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.
This is a brief set of flashes about Spud.
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.
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.
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.
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.