Dogs are terrific. I miss having a dog.
Somehow — eons ago — a few of the wolves that existed at the time decided that humans weren’t so bad. We were generally entertaining, had a steady supply of food and opposable thumbs that helped remove thorns and rub ears. Domestication soon followed. Mankind went on to take those proto-dogs and bend their basic genetic makeup into all sorts of fun shapes. And here we are.
My first dog was a corgi mix who was companionable enough. I think my best memory of her came when she was barking from the window of the motorhome as we watched it burn from a short distance away. My dad — who wasn’t a physically bold man at all — strode up to the burning wreck and grabbed her out of the window, saving her life at the risk of his own. She was so happy to be out of there. That’s also probably my best memory of my dad. He did what he needed to do. Penny the dog had provided the occasion.
She lived a few years after that, but the smoke inhalation had probably weakened her. One day at the mall my dad told me that we wouldn’t be seeing her again. He didn’t do such things well. He went on to describe all the dogs he’d lost in his long life and in so doing, quickly broke down in tears. We all cried in consolably. Poor Penny.
But there were many other dogs that followed. We had a Doberman named “Vashti” who did a good job of pulling me around the neighborhood at top speed during nightly walks when I was a teenager. She was AKC-registered and my dad had hoped to get her bred and for us to start a small Doberman puppy mill in our backyard. Like most business plans, that went awry. She had a tilted uterus or something and couldn’t get pregnant. So we just kept her as a pet and depended on her to scare the neighborhood vandal kids. She fulfilled that duty even as she became one of the fattest Dobermans anyone had seen. The vet made us put her on a diet of green beans and a small serving of Kibble. She kinda hated us after that.
Then there was Milly the German shepherd. I named her after a girl I didn’t particularly like. Milly the Shepherd was generally irritating. I think in a pack she would have been a beta or a gamma. She did provide us with one cherished family memory: Mom had baked cookies and we were standing around the kitchen eating them and interacting like … like a normal family. Milly must have been so elated with this peculiar spectacle that she leapt up on top of the counter and started eating the cookies straight off the sheets. There was a brief silence as we — as a family — grasped what we were seeing happen right before us. Then, like a team of superheroes, we all jumped her and started kicking her ass as she scrambled away with the last of the cookies. We had that one warm family moment in the ten years of my adolescence and Milly the Dog was there trying to fuck it up. However, upon reflection, she did succeed in turning it into a David-Lynchian twisted instance of freakishness, which was probably somehow more fitting for us Westside LaBries.
While we still had Milly, we added Kaiser the Doberman. Kaiser was like Milly’s assistant. When you have two dogs you obtain at different times, the second one to join the organization tends to recognize the authority of the first dog by being stupid. Kaiser was, if anything, unfathomably stupid.
In the master bedroom of that house we’d leave the sliding-glass door open through most of the summer, allowing the evaporative cooler to push the curtain out with its chilling breeze. The dogs would hear noises in the backyard and come running through the hallway at top speed and out under the breezing curtain to scare off the passing garbage truck. Well, around November the cooler was no longer needed so we started shutting the door. I was on the bed playing Atari one afternoon when Kaiser comes running down the hallway like he’s on fire. The door was closed. He didn’t know. He rammed his head straight into the closed door, causing a thunderous shake and nearly breaking it. He dropped, shook his head and yelped. I felt bad for him and got up to tend to his wounds, but before I could reach him, he had risen, run back down the hallway, made a u-turn, and was halfway back towards his second door/skull collision of the preceding fifteen seconds or so.
After my dad died and our family left that house, my mom donated Kaiser to the Border Patrol. A year later, he made it on to a set of trading cards commemorating famous drug-sniffing dogs of the US Border Patrol. He was the first member of our household to make it in the world. He had become a cop.
…which kinda figures, I mean . . .