My Dad’s boyhood dog Barney, a mixed breed with thick, stubby legs, a long, stout body covered with dense black fur, stopped by my cottage this week. I don’t see much of Barney. On the mortal side, he was a strictly outdoor dog, except for hot days or cold nights when he settled in the cellar by the stairs, and he continues to enjoy being outside, chasing bunnies filled with stuffing, jumping in the dirty swamp, and exploring every inch of the land beyond Rainbow Bridge.
He brought a stuffed rabbit he caught because he hates to arrive empty-mouthed. He sat with me at my kitchen table but I could tell he was antsy being inside so we went outdoors to the picnic table. We began to discuss how dog's lives had changed from when he ruled his neighborhood in the 70’s to my ‘never being off leash’ lifestyle at the turn of the century.
“I know you enjoyed the pampered life Foley,” Blake said taking a long drink of water and letting out a loud burp. “But you missed out. When my parents got up in the morning, they unleashed me from my run, and when I came home to eat at night, they leashed me again. I didn’t say what I was doing all day, and they didn’t want to know. Except for the summer when I got hit by a car and had a collapsed lung, and a few random times when I raised enough of a ruckus in the neighborhood that my roaming was curbed, this was my life.
“The 70’s were a different age. The food was terrible, a couple of crumbled Gaines burgers was considered a delicacy, my water dish was outside, and if it froze I just accepted my thirst, and no one bothered to spade their dogs. It was a time of bad food, cold water, and random sex.
“One morning I caught the scent of a girl in heat. No one could track down a hot chick like me. There was a house on an adjoining street that was built with two wings on an angle with one point of entry. There was a fertile female inside. I banged on the door yelling ‘Open up bitch! This is the woobla goo with the green teeth, let me in!’ She declined.
When her parents returned home, I refused to allow them entry as I growled and snapped at them. They went to a store down the street and called the dog officer, who was familiar with my work. After getting a brief description, the dog officer contacted my parents who drove to the house to pick me up. When I saw the car, I said ‘Hey honey, my ride is here,’ and then jumped in the vehicle to be chauffeured home. That got me a month in solitary attached to my leash.
“Another time I was hanging out with your Dad while he was waiting for the school bus. A randy beagle crossed the yard. She stopped, our eyes met, she gave me a brief nod, and I mounted her like Sir Edmund Hillary on Everest. The school bus pulled up with a bunch of innocent middle school children inside, and they saw and me and the lollipop going at it on the front lawn. I gave the students a big smile that said ‘someday kids you’ll be having this much fun’ and then swatted the bitch on the butt with my paw as the bus pulled away.
“That was a more valuable lesson than anything those kids learned in school,” Barney said. He then excused himself, because he could smell the wild in the air and had to answer the call. I watched him run off into the woods.
I did admire Barney’s freedom, and he always had great stories, but I prefer being a homebody than an outside dog and I also knew, in Barney’s world, I would be the one getting paw swatted in the butt.