By Tammy Davis
Part One of a Series, The Dog I Loved With My Whole Heart
Before I can tell the story of the best dog in the world, I have to tell about an awful, mean, terrible dog.
Her name was Dixie. Dixie Michelle. She came from one of my father’s litters of dachshund pups. He loved raising dogs. Hand-picked every home and gave most of them away, even though they were registered.
About twelve years ago, my father let my kids pick out one of his wiggly, pot-bellied puppies. They named her Dixie, and she was awful from the start. She was a hateful dog, even as a puppy. She barked at strangers. She barked at us. She barked for no reason at all. Her bark was that awful, chihuahua-like yapping type of bark that grates your nerves. We tried everything, rattling a can of rocks near her head, spraying her with vinegar. Nothing worked. We were afraid to get too close with the can of rocks and always sprayed from a distance because we were all scared of that dog. Somebody gave her the nickname, “Dixie Michelle, the dog from —-.” I objected to the profanity but “heck” just didn’t work.
In addition to her bad attitude, she was nasty. We could not house break her, try as we might. We would come back from a long walk, and that dog would strut into the house and squat, and glare at you while she did it. We put down training pads, and she would poop beside them. I hated her. The feeling was mutual.
The final straw was the night my husband (now my ex-husband) grilled pork chops, his favorite. I set the platter on the back-porch table and went back inside to grab the plates. You know what happened next. The dog had to go.
About the time of the pork-chop incident, we left for vacation. Our babysitter kept the dog for us. That psycho dog was perfect at the babysitter’s house. She sat in the babysitter’s mother’s lap all day. She didn’t bark. She didn’t have any accidents in the house. She behaved this way to spite us.
We gave the dog to the babysitter, thinking that would solve our problem, but it only created a bigger problem. What were we going to tell my father? Since the dog was a gift from my father, and since my father was crazy about his dogs, and since we were all afraid of my father, we couldn’t tell him we gave away his precious pup. There was only one thing to do: live a lie. We were the living examples of “oh, what a tangled web we weave….” Every time my parents came to town we would drive across town and get the dog from the babysitter. The minute my parents left, we hauled that dog right back. The charade lasted for months. Finally, we knew what we had to do: tell a lie.
The only way out was to tell my father the dog was dead. My husband was more than willing to take the blame for running over the dog. We practiced the story, trying to think through every scenario. My hands still start to sweat as I think about that first visit to Bishopville. My father handled it well but later told my mother that was the last dog we would get from him. When I told my husband what he said, he asked if I would get that in writing. We all knew even though my daddy was saying all the right things, deep down he was mad. I doubt my father ever forgave him. I hope my father can’t read this story from heaven. If lightning strikes my house, we will know he can. There are few things I feel guilty about, but this ranks right up there still to this day, not the giving the dog away part, not asking my husband to take the blame. It’s the lying part that gets me. Even to this day.
Years later, my son was the one who thought getting another dog would be a good idea. He was leaving for college soon, and my husband had started travelling a good bit. A new dog seemed to make sense. I wanted a big dog, a dog that could stay outside and guard us. We made several visits to Pets, Inc. and walked lots of dogs. We finally decided on a dog named Bo. Just as I handed the lady my card, my five-year-old daughter pulled on my clothes. She softly and calmly said that she did not think Bo was right for our family. I called her bluff. I told her if we didn’t get Bo we would go home with no dog at all. She nodded. A tough cookie, even as a child.
That night I caved. I told my husband to go get the puppy the next day. He did. It was a cold January day. My son had the flu. My husband walked in with that puppy zipped up in his jacket. My daughter was thrilled. My son was too sick to care. My plan was to tolerate this new dog. I would buy his food and take him to vet appointments, but I never planned to love him. I’m not sure when it happened, but it did. I loved that dog with my whole heart.
Next week, part two of The Dog I Loved With My Whole Heart
Tammy Davis is a teacher and a writer finding lessons in everyday life. This series is in honor of her dog, Bruzer, who lived a long and wonderful life.