Dog Ghandi

I had a lot of dogs growing up, mostly because my parents didn’t do a terribly good job taking care of them and my brother and I were crappy to boot.  When I was in middle school, my mom took us to get our second Pomeranian.  I remember seeing that little ball of fur at the top of the stairs when we went to get him at the breeder’s.  I remember looking at my brother’s face and feeding off how his eyes lit up.  We all knew that dog would be coming home with us.

Spud was one of 2 pups to survive in the litter.  Born extremely prematurely, each about the size of a thumb, few of the pups were expected to survive – and some didn’t.  His premature birth meant he had bug-eyes and terrible vision, and he never had great constitution.

Pomeranian Dog

Basically Gandhi

This is a brief set of flashes about Spud.

Johnny Fever

Johnny Fever was a brilliant, ruby-colored betta fish.  He lived in a tiny betta tank, and we’d entertain him with a mirror and food and sometimes let him watch our finger move around outside the tank.  He had a Gary the Snail toy inside the tank.

Johnny Fever, however, had other ideas of how to entertain himself.  Like suicide.

He’d knock the light lid off his tank and struggle for freedom, flopping off his coffee table and onto the floor.  There he would gasp for breath, dying without water to deoxygenate.

Spud, who was allowed to wander the house, found Johnny Fever several times.  I remember how he just laid down and started crying until someone came and rescued the fish.  Not once did he touch the fish, not once did he test it with a lick.  He just laid down and cried actual doggy tears until someone came to rescue the fish.

Stuffed Animals

Spud loved stuffed animals.  A one-dollar animal bought at the dollar store would provide him with a year of comfort before it would finally become too dirty or damaged to withstand.  Stuffing was never purposefully removed.

Every morning, someone would put food out for Spud to eat.  He would thank the person graciously with a couple twirls, then pick up a few kibbles and bring them to each of his animals.  Once done distributing the goods, he would go eat the portion he’d saved for himself.  Of course, after that was completed, he’d come nuzzle an animal, worry about why it wasn’t eating, then consume the kibble he’d given them.

He did this almost every morning.

The Man with No Nose

My dad owned his own construction company.  It was a small business, and he built houses and artisan cabinetry by hand.  One of the employees he had while we owned Spud was a man who’d been to prison for hauling and selling cocaine, but papers and probation officers said he’d reformed.  I never saw the man in person, but everyone said he was missing part of his nose from where it’d burned up from all the cocaine.

One evening, my dad caught me slinking through the dark living room.  He sipped coffee in the room, all the lights off, and asked me if I loved my dog.  He gave me an offer, said that the Man with No Nose would give me $1,500 for that dog.

I said no – I loved my dog.

$2,000.  $3,000.  How much would I be willing to sell that dog for?  The little rat couldn’t be worth that.

I wanted my dog.  I wanted to come home after school and see the little thing, go on hikes through the woods, carry him when he got tired.  I wanted to watch Le Tour with him during the summers.  I wanted to comfort him during hunting season when guns echoed through the mountains.

He took another sip of his coffee and said I didn’t love that dog, that I was passing up a great deal.

Hugging

Some dogs don’t like when humans hug each other.  Spud was no exception.

When two people hugged within his (albeit rather limited) line of sight, he would cry and run up to them.  He’d paw at their legs and squirm, as best he could, into the middle of the hug.  Upon reaching the center of the hug, he would stop crying and accept that all was right in the world.

A lot of dogs don’t like hugs because they feel trapped, but Spud would reach up with his front paws and beg to be hugged.  He’d wrap his little arms around you, fall asleep on your lap, and cry out to be loved.  He was patient with even small children.

Few small dogs can say the same.

The Crows

We lived in the middle of nowhere, and crows flew around everywhere.  Crow season meant the air was rife with the sound of bullets as people mowed through the murders.

