Memories of my childhood dog – Flip – in Friendswood

I awoke this morning about 4:45 AM to the sound of a sprinkler ratcheting its way through its pattern, in my front yard.  Ah, the joys of aging…some things just cannot wait any longer.  I suppose the sound of running water, even when asleep, is a powerful subconscious suggestion to “get up and go”.  Sorry, not meaning to be graphic but facts are facts.   Some things can’t wait any longer as we get up in years.

Suddenly I started thinking about our family dog, Sir Flip Winston Bilodeau II.  When I came into the office at home and booted up the computer, imagine my surprise at seeing this headline story on yahoo:  Puppy rescued from top of train gets new home.  A fine story with a happy ending. You can read that story yourself at this link, for as long as it’s online (not responsible for broken links!): http://news.yahoo.com/puppy-rescued-top-train-gets-home-173446351.html

Sir Flip Winston Bilodeau II – what a pretentious name!  I have no idea why, at this point, this was the dog’s name except the II part, and possibly because he was a pure-bred animal, registered and all.  Papers – he had papers – so I think you had to give the dog a full name.

We called him Flip.  He was a beagle.  Oh, the stories he could tell if he could talk. How we came to have Sir Flip II is a tale, but his life’s history is rather a hoot and this morning I have awakened to have a flood of memories about this dog I loved so much, come back to me so I thought I’d write about something more entertaining than memories of a flood.

In 1963 when we moved to our permanent home at 308 North Shadowbend, Friendswood from the rental house in Houston, at some point not long after that I vaguely recall my parents deciding we could have a dog.  Maybe my brother and I lobbied for one – that I do not recall – or maybe my mother decided a family pet in such a lovely, suburban setting was appropriate.

Whatever the case, we got a puppy, and he was named Sir Flip Winston Bilodeau, because of the requirement to provide a name to a thoroughbred animal on their registration papers. I think somewhere there might be a few photos of this dog, and I think maybe even a clip of him in our 8mm home movies but I’d have to look back at them to confirm that.

He was a handsome dog but he was not particularly friendly, even to us.  He adored my mother (because she always fed him, I recall), and his personality, seems to me now, was rather aloof.  He also was a bit crabby.  As a kid, I remember sometimes teasing the dog by swiping his dinner bowl while he was trying to eat, and he would snarl at me and jealously guard his dish, so after a while I stopped doing that out of fear I would be bitten.

My mother was never amused at this teasing.

In – I believe it was – the summer of 1965, we went on our ‘usual’ family vacation to Eureka Springs, Arkansas (I’ll blog about the family vacations some day, I’m sure), and at the time it didn’t seem that boarding a dog known for roaming freely about the neighborhood was something one did.  One would ask a helpful neighbor to feed the dog, leaving it outside and on its own to fend for itself, which today seems very strange.  We didn’t have many fences in back yards back then, and our dogs and cats were allowed to run and play around the neighborhood as freely as all of us kids did.

So, this year we asked the Chappees, who at the time lived next door, separated by a vacant lot, toward Mary’s Crossing.  The day we returned from vacation I remember getting out of the car, and the first thing my brother and I did was to start yelling “Flip!  Flip!”, expecting our beloved beagle to come lumbering up to us from his latest adventure, having returned to hang around until the family got back to let him inside the house, where after we’d fawn over him as much as he would allow.

Nothing.  No Flip.  After a few minutes, Paul and I went over to the Chappees and rang the front bell.  As I recall, Anne – a year or two younger than me – answered the door and when we asked if she happened to know where Flip might be, she told us that he had been killed the day before, having been run over by the garbage truck as it came through the neighborhood collecting trash placed out by the curb.  As my brother and I began to let the shock of her statement sink in, Mrs. Chappee came to the door and very sympathetically explained to us what they had been able to reconstruct that occurred almost in front of their house, out in the street.

Flip liked to chase cars.  We had, I remember, done many things trying to dissuade the dog from this behavior to no avail.  But, we’d been there all along to call him off – call off the dogs, as it were – any time he was allowed outside and he’d take off chasing after a passing vehicle, baying and howling as he went, and actually trying to bite the tires.

Maybe he thought the vehicle was a threat to his dog food bowl.  I never could figure it out, but hey, I was 9 or 10 at the time.

All I knew – all we knew – at that one horrifying moment was that our beloved beagle was dead.  Dead.   Gone.  Betty (Chappee) told us her husband (Jim), had buried the dog in our back yard.

