On the day of Her Late Majesty’s Funeral, I rose a great while before daylight in order to tune in to the broadcast. Since I still had half an hour or so before the service started, I decided to go ahead and say morning prayer. After looking all over the house for my prayer book, I remembered that I had left it in the truck after church.
Still half asleep, I opened the front door and stepped outside and planted my foot into something cool and squishy. It was still as dark as pitch so I had no idea what it was. Well, I had an idea, but I was not at all thrilled about that prospect. I muttered pre-prayer curses into the darkness. “That damned dog has shat right here on the doorstep!”
The thick sludge was now firmly ensconced between my toes. I didn’t want to track it into the house, so leaving my right foot in place, I leaned back and felt for the switch to the front porch light.
This was not easily done. I contorted as best I could like some drunken ballerina, throwing my left leg behind my right to keep me from falling end over tea kettle as I fumbled the wall in search of illumination.
But this had the effect of throwing me completely off balance. I went down backwards causing my right foot to scoop up the poo that now swallowed my foot all the way up to the ankle like a slick and viscous shoe. I landed on my rear with a thud, uttering a few more select pre-prayer curses.
Now I had to try to raise myself up from the floor without smearing the mess all over the threshold. I heaved myself to, using my left foot and right elbow, finally managing to turn on the light. But when I saw what I was wearing on my right foot I lost all ability to stand still. My toes were lodged deep in the belly of a well-masticated mole. By now, Peanut, the erstwhile stray pup, has heard the commotion and thinks it’s time to play.
There I am kicking and thrashing around, trying to sling the dead varmint back into the yard, and all the while this dog, thinking his latest kill has risen from the dead, is trying to bite it. He clamped down hard, gaining a mouth full of yard rat and four of my toes. Incidentally, this seems like the appropriate time to mention that I am unusually tenderfooted for a boy from Arkansas.
I lost my balance again. Helpful as always, Peanut runs around and starts licking me in the face, coating my forehead with saliva and little pieces of mole meat. Now I have carrion literally from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head, and the dog thinks this is all some new game.
But though I tried, I couldn’t get mad at the dog. I’ve been trying to kill moles around here for months. The mutt was just earning his keep.
Peanut is not what some people call a “good dog.” But good dogs are overrated. Boring. Good dogs will sit, or play fetch, or wear little Santa hats for Christmas photos, but they won’t stare down a chicken snake or dig up half an acre to catch a solitary mole.
A dog like this refuses to be gentrified. I bought him a pillow bed a few weeks ago and as soon as I drug it out of the truck he grabbed it and went into a wild death roll like an African crocodile. It was tatters and rags less than two minutes, stuffing strewn from pillar to post.
He won’t heel, won’t shake, and won’t even take medicine that isn’t wrapped in half a jar of Jiff. But I wouldn’t sell him for anything. And that’s just as well since I probably couldn’t get anyone to take him if I clamped fistfuls of $100 bills to his hide with clothes pins.
A dog like this can’t be bought anyway. You have to wait for this sad world to make one, as it did mine. Beaten, and starved, and left for dead in the ditch beside the hen house. A castaway creature looking for someone to love.
“But though I tried, I couldn’t get mad at the dog.”
Getting mad at your dog is like gettin’ mad at your wife. It usually ain’t important and hardly worth the trouble. The only reason to do it is to keep your yellin’ powers skilled.
PS My son and daughter-in-law have got 4 of those “Peanut” dogs where they live out in the Louisiana countryside. And every one is got more character than any blue ribbon pedigree pooch!
The best dog ever, except for mine. Chewed everything, rugs, the left heel of six pairs of shoes, credit cards, down pillows, bedspreads and comforters, upholstery, sticks, hundreds of squeaky toys, doggie beds, frisbees, anything, all with an expression of complete and utter joy. I bought more for her to chew. Became elderly and passed away, but a selection of her destroyed squeaky toys is on display in the front hall.
That story was hilarious but the very last part and the pictures made my eyes water.
Great story as usual. And the part about Peanut: I almost–I stress almost–began thinking I need a dog again before I die. I remember my old chow shepherd, a “pound” dog, whose name was Shep. Once, together, we fought off a pack of three stray dogs which wandered into our yard (in Chilton Co., Ala.) looking for trouble and found it. Best dog I ever had. Lived 13 years and died while I was off at college.
Your trouble started when you decided to see the queen off…though she was good at deflecting blame from the empire…and I remember that time she flew the Confederate Battle Flag over London to commemorate Confederate Memorial Day.
One of her ancestors was at least wise enough to allow Britain to purchase the freedom of its slaves…
Good on you for taking in a mongrel…best kind of dogs. Once, Steve Hawking and I had a quarrel about evolution…he said anyone who’d ever been to the Westminster Dog show would convert to evolutionism…and then the room got real quiet.
All that inbreeding, like in royal families, tends to bring out the weird in the pool.
I am crying. God bless you Sir for this beautifully written, witty and heartbreaking essay.