Not exceptional in our hunting skills or our dedication to crow shooting, the little hollar in which I lived was home to a large number of crows.  Crows, while not mockingbirds, are still pretty smart and have complex vocal chords.  After figuring out that our little dog wasn’t truly competition for tablescraps, they also found a way to copy his high-pitched bark and barked back.

Out of all the things that could disturb this little, nearly-blind dog, crows caused him more consternation than anything else.  Though he usually ignored TV, an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation contained a holographic crow as part of Data’s imagination, and poor Spud flipped out.  Any crow, whether on TV or real life, would make him cry and bark.

After killing him, my father supposedly put him in a shallow grave.  The crows may have dug up parts of him, left the majority of the work for buzzards or coyotes.

I can’t stand that thought.

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Mystery Challenge #3 – Banana Pudding

I’m going to do all of the raynotbradbury Mystery Challenges this week!  The third challenge is the recipe for a mystery dish (fancy).  I chose banana pudding because of its potency as a Southern delight and because of the fiery passion Southern women defend their puddings with.  Brian of BooksofBrian, here’s some reminiscing for you.

In true annoying-online-recipe fashion, I put my mom’s banana pudding recipe at the end of the story.

***

Every good Southerner who was raised in church, and many good Southerners who weren’t, has been to a church potluck or picnic.  Backwoods as my family is, I was no exception.

Our church was a little white building off in a holler, on a flood plane next to a little creek, and didn’t have any space for eating.  Many members believed, in fact, that having a fellowship hall or any permanent dining structure was selling out to the devil, so we instead elected to host all our potlucks and picnics up at the abandoned schoolhouse.

Each year, the ladies would hand around a pen and pad of paper.  On it would be a list of traditional dishes and then a few blank spaces for people to bring something not listed.  Required items included biscuits, fried chicken, corn on the cob (grilled), butterscotch meringue pie, pulled pork barbecue, green beans, and – without fail – banana pudding.

That slot, the banana pudding slot, was treated with extreme care.  Garnering that sacred slot required a dance of social nicety the likes of which few if any truly understood.  One couldn’t simply just take the banana pudding slot.  It had to be left open, then fought over once everything else was taken.  “Oh, it’s just so sad that I couldn’t make green beans, and instead I have to buy everything for banana pudding!  Oh Lord save me!”

And then the slot was of course given to Mama Grace: the oldest matriarch, all around great-person, and a fantastic cook.

(My own grandmother was one of the ‘matriarchs,’ but that’s a very different story for a very different day.)

Evidently my mom, after having attended the church for about ten years, hadn’t gotten the memo.  She saw the list and, this time, thought, “Hey, I found a good banana pudding recipe.  I’ll do it.”

Whispers and gossip ran through the church.  How dare my mom take away Mama Grace’s hallowed pudding duties?  Why, that ungrateful minx!

Mama Grace, as well, wasn’t having it.  She shoved her name down for banana pudding also, and the gauntlet had been thrown.  The banana pudding cook-off had started.  The dish that got eaten first at the picnic would be the one to take the slot next year.

Here’s the thing: only women and children cared one lick about who was the banana pudding chef.  The adult men, who always went first through food lines by tradition among my family and church (backwards from the rest of the South, I gather), saw two equally good looking puddings.  Those who went down the right side of the buffet table took mom’s pudding, those on the left took Mama Grace’s.  No one seemed to notice a difference, especially not the women and children who picked through their scraps.

Mama Grace, however, could tell the difference.  She declared hers the winner and, due to church politics, of course came out on top.  My mom, being the person she is, was perfectly glad to have lost.  She swore never to come between Mama Grace and a pudding ever again.

The recipe below is the one my mom brought to that fateful picnic.  Mama Grace’s recipe will remain secret, since she took it to the grave with her in 2009.

Banana Pudding
Ingredients: 2 boxes vanilla instant pudding
4 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
1 9 oz. container cool whip
Bananas
Vanilla Wafers
Preheat: No cooking necessary
Instructions: Make pudding; fold in sour cream and cool whip. Layer with bananas and wafers. Chill. Best if you let it sit in the fridge overnight.