I’ve had lots of dogs. The bad dogs were trained by me. The good dog wasn’t.
Our first and last Jay family dog, Taffy, was a cocker spaniel. She was trained by no one. In those days people opened the back door and simply let the dog out. No fenced yards, no scooping of poop. Once Taffy came home, clearly in distress. Some cruel person had wrapped a rubber band around her teeth from one side of her jaw to the other.
Taffy was a submissive urinator. Mostly she did that at the vet’s office, but once and again it happened at home. Poor thing had some sort of skin fungus, smelled noxious so rarely got patted. You get the picture, all-in-all Taffy was a less than an ideal pet. Possibly we were less than ideal pet owners.
She often traveled into the woods, picking up ticks. Daddy would occasionally do tick checks. He’d pull off plump blood filled monsters, put them in an ashtray, strike a match and light them on fire. They’d hiss for a moment then pop dramatically. I liked that.
Other than Daddy’s tick search, Mother was her caretaker. She fed her Red Heart canned food, except on Taffy’s birthday. That day Mother splurged for Alpo.
I sobbed when Taffy died. Although I’d spent very little time with our dog, she had been a smelly fixture in our home for years.
My next dog was a Bulldog. Molly, found as a stray, wandering around Washington Crossing, Pa. The kids were little–about six and three. My husband maintained he didn’t want a dog. I took one look at that roly-poly funny looking animal and I said to my children, “Let’s surprise Daddy!” They were thrilled. We brought Molly home, bathed her and waited excitedly (the kids), nervously (me) for Dad to arrive from work. He gaped at her sloppy smashed face, fell to his knees laughing, and was instantly smitten.
Like every single dog I’ve ever trained, Molly was incorrigible. My style of correcting a naughty dog is to say, “Please don’t chew that, honey.” When she first came to live at our house she pee’d and pooped everywhere. I devised a housebreaking method. I slid the end of a short leash onto a belt, strapped the belt around my waist, hooked it to her collar and spent days with Molly attached to me as if by an umbilical cord. Every time she’d begin to squat I’d yank her to the door and drag her outside. When she did her business on the grass I’d reward her with praise and cookies. Eventually, she got the idea.
Bulldogs are enormously food driven. And not the brightest crayons in the box. Molly snuffled up anything she found on the floor. Picking up her poops was always an adventure. Legos, crayons, and random GI Joe parts stuck out like thorns. I always fancied a small Army guys trapped inside her meadow muffins, screaming, “Help me! I’m trapped in a mound of crap.”
Molly was an expensive animal, always off to the vet. She had cherry eye requiring surgery, allergies, tail problems. Her face wrinkles needed regular cleaning otherwise they got infected.
And her farts were a thing of wonder. She slept under our bed and emitted the most repulsive fumes all night long. In my mind I pictured great putrid green gas clouding out from beneath the dust ruffle.
We adored farting, snorting, drooling Molly. Like all Bulldogs, Molly was prone to being overweight. At the time we were unaware Bulldogs require specialty vets who truly understand the unique health issues they are disposed to. The vet we used suggested a diet, stating otherwise she would develop other illness problems.
Wanting our beloved Molly in our world for as long as possible, I followed his orders. We skinnied her down until she actually had a waist. Then her personality changed. She became growly and began nipping. I should have put two and two together and realized the poor child was hungry. But before I had a chance to evaluate why she’d changed she bit not one but two people.
The veterinarian suggested we put our darling dog to sleep. It still breaks my heart remembering the day we held her in our arms and said goodbye to her. And I will forever feel sadly responsible for her death…Why didn’t I have the presence of mind to simply begin feeding her more?
We missed Molly terribly. So we found a breeder and plunked down $1500 on another Bulldog puppy. Hannah was only eight weeks old when we brought her home.
For Hannah, we ferreted out a Bulldog specialist. She too had a zillion expensive health issues. She too was spoiled rotten. She looked surprisingly fierce when she matured. Once while walking her near the golf course Walter Peyton was crossing the street from the sixteenth green to the seventeenth fairway. He was terrified of Hannah. Pretty funny, a man who didn’t fear being smashed by behemoth fierce football players, cowered away from our fat sweet Hannah.
Ultimately Hannah succumbed to cancer. An operation failed. We were all broken hearted. The sad thing about pets is the built in obsolescence…Unless you get a parrot. Plan to will those feathered friends to your kids.
Hannah was followed by Bogie, a shelter Shepard mix who bit two people and had to be put down. Then there was Riley the black lab. Trained by me, so of course, he badly behaved. Riley would walk for miles with me, but when Jim, my new husband clipped on the leash Riley stubbornly sat his fanny on the sidewalk and refused to budge.
Riley too got cancer. I spent enormous amounts money trying to save his life. Ultimately he needed to be let go. Again, my heart was broken. Jim’s, not so much.
Which leads us to Bronson, the wonder dog. Trained in the Colorado Men’s Penitentiary, he came to us absolutely perfect.
This post has gotten long. Bronson’s story deserves a whole page. To be continued tomorrow. Please tune in for part two.