That Confounded Dog

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Peggy has announced she intends to retire, and her final farewell column will appear in the April 22 edition. This week features one of her earliest columns, which ran March 14, 1984.

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Some people are fanatics about their pets. They actually treat them like members of the family.

My friends from Baton Rouge are like that. Last summer when they came for an overnight visit, they brought their miniature Schnauzer with them.

That night the friends allowed the dog to sleep on the foot of the guest bed. Imagine.

And you never heard such carrying on over a dog. Babytalk, and all that.

Sure, I had a dog once. But you didn't catch me going ape over him. Chip was a dog and he knew it from day one. At first, my young daughter let the dog sleep in a box by her bedside. He was, after all, only five weeks old. I have to admit he was cute; a tiny curly bundle of snow white hair and a brown button nose.

Sometimes my daughter let Chip sleep on the pillow next to hers. I allowed that small concession only because I didn't want the puppy's whimpers to wake the rest of the family.

Later, the only reason I kept a box of vanilla wafers in the kitchen was because the little nuisance wouldn't "do his tricks" without a cookie reward.

Watching Chip at play, I often remarked that he resembled a little white lamb.

Husband promptly nicknamed him "Goat."

"Daddy, don't you call him a goat," daughter protested time and time again.

I believed in stern discipline, therefore, the dog was forbidden to climb on the furniture..........except for this one chair he claimed as his own.

He liked to sit in that particular chair, looking out the window about the time he sensed the children would be arriving home from school.

After my daughter grew up, married. and left home, Chip took up his sleeping abode with my teenage son. When my son moved into his own apartment, the dog moved into my bedroom, selecting a sleeping spot on the floor near my bedside. Each night I had to tip toe over his sleeping form before I could reach my side of the bed. Of course that blasted dog didn't want to sleep on a hard floor, so I made a bed for him from a pair of my castoff flannel pajamas.

Like I say, I never catered to a pet. Many times, I spanked Chip for leaving the yard without permission. And I didn't tolerate any backtalk when I told him, no, he could not go with me to church (or to the grocery store or to town). Sometimes, of course, I said he could go and he would bound to the door, yipping his pleasure, waiting for me to find my purse and keys.

"Confounded dog," I'd say from time to time as months slipped into years. It seems I was always cleaning up his spilled water or food, letting him in or out of doors, or vacuuming dog hairs off the carpet or clothes. And I tripped over him constantly.

True, I did give him birthday parties. But, sometimes, I didn't even bother baking a cake. Instead I baked cupcakes and stuck candles on them. The ice cream wasn't fancy either, just plain vanilla.

I admit his 16th birthday party ballooned on me. It was supposed to be a simple affair for the immediate family. But when my granddaughter said she thought it would be nice if her dog, Corky, could attend, I grudgingly agreed that would be nice.

Then, as those things often do, the guest list mushroomed. Our neighbor's beagles, Gus and Max, were invited to drop over for cake and ice cream. No gifts, please. And we invited Mitzy, the new "girl" in the neighborhood, who had put a new spark in Chip's old eyes.

Granddaughter and I decided on a patio party with balloons and streamers, party hats and favors. Nothing elaborate, naturally. We didn't bother with a party theme. We certainly never intended that the party reach the society page of the local newspaper, but it did.

When Chip neared his 17th birthday, it became obvious that his life would soon be over. Arthritis had spread throughout his body, his eyes were cloudy and his hearing almost gone. He slept more and more, preferring his bed to the company of the family.

He shivered and sometimes whimpered just as he did when he was a pup. On cold nights, I placed him on a heating pad and covered him with a flannel pajama top. (The heating pad was old and I had been intending to replace it anyway).

There were times when I thought of having him put to sleep to end his pain, but I kept putting it off. But I didn't have to make that decision.

Two weeks before his 17th birthday, Chip walked stiffly into the living room where my husband and I were watching TV.

"Well, look who came out for a visit," I said.

Chip moved first to my husband's recliner for his usual pat on the head and "how's the boy" talk.

Then he moved to my chair and looked at me.

Suddenly, he hit the floor, hard. He struggled to rise, but couldn't. I dropped to his side trying to sooth his desperate cries of pain with my words. He calmed, but his breathing was labored.

My tears fell as I gently stroked that blamed dog's soft white hair. Then he lifted his head, gave one long agonizing howl and lay still, forever.

That beautiful spring night, husband and I buried Chip near a rose bush beneath our bedroom window.

He was always underfoot, but I admit, there are times I miss the "old goat."

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Dedicated to my children