I’ve thought about writing blogs about the dogs in my life for a long time. Tonight seems like a good time, and rescue dogs, a good topic. I cheer every time someone rescues a dog; I’ve long been active on the lost-and-found circuit on Facebook, though it seems to me I see fewer postings lately. I could hardly bear it when I used to see pleas for help for dogs due to be euthanized within 12 hours and the like. But I admit it: I’m a failure at rescue dogs.
As a very young child, I was afraid of dogs. When I was an infant, my parents had a Scottie that was jealous of me, so jealous she snapped at my face and ran away. It wasn’t the first time she’d run, but this time my folks just let her go. That seems unthinkable to me now, but it was a different time and place, and they were different people. They liked dogs, but they weren’t that concerned with their welfare in the way I am.
Anyway, someone made the mistake of later telling me about this incident, and I was immediately afraid of dogs. I outgrew it, due in large part to a wild collie mix my brother brought home (a rescue dog, I’m sure). Timmy (she) was wild, crazy, gentle and loveable, and I loved that dog. Timmy disappeared from our lives—I have no idea what happened to her. She may well have died and I was sheltered from the fact. But more about her another night, because I have wonderful memories.
When I was about eight or so, my parents bought me a rescued English cocker named Rusty for his red coat. They knew I longed for a blonde cocker spaniel, but somehow they didn’t see the dissonance between Rusty and a delicate pale blonde American cocker. Rusty was stocky, not particularly attractive, and not particularly loving. In his previous life he had apparently been abused by someone in uniform, because when brother John came home from military school, in uniform, the dog attacked him ferociously. A well-placed kick from John saved the uniform and the brother.
Rusty developed a lump on his shoulder, a big lump. If I touched it, he growled, so I didn’t try that but once or twice. I don’t know if the folks took him to the vet or not, but he probably went downhill. One morning Mom found him at the basement door—he had died trying to get outside. I was sorry, sad, but I had never really had a relationship with Rusty. The idea of bonding, forming relationships with a dog, was yet to come in my life.
I compensated for the blonde cocker I never got by writing my first series of short stores, probably at the age of ten or twelve. The central figure was a Victorian spinster lady named Miss Shufflebaum. She had a blonde cocker spaniel named Taffy who got her into all kinds of trouble, like pulling her down on the ice. My mom kept those stories, on lined paper in childish writing, for a long time and I eventually got them; when I was in my thirties or so an artist friend did some illustrations that perfect caught my vision of Miss Shufflebaum. Alas, too many moves later, I've lost both stories and drawings, but they remain clear in my mind. Taffy is one of the dogs I've loved.
Next: Luke, the rescue dog that broke my heart.