Friday, January 6, 2012

Dogs

What is it about a dog that attracts me?  They smell bad, they have fleas and occasionally ticks, they scratch, they lick, they bark, they dig, they…  The list is endless, yet for some reason I have a soft spot for dogs.

I’ve had a few dogs over the years.  First was Blackie.  I was 6 years old, and someone gave me a puppy.  Since it was black, I named it Blackie, but the vet called him Elmer, so his name became Blackie-Elmer.  I don’t remember much about this dog except I was afraid of him.  As I recall, the dog loved to bite, and he was good at it.  The other thing he was good at was chasing his tail.  I remember one day he caught it and bit down on it so hard he yelped in pain.  Then he went back to chasing it again.

Blackie-Elmer lasted about 6 months before he “went away.”  I’m quite certain my dad took him to the pound, but I never asked.  I was just glad I could go into the back yard again to play.  But I knew this dog was the exception.  My friends had dogs, and they could play with their dogs.  And so could I for that matter, but I wanted to have one of my own to play with.

Tippie was the second dog.  By this time I was about 12 or 13, and someone driving by stopped and shouted,  “Hey, kid!  Want a dog?”  And Tippie joined our family.  Overall he was a good dog, but we didn’t have a fenced yard, so he ended up on a 20-foot chain attached to a doghouse.  This was not good, and after a short while, Tippie found a new home.

Terri was a stray I took in when I was about eighteen, but it turned out she was very ill and the vet couldn’t save her.  I decided owning a dog was never going to work for me, and I would never own another one.  Then a friend moved away and left me his dog Hubie.

Hubie and I had about 4 months together before he was killed in a hunting accident.  My pain stayed with me a long time.  My friends didn’t know what to do for me.  They tried parties, picnics, amusement parks, etc., but I wasn’t interested.  One of my friends took a wild guess that another dog would be the answer.  She gave me a little ball of white fluff that was taller than he was long.  Larry was his name.  He was half miniature poodle and half toy poodle, and he was not what I wanted, but he was what I needed.

My job had me on the move every day, often several times a day.  I traveled the length and width and breadth of the United States on a regular basis, and Larry couldn’t travel with me very often.  I found a boarding kennel for him to stay in while I was gone, and the owners quickly adopted him as their own, but he knew to whom he belonged.  And I couldn’t get him off my mind.  I called to check on him every day when I was traveling, and they would hold the phone up to him so he could hear my voice.  They said he always responded to me.

Larry was with me for about four years before I moved from Texas to California.  In California my parents took him over.  I don’t know what happened, but suddenly he belonged to them and not me.  The deal was sealed when I got married and the apartment where we lived would not let us have a dog.  About two or three years later, my mother became ill and it was time to find Larry a new home.

I posted a photo and a note on a bulletin board in a feed store near where I worked, and the same day a little, well-aged gentleman contacted me.  The next day Larry was his, and his new name was Lee.

Larry stayed with them until just after the man’s wife passed away.  Soon after her passing, Larry also died.  By this time I had already let him go, more or less.

It was a few years later when Geoffrey came along.  I had helped a couple rebuild their business after a flood had literally wiped them off the map.  As a reward for my efforts, they presented me with a Springer Spaniel puppy.  Not just any puppy, but one with an impressive pedigree.  This time I was in a position to spend a lot of time with him.

As he grew, my wife and I took the time to properly train him for obedience and for hunting.  Actually, there was little we could do to train him for the hunt.  He was a natural.  And he was one fantastic dog.  But circumstances changed and we had to give him up.  Geoffrey was destined to spend many years in dog ecstasy.  We gave him to a breeder specializing in Springer’s for hunters and show.  And once again I made up my mind I would never own another dog.

Well, that was 30 years ago, and I’ve successfully avoided owning another dog all these years.  Sort of.  We’ll talk about Biggie later.

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