Monday, October 12, 2009

A Box of Puppies: Johnson City 1968

I was thinking of dogs (we've had a dog for about three years now, our first and only current-family dog) and I was remembering dogs from my childhood and then I thought of the three dogs we found abandoned along Antioch Road in Tennessee when I was a kid.
I don't recall who in our family found them--I was there, so I guess it was me and one or two of my brothers, my sister perhaps--but there they were, a box of puppies along the highway. This was not a busy highway--more of a rural road where we lived, outside of the city limits--but still, here were these puppies in a cardboard box, obviously set there by someone who did not want them.
We kids dutifully brought them to our house.
These were three cute puppies--shepard mixes or something--and they were happy puppies. Mother and Father got a kick out of them, but would not let us bring them in the house (I think they stayed in our garage). Of course we wanted to keep them. Of course Mother and Father said no. We had a couple of cats, we'd had dogs in the past, still, these were great little dogs. We took them out to our back yard and it was the generic, postcard, Kodak Moment moment that you'd expect: kids rolling around in the grass with three lively puppies, licking and barking and laughing and smiles. I still remember that, that that was what dogs were all about for kids: roughhousing fun. Still, we could not keep them.
I think my parents said they'd look for the owner. But I believe we ended up taking them to the shelter. Man . . .
We'd had a couple of other dogs in Tennessee. When we'd lived in Jonesborough, we got a black puppy that we named Pokey. Pokey was a houndish dog, not especially wild or good looking, but sweet. I don't recall too much, but Pokey never quite gelled as a family member. Then a kid next door picked Pokey up and tossed him around, got Pokey's leg caught on the fence which injured him. I think we put Pokey to sleep . . . Then we had Fluffy in Johnson City. Fluffy was fluffy, a cute dog and full of energy. Fluffy had to stay in the garage at night and in the morning we kids would let him into the den and he'd go crazy with happiness. I don't know what Fluffy's problems were, but he must have had some because we gave Fluffy away after a few months. We were a family of five kids, my older brother getting into high school age, and we ran around and played away from home a lot. Maybe we didn't spend enough time with the dog and dogs--puppies--can be a lot of trouble, a mess, they need to be trained, so maybe no one felt like taking the time to train Fluffy, no one paid enough attention to him (maybe with Pokey, too). Anyway, Fluffy was history.
There'd been other dogs. The first dog was Goldie--a cocker--that was my father's dog from when I was a baby. One of my earliest memories is when we gave Goldie away to someone. To me, Goldie was a big dog--about the size of a St. Bernard--but of course she was a cocker, small and stout, but I was a tiny kid, maybe one or two years old, so she was a big dog to me. But what I remember is a man at the door, my father at the door and Goldie and the man was taking Goldie away. This was in our first house in Sioux Falls . . . Then we had Blackie (what's with all these great dog names, huh?). Blackie was also a cocker spaniel--black this time, as you might expect--and she was a great dog. She was the true family dog that I grew up with in Sioux Falls. But when we moved to Vancouver--and my memory is a little shaky on this--when we drove out west as a family, Blackie jumped out of the car at a rest stop and we left without her and my father would not turn back (this is a painful story in my family's history, especially for Second Oldest Brother) and so Blackie was lost. We did get a new puppy one year in Vancouver--we had this little black puppy for a few days, then one day we were playing with it in the yard, on our street and my father pulled out of the driveway and the puppy ran behind the car and it got run over. I stood over the puppy in the street and watched it die. I don't remember its name.
My parents could be very unsentimental about things, about animals. They both grew up during the Depression, both grew up without fathers. My mother was from a small rural town in South Dakota, where farm animals came and went. My father--also from farm country, in Iowa--had fought in WWII. There were bigger things to worry about than pets. That's not to say they didn't love animals--they did--and that's not to say they weren't bothered by the loss or deaths of pets. I'm sure they were. But life can be tough--for humans and animals. What are you going to do?
We went through a number of cats and dogs, birds, hamsters, a rat, a rabbit, turtles and lizards. I wanted a pet owl at one point. We finally had a long term dog as a pet in Des Moines--it had been Second Oldest Brother's dog but he could not care for her and Father took her: Tanya, a golden cocker spaniel. Father loved that dog--Mother, too--and Tanya was his companion as we kids got older and moved out. I had a dog of my own--Wolf--but gave him away when I realized I did not have the time or desire to raise him.
So, I've got my dog now. Long term. And I had my box of puppies as a kid--even if only for a few fleeting days.

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