I am, only partially, absolving Jonah Goldberg for his abhorrent opposition to my President he showed so stupidly last year. But his piece got me to reminiscing . . .
I am, perhaps, the single-most biased dog lover in the world. To that statement, most any “critic” would accuse me of having nothing but anecdotal evidence, at best. For those not paying very close attention to the news, this week a bint of a particular hateful type went off in a restaurant someplace in Delaware, because a serviceman with a service dog was eating there. After losing her cookies and getting royally embarrassed nation-wide on video, she took the only avenue of escape she could muster. She accused others of racism. I don’t suppose it is supposed to matter that she happened to be “black” – but all the same – a bint is a bint no matter what color. And she . . . is a bint.
I grew up with dogs in the house – a Kerry Blue Terrier, Barney, and his goofy son, Joe, stood guard over my crib from the day Mom brought my soon-to-be skinny buns home from the hospital. Both Kerry’s died of cancer before I was eight. There was great grief about the house, until Cindy girl won the old man’s heart at the pound. Pardon the pun, but pound for pound she was one of the best dogs I have ever known. When she sniffed my leg after I had been gone almost 2 full years with the AF in December of ’73, she literally mugged me the moment I walked in the house after my NY to WPB flight – the last leg of a long and arduous return from Ankara, Turkey. For my entire 30 day leave at home, I had to take “Mah Girl” with me wherever I went. My next duty station was in Missouri, and she passed back home while I finished out my enlistment there. The old man hadn’t cried in 35 years, but when he held her for her “final vaccination”, he bawled like a baby. He and Mom then took after Gramps, and began raising Dalmatian pups from the generations of The Champion Dalquest Colonel Ace – who was, I would contend, the most “human” dog I have ever known. It was uncanny how he and Gramps interacted. You just had to be there to understand. Fifteen years ago, I held the last pup in the line in my arms got her “final vaccination” – Kelly Girl was a full-grown Dal with excruciating painful cancer. Mom couldn’t watch, but she went in after I came out all teared up, and they left her in there with Kelly Girl for a good half hour with no interruptions. Vets get it!
And all during that, I was in the excellent company of my equivalent to Gramps’ Ace – Lord MacDougall, Duncan of Lorn, my Westie, whom I have memorialized in the address line of this here blog. What a magnificent, smart piece of dog meat Ole Mac was! His vocabulary just continued growing. He had a knack for thinking along with me, and oft-times, an instant before me, it seemed. He lived 17 long years, and only on the day I gave him his final “vaccination,” did he ever show any sign of leaving me. He had congestive heart failure, the vet gave him but a few hours, but he had outlived the “Westie average” by over three years, and was, simply put – a phenomenal dog. Whatever my son or I were doing – he was game for it all. He roamed cow pastures and back 40’s with my son, chased the go-cart and the motorbikes on the wooded trail my son carved out of our back two acres of woods, and loved rolling in cow pies – his one vice for which my son was solely responsible. Heh! Never me doing THAT bath! ’88 to ’05. And maybe another time I will tell the tale of how that white piece of dog meat perfect portrayed, in a children’s “sermon” – “sheep that hear their Shepherd’s voice.” He walked down center aisle past 1200 people, directly to me – sitting on the steps to the altar in that large sanctuary, in the midst of 50 kiddies, with one call – “Mac, come to Papa.” In 20-ought-5 I finally learned how badly my dad bawled when he had to put Cindy Girl down in ’75 . . . that day I watched the lights go out in Mac’s eyes as he gently licked my nose.
Sweet Mama Lou came into my life a few months after that, and not long after that, Mac’s long-lost and seemingly much younger son came into our lives – a shaggy, brown, floppy-eared cocker, with a smile so much like Mac’s I had to wonder some times. He was 4 – not an abused dog, but one ignored by the S-daughter and SIL, and very badly trained So I took him, and within a month had a new best, and best-behaved – buddy. Ole Milo. So much like Mac, and yet, so much his own dog with his grin and perpetual exuberance. When SML decided she was going to make me pay a sizable chunk of money so she could get another of her beloved Pugs, I had to wonder when that flat-nosed bundle came home. But Milo took him to task, taught him how to take a piss the right way, even after his “dog-hood” twins were removed. And as Milo aged, I watch Da Pug become Milo’s defender – always checking out strangers anywhere near Milo, and sticking by Milo’s side. September 6th last, Milo came over to me asking for an ear-scratching, which he got. He slowly walked over to SML for the same, then laid down with his head on his paws, drew a deep breath in front of us both – a mere foot away – and made his final exit. Da Pug took it worst of all, and none of the three of us took it well, but poor Conan mourned like I have never seen. He about came out of it as Christmas neared, and was about over it, when My dear Love, Lou, took her last breath on December 28th, 5 days short of 9 months ago, and then ascended to the Lord. And then, both Da Pug and Papa were inconsolable. Mama was gone for good.