My brother and I went SCREAMING home to Mom & Dad, crying and wailing that our dog was dead, killed by the garbage truck just the day before we returned from a 10-day stay at Lake Lucerne resort.  We cried and cried and I remember how my mother held us and hugged us and promised us at that moment we would get another dog, but how could we, we asked, ever replace our beloved beagle Flip with another dog?

How indeed. Skip forward a few weeks (I presume), in the culmination of a search for the ideal new puppy.  Of course, it had to be a beagle.  And, it had to have a marvelous personality.  Somehow today, I seem to recall that we as a family had come to a reluctant understanding that our beloved Flip really wasn’t that friendly of an animal, and that ultimately this had led to his demise.

We wanted something a bit different, and I remember we went to some breeder’s house to have a group of puppies paraded out so we could see if there was one that caught our eye, much less our heart.  And so, while I do not remember exactly the day the new dog came home to live with us, I do remember the joy of a new puppy the second time around much more so than the first, and that this dog was “special” – he was the runt of the litter, so we were told.

Why that made him special, at the time probably meant nothing to me.  Today, in thinking back about Sir Flip Winston Bilodeau II (another full-bred beagle who had papers), why he was special is the reason for this blog posting.

Now, I know you’re thinking….”I had a family dog as a kid, and it was special too.”  Yes, I recognize that.  But, since this is my blog and my dog – hey, a ‘dog blog’ – and because there is, now that I’m thinking about it, a tie in to my beloved Grandfather and Grandmother Hitchcock (Mom’s parents), I get to lay claim to ‘dog specialness’ just for the sake of blogging about him, as if he was the only special boyhood dog when I know EVERY boyhood dog is special.

As an aside, does one ever read a story about a “girlhood dog”?  Not so often.  Ladies, maybe there’s a clue for you to blog your own memories of your childhood’s family pet.

Stories of Sir Flip Winston II

In the family 8mm movie archive (if you have to ask, don’t bother – it’ll just prove how old I am getting), there are films of Flip as a puppy with a white bandana (Mom!) around his neck, chasing a ball on the back porch.  While I don’t recall if I shot the film, I sure remember chasing that little guy around as he played.  In those days, with film being so costly (for the times) compared to videos today, it was a rare thing indeed to get a few seconds of such footage.  Over Flip’s life, we got quite a few moments of him on film, well into his adulthood.

This dog, unlike the first, had such a laid back personality that if you tried to take his dinner bowl while he was eating, he would just look up at you, wag his tail, and wait for you to put it back.  Had he been able to talk, I think he would have been the type of personality who’d have offered to share his food with you.  I snuck a taste of it one time and nearly barfed.  However, the Milk Bones were a more tasty, palatable snack with a nice, teeth-cleansing crunch.

Of course, it might be that by the time I remember doing that a few times – teasing him by snatching his bowl away in the middle of his meal – Mom had conditioned him to be patient about the whole thing, having seen what the first Flip would do – so as not to get any of us bitten.  Part of the mealtime ritual was for one of us to open his can of dog food (not Alpo – that was too expensive; Mom would not buy it), but rather that sort of Spam-like congeal that was oozed into the can in a solid mass.  It would ‘eventually’ come out of the can into the bowl, and then we’d smash it up with a fork.  Then we’d take it over to Flip’s “spot” between the breakfast room and kitchen, just inside the utility room door, and hold it up, saying “Speak”.  Until Flip gave us a good bark, we wouldn’t set it down.

This became “playtime before dinner” because he was the only member of the family who had to perform in order to be fed.  It was a lot of fun.

In the mid-60s when Flip was still a puppy, our grandparents – Mom’s parents – came to visit.  We hadn’t had the new Flip long, because he was still little enough that even if he could have, he was not able to jump up on the furniture.  Good thing, too – mother wouldn’t allow it.  But, he was “long” enough to stand on his hind legs and, if you were laying on the couch taking a nap, reach your cheek to lick you.  That worked well until he got up there and started licking my grandmother Hitchcock.  I can still remember the annoyed tone in her voice as she called my grandfather – “Alan, make that dog stop licking me”.  Grandpa H would come over and pop him on the nose; he’d yelp, Mom would feign annoyance at her father (she adored him, and he adored her), and after that 2 week visit, Flip would never lick anyone or anything (except himself…eeewww), for the rest of his life.

