spot was king of the high-strung Dalmatians. He came from a long line of champions and was the most beautiful Dalmatian anyone had ever seen. His fatal flaw was that he had a little bit of pink coloration on his nose, so he couldn’t compete. Dalmatians must have completely black noses be show dogs. That was ostensibly the reason my aunt and uncle got rid of him – he couldn’t be shown or bred. I suggested we could fix him with a magic marker. His full name was “Johnny on the Spot”, but we called him either “Spot,” or “Spot on the johnny” because he liked to drink from the toilet. One day I was playing with a toy that made an annoying whizzing sound. It drove Spot crazy. After a while he couldn't take it any more, so he bit me. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that biting me was his fatal flaw.
My first dog was Seymour. Nearly 60 pounds of torso covered in acres of smelly brown and white coat, Seymour was the biggest English basset hound our vet had ever seen. His legs were so short they were almost vestigial. In his later days he needed a push to get running… unless he spied a female German shepherd. One whiff of shepherd and Seymour was transformed into super-dog. None of us could image what he expected to do if he ever caught one. We assumed it was the legs that turned him on. Seymour lived well beyond the normal life expectancy for a Basset; based on the smell we were pretty sure he’d been dead for a long time before a car helped him on to that place in the sky where bassets endlessly frolic with shepherds.
After I moved out of my parent’s house, my Aunt and Uncle entered the picture again. They convinced my mother that she really needed a dog to keep her company and for protection. Careful study of a multitude of dog books indicated that black Labrador retrievers were the most faithful dogs. My mother found a breeder where she bought “Truffle” for a small fortune - plus kennel, food, drugs, collars, leashes, bones, beds, combs, and special doggy toothbrushes.
Truffle loved my mother. Oh did he love her. She was the apple of his eye, his sun, his moon, and his stars. He loved her with the simple, unquestioning love that only a puppy can possess. And he loved the vitamin enriched, protein fortified puppy chow. And he grew. And grew. And grew. Before long my 5-foot tall, 100-pound mother had a 75-pound puppy that loved her. Truffle would stand on his hind legs, put his front legs on my mother’s shoulders and try to lick her face. In short order he would knock her over. People would come to the house to find my mother on the ground with Truffle ecstatically licking her face.
One day Truffle chased a car. The car won. Truffle broke his left front leg, which the vet dutifully set and bound in a cast. Thereafter people coming to the house were likely to find my mother flat on her back with Truffle licking her face while simultaneously clubbing her with his cast. The breeder cheerfully accepted Truffle back, free of charge, complete with kennel, food, drugs, collars, leashes, bones, beds, combs, and special doggy toothbrushes.
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