As I spent the next 30 days slowly packing to move – I couldn’t stay in our special apartment without Lou – Conan, Da Pug, lay at the top of the stairs all day, every day – waiting for Mama to come home. I fed and watered him there, and went he went out, he searched all over the yard for her – even checking out the passenger side of the outside of the truck and the driveway for a new scent of her – every time outside. He only left the top of the stairwell for that, and for sleep, which was spent curled on the floor next to the LR sofa, where I had permanently confined myself for sleep as I packed and divided and gave things to family – things that once, but only partially, defined “Lou and me.”
And Da Pug – Conan – McGillicuddy as I call him now (and he answers to all three), has remained “Mah Dawg” despite all the other fam around or my friends or whomever. My neighbors here, us being back in R-burg, and at Lou’s fave Church, all call me “Papa” now, once they heard me call Conan to “Come to Papa” and he did, straightaway. Like Cindy Girl, like Ole Mac, like Milo the Dog – Conan’s “big bother” – he goes everywhere with me. I leave him at home when I am at Church, or a quick run to the store. But if I am going to be out and about for awhile, and how he knows the difference I do not know, he occupies his Mama’s seat in the truck. When assigned to the back seat if I am giving someone a ride, he yips at them every few minutes to let them know they are in his seat next to Papa! It is hilarious.
So when I read Jonah’s piece that some dog-loving vet started scanning dogs’ brains with regard to the old “food versus Da Boss” argument as to why dogs love us, and that he came to the unmistakable conclusion that Mama or Papa set off the pleasure centers in their brains far more than any food he was “preaching to the choir!” We dawg-lovers have always known dogs love their people, and accept them as the alpha males in their lives, and treat them with total love and devotion, and none of us dog lovers out here were the least bit surprised that the science proved we were right all along. As a bit of a close, and wanting to keep it for whatever posterity I might have, I’ll close with this little gem:
Senator Vest’s “Tribute to the Dog”
It is strange how tenaciously popular memory clings to the bits of eloquence men have uttered, long after their deeds and most of their recorded thoughts are forgotten, or, but indifferently remembered. However, whenever and as long as the name of the late Senator George Graham Vest of Missouri is mentioned it will always be associated with his love for a dog.
Many years ago, in 1869, Senator Vest represented in a lawsuit, a plaintiff whose dog “Old Drum” had been willfully and wantonly shot by a neighbor. The defendant virtually admitted the shooting, but questioned to the jury the $150 value plaintiff attributed to this mere animal. To give his closing argument, George Vest rose from his chair, scowling, mute, his eyes burning from under the slash of brow tangled as a grape-vine. Then he stepped sideways, hooked his thumbs in his vest pockets, his gold watch fob hanging motionless, it was that heavy. He looked, someone remembered afterwards, taller than his actual 5 feet 6 inches, and began in a quiet voice to deliver an extemporaneous oration. It was quite brief, less than 400 words:
“Gentlemen of the jury: the best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his worst enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.
The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous… is his dog.
Gentlemen of the Jury: a man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens. If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.”
The jury deliberated less than two minutes then erupted in joint pathos and triumph. The record becomes quite sketchy here, but some in attendance say the plaintiff who had been asking $150, was awarded $500 by the jury. Little does that matter. The case was eventually appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, which refused to hear it.
A statue of “Old Drum” was erected on the Johnson County Courthouse Square in Warrensburg, Missouri, where the trial occurred. The statue still stands there today.
And, of course, only Ronnie could properly portray Vest . . .
I completed the first third of my Bachelor of Arts at Central Missouri State University, in Warrensburg. I’ve seen Old Drum’s statue personally. Never knew the whole story until tonight, but it fits perfectly! Like McGillicuddy, and all my other “Bubbies” (Buddy-puppies) . . .