At probably that same visit – not sure if it was grandfather H’s last before he died in 1968 – he gave me a book.  It was called Vic:  The Autobiography of a Fox Terrier.  The cover was falling off, but the pages were in great shape.  Mom later took the book and got it rebound to keep it from coming apart.  Inside was inscribed this note from my grandfather:

A gift to Allen (he changed the spelling of his name later in life) from my mother, 1895.  To grandson David, 1965.

It’s a wonderful little story about a dog, from the dog’s perspective.  Maybe grandfather H knew how sad we were when our first dog was killed and it reminded him about the love a dog has for its family, and vice versa.  I don’t know, but I’ll just say I’ve read the book many, many times in my life.  I once even went to the Library of Congress and checked out its copy, just to see what the original cover looked like.  Someday, when I am in my 70s like my grandfather was at the time, I hope to be able to pass along the book to my grandson in hopes he will appreciate the multi-generational nature of such a thing.

As Flip got older, certain rules of the house that Mom imposed were tested.  Our dining room, living room, and hall plus bedrooms, were all carpeted.  The dog was not allowed on any carpeted area, period – never, never ever.  How Mom taught Flip this is a mystery to me (I guess I should ask her).  But, no matter what you did, you could not entice him to walk into the carpeted areas.  It was as if they were covered with flaming volcanic lava (think Mario when he gets burned).  That animal wouldn’t do it – he just would not cross the threshold.

Every now and then, when we were all eating in the dining room on a holiday, which was about the only time WE used that room, he’d lay in the doorway with one tiny piece of his ear flopped over onto the carpet.  Mom would scold him every time and he’d slink back into the utility room on his rug to sulk.

Well, being the kid I was, one day I remember revving up his hyperness to the point that I got him to chase me around and around, through the kitchen, den, entryway, LIVING ROOM, DINING ROOM (on the carpeted area) and around again…and again…and again.

Sometimes we’d go off and leave him in the house, especially it was raining, and usually we’d close the door to the dining room and the other one from the den into the entryway.  This one day, apparently we forgot, because when we came home, Flip came trotting out of the dining room into the kitchen….an ominous sign.

When we dashed into the living room to check things out, to my mother’s extreme displeasure one arm of her sofa was chewed down to the internal wood frame.  There was stuffing and material all over the place.  Both Mom and Dad were….livid….and as I recall the dog got quite a thrashing.  Then the investigation into what had prompted Flip to go astray ensued, and I recall sheepishly admitting that not long before I had been playing a game of chase and got him to run around and through the off-limits rooms, and so really one couldn’t blame him so much as they could me, for I was supposed to be the one to know better.

I don’t recall what it cost to repair the sofa, nor whether we actually did or if we just got rid of it, with the yukky thought that a dog had slobbered all over one arm of it.  I remember it WAS covered up with one of those removable coverings you put on sofa arms to keep the material underneath from turning color.

As Flip grew, he developed certain normal (for a dog) morning routines.  This included a period of time once we all woke up – we let him sleep in the utility room if it was cold, or in the garage if it was warm, and either way, by the morning he needed to “go” – and so he would find his favorite tree, splatter it a bit, and then trot down our rather long driveway to check out the neighborhood.  In those days, leash laws didn’t exist.

I’m sure my dog Flip is one reason that today, leash laws for dogs are EVERYWHERE.  He’d go across the street to Dr. Wilson’s (the vet) house, pester his cat for a while, and then he would take off running toward the Engle’s house 2 doors down, howling and baying, throwing his head back seemingly with glee, as he would charge the outdoor pen that contained Ajax, the dreaded German Shepherd and the other dog (name escapes me; both Shepherds).  Those animals would go ballistic at Flip’s approach, barking angrily as he would run at the top of his speed toward them. They’d jump up and down trying to get over the 7 foot high fence (never did, thank goodness), and he would run a couple circles around the cage, baying the whole time (remember, beagles are hounds – they bay, not bark like Shepherds).  Then he would run off in the opposite direction when either of the Engles would come out to yell at him and chase him off.

