Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dog Daze

The other day, after making sure I was sitting, Jeanette announced that she was ready to start looking for a dog. As fate would have it, I uncharacteristically became the voice of reason, asking her to consider the economic side of the proposition. She said she understood and that she was concerned about Jackson’s anger issues and that she thought a dog might serve to moderate that. I agreed, all the while suppressing the urge to jump for joy. I think rescuing a puppy could be just what this family needs right now.

Dogs were a big part of my life as a boy. When we lived on Whitewood Road, a beautiful stray appeared one day. He was tan and white with a nose the color of liverwurst. My mother, in her literary brilliance, named the dog “Tandog,” as original a dog’s name as I’ve heard to this day.

“Tanny,” as we called him (a little confusing at times, as I was known as Danny then) was a career stray. He allowed us to think of him as our dog for a couple of years, before exiting from our lives just as quickly as he’d entered it. I don’t remember much about him, except that he was quiet and had a calm demeanor. If there’s an existing photo of him anywhere in this world, I don’t know where it is. But I’ve got him in my memory, his image as clear as day.

Then there was Bo Bo, pictured here. We answered an ad in the local paper, the Reporter Dispatch, which read “Lovable Puppy.” His owner, a pretty woman, as I recall, was going away to college, or a new job, where they didn’t allow dogs. Mike and I played with him in their yard, and it didn’t take long for us to make our decision.

He wasn’t a “puppy” in the most literal sense. He was probably about a year old – fully grown and housebroken. He was a long-haired mongrel, and when people asked what breed he was, my father called him a “dogfood commercial mutt,” which was pretty accurate. He was, supposedly, a mix of schnauzer and Old English sheepdog.

The day he came home with us, he sniffed around our home nervously, every once in a while looking out the window, as if wondering where he was. It took him a day or two to settle in, and then he became the fifth member of our family.

A few weeks later the young woman who’d owned Bo contacted us to let us know her plans to move had fallen through. I was too young to understand the emotional complexities of the situation, but my parents had her over to “visit” Bo. As the story goes, she watched him running and playing with Mike and me in the back yard and made the decision that Bo would be happier with us. I have a dim recollection of her sitting on our back porch crying and being consoled by my parents. Then she left, and I never saw her again.

Bo was not always perfectly “lovable” as the girl’s ad had claimed. He was overly aggressive at times, antagonizing the other dogs on our street. There was Smokey on one side, a beautiful Norwegian Elkhound who belonged to my best friend Miki. On the other there was Deero, a Dalmatian who simply enraged our dog. He even jumped through a plate-glass window once.

But he was also quite sweet and gentle at times. He was with us from the time I was about six until my freshman year in college in 1981. Thankfully, I was spared his passing, but it was hard on my brother, who was especially attached to our dog.

We’re hoping to choose a dog from our local animal shelter, probably around the third week in August, when we return from our weekend in San Antonio. Then our lives will change forever, and for the better.

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