My Life in Dogs

It was a dogless childhood for me, until I was thirteen. I had asked. My sisters had asked. It wasn’t until our younger brother came home from school and said that somebody in his third-grade class was giving away a perfectly good dog and could he keep it?

It happened so fast. I was at Bonnie Landers’ house down the block with my girlfreinds. It was Bonnie’s 14th birthday slumber party (aka sleepover).  I had my new sleeping bag I had bought with my babysitting money. When I got home the next day, there was a matted beige dog running around the house.

“Meet Pierre Antoine Poodleman!” my mom said.

Poodleman?  The dog resembled a footstool and was about as tall.

The next week Pierre went to the groomer and got his hair cut. He came home more poodle-like, but my little sister cried because he looked so different. I found out the beige-rust color was called champagne. He wasn’t bright white like the poodles I’d seen on TV.

Pierre Antoine Poodleman became Pierre. My younger sister bonded with him more than our younger brother did. I hardly noticed him in the crowded house of seven. He was just another family member making noise and needing to go out on a regular basis.

I think that was my best involvement with Pierre, letting him out to pee. I wouldn’t have my own dog for almost a decade. I had things to do, like go to high school, go to college, travel the world, and come back to teach in a tiny farm town in Nebraska. High-school Spanish was my subject, and one day my student, Toni, came up to my desk and asked me if I wanted a puppy.

“My friend’s dad is going to drown them in the river if we can’t find them a home,” she said.

‘How many are there?” I asked.

“Three,” she said.

She had me at the thought of such a horrible fate.

“I’ll take them,” I said.

My roommate wasn’t happy. She already had a big dog named Shane, which, by the way, she did not discuss with me before she showed up with him. We had rented the superintendent’s extra farmhouse, which had been remodeled for our use to persuade us to come teach in the town of 2000 people. Our rent was $125.00 per month, cheap even for the late 1970’s.

By the next day, the number of would-be-drowned pups had shrunk to two. Toni and her dad came by with them – a pair of black mutts, but still cute. Puppies are always cute.

I named them Cleo and Huey, a girl and boy.  They were great fun to watch grow. The superintendent made it clear they were to be outdoor dogs.  We had several out buildings on that farmstead – a creaky barn, a shed, and an old outhouse.

We set up straw beds in the shed, which doubled as a carport. The dogs ran loose when we were home with them. When we taught, they were tied up outside all day long.  No one complained about animal cruelty, but looking back, what a miserable thing to do to young dogs. Of course, the farmhouse had no fenced yard, and the highway was just 50 yards from our back door, which we used as our front door.

Christy continued to be bothered by me having two dogs while she only had one. She gave away Huey one weekend while I was visiting a friend in Omaha for the weekend. Huey was my favorite, having survived a snowstorm outdoors.

A year later, I moved to an apartment in Omaha and gave away Cleo to a large family. It made me happy to think of her with all those playmates.

It would be four years before I owned another dog.

to be continued . . .

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