Dogs I have known and loved
Just last weekend we had a mighty upset in our home. Much of that which makes a house so warm and cozy, something that brings a tear to the eye and a sniffle to the nose of the sensitive, had to be removed. The project was a burden to undertake, but we were having company and the effort seemed warranted. It took all morning, but by taking turns and tagging off when exhaustion set in, Lynn and I finally succeed in vacuuming up most of the dog hair from the living room.
I can’t remember being without a dog. From the time I was in elementary school until right now, I’ve had a best friend keep me company. My very first dog was a reddish cocker spaniel named Frisky who came to live with us when we were both 6 -- I in years and he in weeks. It’s hard to imagine a cuter little bundle, but like all furry friends, Frisky grew up fast. On the way we taught him some tricks. He learned to sit up and beg, a trick that we humans finished off by throwing him a treat. He never missed. Snap and gobble and the treat disappeared. One time my father, normally not a teasing type of fellow, told Frisky to sit. Dad threw him a raw oyster, which he caught, swallowed, and regurgitated in a single, seamless motion. Frisky didn’t trust us much after that.
He taught himself another trick. For this trick he would sit very flat on the carpet and stick his hind legs sort of out to each side of his body. Then he would propel himself along the floor with his front legs, pulling his hindquarters along behind him in a wiping motion. He would get a rather contented expression on his face. You know: eyes rolled back and a little doggie smile, tongue lolling to the side.
He was rather selective about performing this particular trick. For example, one time mom had a group of middle age matrons over for an afternoon of bridge and tea. I could tell it was to be a moderately splendid occasion since all the dishes matched and Mom cut the crust off the sandwiches. The ladies were cream of the local society crop and she wanted every thing to be perfect. As an extra precaution she banished Frisky and me from the parlor where the bridge game was to take place. The closest we were allowed was the next room, which we called the music room because it contained our old upright piano. It could be closed off from the parlor by a set of French doors with lots of windows in them. So Frisky and I could see the ladies and they could see us but no further contact was possible.
I laid in a stack of comic books to stave off boredom and Frisky was left to his own devices.
The ladies arrived dressed to the nines (maybe even tens) and the bridge game soon got underway. Mom’s back was to the music room but the three visitors had clear sightlines into the place of our banishment. Shortly after the bridge game got started, Frisky decided to perform. He started at one edge of the room and dragged his little butt right across the carpet in front of the windows in the doors smiling all the while. One of the society ladies looked up, gasped, and dropped her cards. All the other ladies including Mom looked in the direction of the music room only to see me quietly engrossed in my comic book and Frisky nowhere in sight. The bridge game resumed. As soon as it did, Frisky made another butt dragging pass past the doors in the other direction. This time two of the ladies happened to be watching. One of them began to fan herself with her cards and the other said, “That’s sooo disgusting.” The bridge game broke up soon after that and that group of ladies never came back to visit our house. Mom was never invited to their houses either. It was probably for the best anyway. Frisky and I played catch with the leftover sandwiches.
My next best friend was a German Shepherd Dog named Greta. I was married and in graduate school when Greta came to live with us. She was beautiful. I was so proud of her that I took her with me almost everywhere, including my little graduate student office, which I shared with about 8 other people. She liked everyone in the office except Wayne. Wayne was a nervous guy from Wisconsin who had never been around big dogs much. I guess, being from the frozen north as he was, the thought of wolves was never far from his mind. Perhaps his qualms were well founded because every time he got up from his desk, Greta growled menacingly and showed him her large and numerous teeth. Wayne in turn would begin to sweat and breathe funny. This relationship lasted about a year until Wayne decided to go back to Wisconsin where wolves keep themselves at a sensible distance from nervous, jerky humans.
Greta loved to ride in the car with me. She always sat in the passenger seat of my Volkswagen bug. Always. No matter who else was in the car with me. If both my wife (this was a pre Lynn wife) and dog were with me, wife sat in the back seat and dog sat in the front. It was the standing joke around Athens, Ohio—“There goes Don and his wife and dog. I wonder which is which.”
Greta was not the only dog of mine who liked riding in the car. There was Pearl. Pearl was the ugliest dog that ever lived at my house. She liked riding in any moving vehicle—particularly in the pick up truck. She would ride in the bed of the truck and snap at low hanging tree limbs as we passed under them. Our driveway was almost ¾ of a mile long with lots of low hanging limbs. One day after a pretty good rain the branches were hanging particularly low and the temptation was more than Pearl could bear. As we passed under a limb she lept high into the air and actually grabbed the tree in her mouth. She was very strong. She hung on. I kept driving and Pearl kept hanging on. She was still hanging on when I stopped the truck about 20 yards up the road. She looked really surprised to see me and the truck so far away. She tried to express her surprise by barking which freed the tree limb and dropped Pearl to the ground. She was never very enthusiastic about chasing tree limbs after that.