Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Legend of Penny & Sam

We are dog people. Mom and Dad both grew up with dogs. Grandma Flo, Dad's mom, in particular loved dogs. I don't believe this dog (below) was one of theirs; she probably just asked to have her picture taken with it. In her later, fading years, she carried around another photograph, of her with a large litter of Irish setter puppies, and showed it to us constantly.
We didn't get a dog until we moved to our "new" house, when I was about 10 years old. Then we had a succession of small to medium sized dogs. Like moths to a flame, most of them made a beeline for the state highway one block away, whenever they could squeeze through the door. At least one was a biter, and was finally given away. When I was a teenager, we got two dogs, a brother and sister. Here is my version of the story.

Mom and I went to look at a puppy, a beagle mix that was advertised in the paper. I think I was 14 or 15 years old; it must have been after yet another doggy suicide. We arrived at this woman's home -- what I might charitably call "white trash" -- and learned there were actually two puppies left, a little copper-colored female, and a three-legged black and white male. Mom, of course, said "We'll take the female." Why buy a three-legged dog when you could get four legs for the same price? The woman cocked her head at the male, worked her cigarette to the corner of her mouth and muttered, "Yeah, I knew we was gonna have to drown that 'un." (Cue banjo and harmonica.) We left with the female.

As soon as we got home, I hopped on my bicycle, rode miles and miles back to this crazy woman's house, and bought the three-legged dog. I stopped on the way home and called Mom from a pay phone. "You'll have to take both of us, or neither of us!" I declared, with exceptional teenage flair and drama. And that is how we came to have a three-legged dog. We named them Penny and Sam. Here they are with my Uncle Bennie.

Sam actually had three and a half legs; the half was a little stump with a floppy boneless paw-thing, sort of a thalidomide flipper. It's just easier to say, "three-legged dog." He was never quite housebroken. Mom thought he was "special" but I just thought he was playing by his own rules. He only lived 3-4 years. Penny lived quite a long time; we probably had her longer than any other dog. She was very sweet, and once Sam was gone, she miraculously stopped having accidents in the house.

My dramatic rescue, along with the pay phone ultimatum, has grown into legend. (Perhaps fanned by the flames of an earlier intervention: in the fourth grade, I wrapped a muddy, shivering stray pup in my brand new spring coat, and skipped school to carry him home in the rain. We didn't keep that one.) Here they are visiting Grandma Sophie, along with our cousin's poodles:
It seems strange to me now that my grandparents never had dogs in my lifetime. Maybe they'd done all the rearing they cared to, and were happy to just visit other peoples' dogs.

Here is Coco, the latest addition to the granddogs, in her Coach collar and ear bows. A Lhasa-poo, she is my brother and sister-in-law's second dog. I think her acquisition was S-I-L's way of coping with her daughters going to college. Coco is Miss Personality -- a combination of Princess Grace and Tazmanian Devil, I think. She weighs in at about 8 lbs. and I love to tease S-I-L that "anything under 10 lbs. isn't actually a dog; it's a large rodent." Whatever she is, she's irresistible.

I've known a few fine cats and I've considered getting one. I think Molly would enjoy having some company without actual competition for my attention. Only the daunting thought of vet bills keeps me from adding to my little family. Meanwhile, we're happy to have so many puppy and kitty friends nearby. And cousin granddogs to visit.


Unknown said...

I don't think the sleeveless orange pantsuit in the one picture could be any more fantastic! This has nothing to do with dogs, but I couldn't let that pantsuit pass without recognition.

La Cootina said...

Yes, I noticed that, too, along with my cousin's giant frizzy veil of hair. Ahh... the 70s....