Going to the Dogs

I missed an important day back in August. Something called National Dog Day on August 26. This is not to be confused with National Puppy Day or National Mutt Day.

I also missed National Cellophane Tape Day on May 27. It honors Richard Drew, a scientist at 3M who is credited with inventing cellophane tape. Here is my celebration:

With this kind of work ethic, it is hard to believe that I’ve been fired by two local TV stations.

Anyway, I am catching up. For example, that little white pup was my first real dog. When I was born, we had a dog named Tiger just to give him a personality complex. He really belonged to one of my brothers and I was pretty little at the time. So, that makes the one in the photo, Mimi, my first real dog. She originally belonged to my grandma but she got remarried (my grandma not the dog) and her new husband (again, my grandma's not the dog's) wanted to be able to jump in the car and take off without worrying about a pet. Grandma was in her 60s and her new husband was around 70. When they got married, we told people they “had” to and were looking for a house near a school.

Mimi was a French Poodle but acted like a regular old mutt. Once, my Mom had her properly groomed with the little tufts on her tail and such. I did not approve. I liked her looking shaggy. In the photo, that’s me. I looked shaggy most of the time, too.

When Mimi passed away, my Mom was not too keen on getting another dog. It was just too hard for her when they got sick. As I’ve gotten older, I completely see her point. However, at age 10, I wanted a dog.

That dog was Misty. At the same time, I got Misty, one of my brothers who was ten years older than I, took Misty’s sibling home and named it Max. Both Misty and Max were females but my brother had always wanted a dog named Max, like in “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” He said her full name was Maxine.

Here they are and, again, that’s me in the orange windbreaker. I was home from my part-time job as a traffic cone. Yes, it is very muddy and, yes, the mud made its way inside.

Misty was part German Shepherd and part Bluetick Hound. She was a watch dog like a Bluetick Hound and a hunter like a German Shepherd. Although her coloring was very much like an extra from “Hogan’s Heroes,” her ears were more like Beauregard the Wonder Dog from “Hee Haw.” Regardless of their size and floppiness, Misty was determined to hold them up. And, she did. All was well, until a strong wind blew in and she ended up going aloft like a furry “Flying Nun.”

She was a great dog. Even people who didn’t care for dogs, liked Misty. Unfortunately, she only lived to be about seven. When she could no longer walk and had no interest in food or water, I carried her to my Mom’s car and took her to the vet. When I got back in the car, alone, and turned on the radio, I heard the voice of Johnny Mathis singing: “On my own, would I wander through this wonderland alone. Never knowing my right foot from my left. My hat from my glove. I get MISTY and too much in love.”

I immediately went to the swimming pool and made a point of opening my eyes wide so the chlorine would make them red. “Yeah, I was just swimming…no, not sobbing underwater…just swimming.”

Next up, in the Hound Hit Parade, would be Jingles. He was part Chihuahua and part Dachshund. Jingles was given to me as a Christmas gift. Hence, the name, Jingles. (I’m also happy I was able to use the word “hence” in that last sentence.) Some of you long-time watchers of TV in Kansas City, may remember this dog. He made several guest appearances in stories I used to do on KMBC. For example, I dressed him up to illustrate March coming in like a lion or a lamb. Another time, he acted like a black cat in a story about superstitions. Once, I did a story about things to do with your old pumpkin after Halloween. At one point, I appeared to take Jingles out of the freezer, saying “How’d you get in there?” Well, a viewer wrote me a letter, taking me to task for abusing my dog by keeping him in the freezer. I wrote back, explaining that it was just a joke and that Jingles was well taken care of and, in reality, sort of ruled the roost. She wrote back saying I wasn’t funny and shouldn’t be on her television. Over the years, I came to agree with her. As did at least a couple of TV station general managers.

One evening, my wife and I watched “Silence of the Lambs.” After that, my wife insisted we get a bigger dog. That’s when Checkers became family. We found Checkers at what used to be called Animal Haven. I should say Checkers found us. We went there to look at different dog we’d seen in the newspaper. But, that pup didn’t seem to like the kids much. Meanwhile, I noticed a rather sad-eyed, homely dog staring at us and wagging her tail. The folks at Animal Haven said that dog had been a stray for the better part of a year and had been adopted once but brought back. We took her home.

At the time, I was reading a book about Richard Nixon. He had a dog named Checkers. I jokingly said that’s what we should call the new arrival. Well, it turned out to be a name our kids liked and could pronounce and, so, that was that. (Sometime later, my children held impeachment hearings to have me removed from office.) Checkers never left the kids unattended. She was a warm-hearted mix of all kinds of canines. She lived a very long time and, at the end, never wanting to be a problem, passed away under a tree in the backyard without making us wrestle with that difficult choice.

Casey was next. He was born on a farm up around Smithville, a Golden Retriever with splotch of black fur on his back leg and a definite cone head. He loved to carry stuff around in his big, satchel-like mouth. Once, he greeted me at the door holding a beanie baby. I told him to drop it. He did. The beanie baby was followed by another stuffed animal, some Match Box cars, several Legos and a spoon. It was like hitting the jackpot on a very slobbery slot machine.

He had a stomach made of cast iron. In between several courses of crayons and socks, he once ate a glass Christmas ornament with no ill effects. His gastronomical adventures made pooper-scooper duties in the backyard rather entertaining. There was the time he got a hold of a paperback Bible and helped himself to several pages. Picking up after that was a genuine Revelation.

Harrison discovered that Casey was a pretty good pillow, too.

Casey really deserves a blog of his very own and, one of these days, he’ll get it. After he passed away, under that same backyard tree where Checkers had died a few years earlier, I was done with dogs. Like my Mom, it was just too hard when they got sick and, especially, when they died. But, my family conspired against me. They felt I needed to have a dog. So, my wife went online and found two possibilities.

She showed me both photos and said I should choose. One was an older dog that had been found running around the woods up near Brookfield, Missouri. The other was a six-week old puppy abandoned on the side of the road down around Lamar, Missouri. I studied their photos. I was to pick one. As I said, I really didn’t want another dog. So, naturally, I said we’d take both.

Driving up to the Brookfield Animal Shelter, I realized I didn’t have travel crate. This dog was already three or four years old, a Retriever mix of some kind. What if he was not a good rider? How would I get him home safely? When I got there, they told me they had been calling the dog, Vincent. So, I did, too.

Vincent was amazing from day one. He road home in the van like he’d been doing it all his life. He already was house-broken. Gentle with everyone. Our best guess is that he’d gotten separated from his family somehow, when they were camping or something. He had been running around the woods for quite a while, covered with ticks. It appeared he’d had an accident of some kind because of the way he favored his back leg. I’ve often wondered what his life was like for his first three or four years. Other than going a little berserk over thunder, fireworks and chirping smoke alarms, he’s a very mellow fellow.

A week after Vincent arrived, I drove the other direction from Kansas City to Lamar, Missouri and picked up a little ball of fur. The kids named her Stella, after a Comedy Central show. As it turns out, she is half Golden Retriever and half Dachshund. So, somewhere around Lamar there was a very proud Dachshund carrying a ladder.

She really wanted Vincent to play but he ignored her…at first. After about a week, Stella was sitting in the middle of the yard watching the world go by. Vincent was on the far side of the grass. He looked up. Saw her. Made a playful sneak attack. Stella went rolling but popped up with her tail wagging and tore into Vincent. They had a ball. They still do that today but it doesn’t last as long. They are old friends.

I see now, that this has become a very long dog tale. There are other stories to tell that will have to wait. Happy Belated National Dog Day. Then, again, around here, that’s every day.