Dogs who have owned me

Bob McKee

A lot of people  become attached to a pet whether it’s a dog, cat, or whatever. No matter how rotten a person is, most pets, particularly dogs, are loyal, usually low maintenance, obey commands sometimes, care not a whit what television channel you’re watching, and don’t talk back. What more could you ask for?

But sometimes I think the “pet adoration” thing goes to extremes. I do not condone animal abuse but at times the news media seems to get so wrapped up in reporting alleged or real animal abuse that you would think it is a more heinous crime than child abuse. Yes, those who abuse animals should be punished, in some cases harshly. We need to keep in mind, though, that animal abuse is not on par with abuse of a human being, child or adult.

But the expensive pet food, toys and veterinarian care some obviously too wealthy people bestow on their pets amazes me. A $5,100 diamond-studded dog collar? Cashmere dog sweaters? The finest china food and water bowls? Velvet pillows? Nothing is too good for their pure bred canines.

I have had a few dogs that might fall into the pure bred category. The first was a Boston Terrier named Pug. Pug and I grew up together. He grew up faster than I did, of course, but some of my earliest childhood memories involve Pug. We ran away from home many times hell-bent on adventure, but Pug never let me stray too far. I regularly sold Pug for a quarter to a neighbor of my aunt and uncle. I would take the quarter and walk away but around the half-block mark I would whistle for the ever loyal Pug who naturally came running. The treats I bought with the quarter I shared with Pug. 

Pug didn’t do anything really useful except keep me company and try to keep me out of trouble. So I always suspected that Pug was my mother’s idea because when my dad was growing up there were only two kinds of dogs: those that herded cows and those that found quail. Once I broke Pug, who by then was getting on in dog years and had been missing for a couple of days, out of jail. A friend and I found Pug behind bars at the Springfield City Pound. I was so incensed that anyone would lock up Pug at his advance age that I twisted the lock off the gate with my bare hands and put a grateful old dog in my buddy’s car for the ride home. 

After Pug there was Lady, a Boxer. But she really was my younger brothers’ dog and had a habit of dragging them around by their pant cuffs. I thought it was funny but my brothers didn’t when they couldn’t get Lady to unclench those powerful jaws.

As an adult with a real job and after making sure there was enough money to feed the kids, I bought a high class bird dog, a Pointer, from the Purina Kennels. Paladin’s Purina Jill, was her official name, Jill for short. Jill had already had some training when I got her so I couldn’t do much to ruin her. She was what bird dogs are all about, nearly perfect in every way except for a short attention span when it came to finding dead birds, a chore she seldom had to perform anyway. She was more interested in finding lives one for me to shoot at.

Chomping at the bit during the off season, she dug out of her kennel to hunt the fields nearby, crossing I-70 in the path of a tractor-trailer.

Whiskers, a mixed breed that was mostly coon hound, was the next memorable dog I’ve had the pleasure to live with. Whiskers defined loyal, minded well and had the world’s biggest dog bladder. He could be confined in the house for hours without an accident. He went on float trips, camped out and traveled to Colorado many times. I got Whiskers for my kids, but he really was my dog.

There have been others; Beauregard, the Miniature Beagle, who loved to harass coyotes as long as one of us was nearby to hide behind, and Bear, the Alaskan Malamute who really belonged to a neighbor but hung out at our house most of the time and eventually adopted us. That probably was because we removed a trap once from his right front paw. When the deed was done, Bear escaped from my wife’s grasp, put his paws on my shoulders and stared straight at my face with those cold, blue Malamute eyes while I, fearing removing the trap had been painful to him, wondered how long I could live with my head partially detached from my body.

Eyeball-to-eyeball, Bear merely licked my face a couple of times instead of removing it to show his gratitude and appreciation. We became best friends after that and in the summer we kept a kids play pool filled with cold water on the shaded patio to help him survive Missouri’s heat and humidity so foreign to an Alaskan breed.

So yes, I became attached to all of them. I feel badly that I never bought any of them a diamond-studded collar or a pure cashmere sweater. But come to think of it, none of them ever asked for those things.