Dogs and me—we go WAY back! My memory bank contains a dog yarn or two, and I plan on recounting a few. Here’s the first, BUT, be warned! This story may not be fit for dog lovers, but sometimes, a boy's gotta do what a boy's gotta do! Enjoy if you dare:
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with dogs ever since I was old enough to watch “Lassie” on TV. From the time I was 8 years old, I pled endlessly with my parents for a puppy. But alas, my dad was raised around farm dogs, and he considered them unsanitary and unfit for indoor life with people. If you've ever been on a farm and watched them, you'll understand just why he thought them so repugnant. I visited our family farm several times in the 60s and 70s, and I was amazed to watch the half-wild farm dogs follow closely behind young calves and small lambs, with the express purpose of gobbling up their freshly dropped dung. Yuck!
Still, I never stopped bugging my parents for a puppy. The problem is that we were a military family, always on the move, and my father argued that it just wasn’t practical to keep a dog, no matter how small. Finally, he relented; for in 1968 we moved into our very own house in San Antonio, Texas, complete with a fenced-in yard. One day, my dad brought home an adorable little dachshund puppy. We named him Buster.
I loved that little fellow, but I quickly learned that my dad had been right all along. From Buster I found out that dogs bark incessantly, and worse, they defecate and urinate where they shouldn’t, which is basically EVERYWHERE they happen to be when the urge arises. Furthermore, I learned that dogs attract ticks and fleas, they chew up shoes and garden hoses, or anything else that you would prefer they NOT destroy. And once you fall in love with them, they die. Buster was My first and last dog; I've never wanted another one. (check out Buster's story in my "Uncle Mike Memories). Oh, we had more dogs after my dad retired and we moved to Michigan, but I never considered those dogs mine. They were the family's.
But my life with dogs did not end with my beloved Buster. After my dad retired from the service, we moved to the small Michigan town of Birch Run. Not too long after our final move, I became a runner for my high school. Farms encircled our place just outside of town, and that meant I had to learn to defend myself from biting, yapping dogs as I did my training runs past the many farmsteads.
It was in Michigan that I also started my adolescent career as a paperboy, and THAT destined me to have to deal with the enmity of every dog on my extensive paper route. However, there was one particularly unruly mongrel terrier that REALLY hated me. He was small, mean, and covered with dark wiry hair, but mostly I remember his teeth.
Every afternoon as I peddled past his owner’s house, he would sprint out on stubby legs, and yelp nonstop, all while snapping at my right foot and tugging at and shredding my pant legs. During all this minor mayhem, I peddled furiously, trying to get away from my pintsized tormentor. At times, he’d get lucky and sink his nasty needle-sharp teeth into flesh. I’d kick at his tough little head, but I rarely connected satisfactorily. After two years of suffering through this daily ordeal, something happened that interrupted our mutually hateful relationship.
The fateful day started like any other, but I sensed a change in the air. Just a day earlier, my furry little adversary had managed to draw considerable blood from my leg just above my right ankle, and I was still fuming about it. I wanted revenge! As I drew near the driveway leading up to the terrier’s domicile, I really worked the peddles of my three-speed. I had a good head of steam up, as my toothy antagonist leaped from his place on his master’s porch, and began his normal charge up the gravel driveway towards where he knew I would be.
As he made his furious approach toward the street at a right angle to my own path, his frantically moving hind legs threw gravel with every step. For an animal with such short legs he could move! I stood up on my peddles, trying to squeeze even more speed from my trusty black bicycle, which was weighed down with my 115 pounds, plus another 85 pounds of papers packed tightly into two large wire saddle baskets mounted over my rear tire. Our momentous encounter was just seconds away!
I was always amazed at the dog’s timing. He instinctively knew to run not directly at me, as I strove to fly by him, but instead, as he reached the street, he would angle slightly to the right, aiming at where I was GOING to be. Then he’d subtly change course to run full tilt at my side, growling and snapping at my ankle, pant leg, or shoe, seeking to bite whatever he could. But on THIS day, things didn’t work out quite the way the diminutive devil dog had planned.
I don’t know if it was because I was going faster than usual, or if it was just my luck, but the loathsome, four-legged little son-of-his-mother tripped as he made his calculated angular right turn. I couldn’t believe my good fortune! His irritating yelping stopped abruptly when his compact little body sprawled and skidded almost directly into my path!
My heart skipped a beat in delight; and I laughed and roared at the gift the paperboy gods had just delivered to me. I had just enough time to steer my vehicle-of-vengeance directly toward the middle of the dog’s prone and struggling body. I lifted the front-end of my bike and dropped it as hard as I could onto the center of my enemy’s hateful little form. I felt and heard the satisfying results as ribs snapped and lungs collapsed. Then, my rear tire followed the track of the front one, and I sat down heavily to complete the destruction of my furry foe. I had my revenge and it was sweet! I laughed cruelly at what I thought was his untimely, yet fitting finale, but was it truly the end?
For the next month, I gloried in the peace left in the wake of that dastardly dog’s demise. But one month to the day after what I thought was his permanent absence, the son-of-a-demon caused my heart to sink and jump into my mouth, all at the same time, when his "ghost" leaped out into the street and grabbed my pant leg with all his old hateful gusto.
He had a noticeable bend in his body and he wasn’t as fast as he used to be, but he was back! Try as I might, I never got another opportunity to end my daily torment, but at least he never was as effective as he once was at chewing on my lower extremities. Thank God for small favors and death to all such dogs!