Although we have had a cat exclusively for a decade, I am a dog person. Dogs are in-the-moment and love you unconditionally, whereas cats exist in a different dimension except when it’s time to be fed.
The first dog we had was a tan cocker spaniel/terrier named Sandy we got when I was 5. Sandy stayed in a tiny, enclosed area with rocks on the ground in the Virginia Navy housing we lived in and developed a mean disposition. He bit the mailman thrice.
When we came to Fairfield in 1976, the big backyard we had helped Sandy’s anger management. Ultimately, his Napoleonic complex was cured when he got uppity, attacked a much larger German shepherd and was nearly killed. He actually died years later, when I was a junior in high school.
Smokey was a black mutt with some Labrador in him who would leap Snoopy-like onto the roof of the rickety doghouse my dad had built.
At that time we also had a beautiful brown German shepherd named Coco that we got from a neighbor of my uncle Henry in Oakland. Coco’s father was named Cocaine and was ferocious. Coco inherited that meanness. Once I climbed over our fence because I’d forgotten my key and even though I warned him it was me, that punk still bit me.
The train went right behind our house and when the whistle blew, Coco would start howling and Smokey would join in harmony as if he was Garfunkel to Coco’s Simon.
Coco liked to fetch things. When my parents weren’t home, my oldest brother Orvis would dispose of his empty beer cans by crumpling them up and pretending they were hand grenades and throwing them over the back fence. Sometimes he didn’t make it and Coco would bring them to the porch, leading to interrogations by my mom.
The dogs were constantly digging, trying to get out, and one day Smokey and Coco escaped like Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption.” We never saw Coco again, but a year later Smokey miraculously showed up.
He looked world-weary like he had a tragic story to tell about Coco but couldn’t bring himself to do it. Then he started having seizures. It was horrible. He didn’t live much longer.
The last dogs we had were Missy and Brutus. My mom nicknamed Missy “Emma” after a line Yosemite Sam said in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Brutus was a Rottweiler/Doberman that looked and sounded intimidating, but he wasn’t half the watchdog Coco had been. If someone had broken into the house, Brutus would’ve led them to our valuables for a Scooby Snack.
Brutus was all bark and no bite. Once a windstorm knocked the fence down between our neighbor’s yard and ours. The two Chihuahuas that Brutus barked smack at daily when the fence was up just marched into our yard in a bloodless coup and starting marking their territory while Brutus sat meekly by. I was embarrassed for him. Oh, the caninity!
Brutus was the best fetcher. He would excitedly fetch a ball, or anything else I threw, and drop it at my feet and wait for me to fling it again. He learned that once he got a drink of water the game was over, so he would avoid it. He’d start walking near the water with the ball in his mouth, but walk by it. Finally he’d give in.
His water bucket was deep with about three gallons of water. He’d drop the ball into the bucket and drink. When he was done, he would suddenly realize he couldn’t get the ball out without sticking his whole snout in the water, which he wasn’t about to do. He’d then start pawing at the side of the bucket until he knocked it over, and retrieve the ball.
He did that every day. He never figured out that maybe he shouldn’t put the ball in the water. It was so funny. Man, I miss him.
Brutus and Missy lived to be 15 and 17, respectively. I DVR “The People’s Court” so I know that in the eyes of the law, pets are property and not family. But we know better, right?
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected]