a dog’s life

there’s a post over at Abby-K9’s that sparked some old childhood memories tonight.

When I was 5 I was late to class one morning because my father’s german shepherd mix had a litter of pups. It was neat that I got to take puppies to show and tell that week. Living in the country and coming from a farming background, my dad seized the moment and kind of explained the whole idea of reproduction. I say ‘kind of’ because well, he’s a DAD, and I was 5. That took some of the shine off the situation, newborn pups are fun to a 5 yr old, but not as a teaching aid. Still, not every kid in kindergarten can say he’s delivered puppies, not even in a farming community.

At some point it was decided that I could keep one.

This was huge. I could keep a puppy!! Just like Dad! A 5 yr old just doesn’t have the working vocabulary to express that level of awesomeness. This is why we have hugs. (I’m pretty sure this decision was made without consulting mother. Mother is/was petrified of 99% of everything that walked or crawled the earth; horses being the lone exception.)

There were 6 to choose from. In some freak twist of weirdness there were 3 with normal length tails, 2 with short half tails and 1 with a bobbed tail. Sorting out the oddball took all of about 3 seconds and naming him Bob Dog, while taxing my brain to the limit, still brought me in under 5 minutes.

Later on it was determined that the name “Bob Dog”, while genius in its simplicity and accuracy, was completely inadequate for mother’s disciplinary system. One cannot stand at the door and scream at someone with no middle name. There are simply not enough syllables to convey the appropriate amount of discontent. So, “Bob Dog” became “Robert J. Dog” about 10 seconds after he learned to dig up flowers. “Robert” rolls off the tongue much better than “Bobby” at high volume.

My memories of Bobby as a pup are pretty limited. Mom grew up in town and had 2 terms for critturs: 1) horse and 2) filthy animal. Dad grew up on a farm and had 2 terms for critturs:  1) livestock and 2) farmhand. I was apparently struck by lightning or dropped repeatedly as a child because I had my own terms for critturs: 1) best friend and 2) parents.

I wasn’t allowed to keep my filthy animal in mother’s house. Money was rarely allocated for the vet or shots, but we grew up together and looked out for each other. I had to go to school and he roamed the back roads. We put up fence and he learned to climb over it, so he got chained to a post in an effort to keep him from visiting the neighbors or being run over. I could let him run in the yard when I was home, but life and parents kept him on a chain and me doing other things much of the time. Dad and I built him a nice doghouse with plenty of insulation and fancy aluminum siding. It had a nice muddy basement that Bobby excavated himself and in the winter I snagged a bale of hay out of the barn so he’d be extra snug.

I was not introduced to the idea of ‘training’ until much later in life and as a youngster I considered myself an over-achiever because my dog knew his name and would come running when I whistled. He knew enough to not chase the livestock, got along with the cats, could ride in the car without barfing and was smart enough to learn which parts of dad’s motorcycle were too hot to jump up on. He didn’t bark unless something noteworthy was going on and I never heard him growl at anyone.

The closest I’ve been to seriously damaging someone was the day I caught my brother’s friends throwing rocks at my dog. Lets just say I was still angry hours later after I’d located and confronted the parents and explained the consequences should their idiot children not learn from the day’s lessons. Up to that day I’d always considered my brother to be mostly harmless and completely useless. Knowing that he brought people to the house and let them abuse my pet is not something I’ve dwelled on over the years but I know even today, if he were on fire I’d probably try to put it out with rocks.

I can still remember the discussions with the family when I was going off to college. Bobby couldn’t go. Mother had moved out and of course her home was still anti filthy animal. Dad wasn’t in a position to worry about a dog food bill when he was fighting for custody of his children. Can’t have a dog in the dorms at the U. What to do? Bob Dog was 12 ish and that’s pretty good for an old dog in the country. The official story is that he went off to some shirt-tail relation’s acreage in a different part of the farm country to live out his years in peace and quiet. Yeah, I know. It’s been used before and it’ll get used again.

Posted on August 3, 2009, in parenting, pets. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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