This was always a point of contention with them and my parents, and it came to a head one evening while Mr. Engle (Jerry, if I recall) was walking Ajax.  For some reason, I had taken the unusual step of opening up a living room window and I was looking outside in the darkness, watching Flip goof around in the front yard.  He was chasing squirrels or something.  Anyway, as Ajax and Jerry approached, I heard my father calling Flip from around the back side of the house over in the rear driveway.  At about the same time Ajax started to bark, and I heard Jerry yell “Ajax, NO!” as the dog took off into our yard after Flip.  It was no contest.  The shepherd caught Flip by his back side, picked him up with his powerful jaws and shook him like a flopping fish.  About that time my father came roaring around the side of the house, yelling and hollering angrily at Mr. Engle to control his dog, asking him why he wasn’t on a leash!  The leash was in his hands, but remember – no leash laws and it was a public street.

And that’s when the fight began.  The two men stood there yelling at each other for what seemed like an eternity, but which in reality was really only a few moments.  All I know is that after that, there was bad blood between my father and Jerry Engle, and I do not really know how long it took to resolve, if it ever was.

Flip was not badly injured, or so we thought until a few days later when his whole backside blossomed with infection.  We had to take him to the vet.  Oddly, we didn’t take him to Dr. Wilson, the vet across the street, because his practice was near Hobby Airport.  Instead we took him in town to Dr. Crump.  That becomes important later in the story.  Crump’s office was further down 518 beyond Brown’s Pharmacy, and on the other side of the road, in what had been a house before Dr. Crump turned it into a commercial building for his practice.

One time I remember hearing tires screeching out in the street, and the yelping and howling sounds of what turned out to be Flip, struck by the car.  He wasn’t chasing it – I guess he crossed over after pestering Dr. Wilson’s cat or something and he forgot to look both ways.  We rushed him to Dr. Crump’s office and he fixed him all up.  Don’t know if anything was broken, but soon Flip returned to his old routines and happily explored all around the neighborhood.

There was one other time I remember when we let him out one morning and, to our horror, he instantly made a bee-line across the street toward Dr. Wilson’s garage.  Seems we had forgotten that Doc’s cat had just had kittens and even though Charlie had warned us to keep Flip away, we flat forgot and let him out without supervision.  It was too late.  I could not run fast enough to stop the dog from dashing into the garage after the kittens, only to see the mama cat jump onto Flips ears and with full claws extended, proceed to rip 8 multi-inch gashes, 4 each, into the poor hapless dog’s big floppy ears.  Blood immediately dripped down to the ground and Flip raced home, yelping all the way in both pain and terror….that was one defensive cat!  He never bothered her again.

On Saturday mornings, I’d usually get up to watch Bugs Bunny cartoons.  I’m talking 7:30-ish.  I remember one morning when Flip was older, as was I, getting up early to watch cartoons.  I’m talking about…middle school age.  My brother Paul was already driving, and he is 3 years old so you can figure out I was probably 13 or 14.  As I went to the kitchen, I saw Flip laying in the utility room, leaning against “something”.  The “something” turned out to be brother Paul, lying asleep on the floor, covered in mud and cow manure.

I may have the memory of the story a bit twisted up, but I seem to recall slipping into my parents’ bedroom and suggesting that they come out to the kitchen immediately to check on their other son.  The rest, to me, is a blur but as the story goes, Paul and a buddy had been out drinking beer or something, and as they were trying to get home in his ’66 Mustang, apparently “the driver” of the car, whoever it was, hit a cow in the road and flew into the field, only to land in a big muddy patch that had cow dung everywhere.  For some reason they left the car there and Paul walked home, making it inside only far enough to see Flip laying asleep, so since Paul was apparently a bit “out of it” himself, he laid down beside the dog, hugged him and, in his loving warmth (but no licking) slept it off until I found him the next morning.

I think it was about 1982 before Paul could drive a car again.  His grounding was probably longest in history.

Beagles are hunters.  They love to explore.  They have long snouts and, like all dogs, keen sense of smell.  But, they’re also very (fiercely) loyal to their owners, so they’ll come home like clockwork.  That’s why, after the first night Flip didn’t come home, we knew something was wrong.  Had he been killed by a car?  Run away?  Stolen?  We were sick with worry.

I came home from school one afternoon to have my mother greet me at the door and tell me that Flip was at that moment being treated at Dr. Crump’s office for a snake bite!  Seems he had probably been sniffing around in the woods when a pit viper – cotton mouth or copper head – struck him in the nose.  We learned that dogs have an inbuilt defense mechanism, whereby they’ll crawl away and lay very still until their body can metabolize the poison.  It’s instinct, it’s automatic, and it is why such animals can survive these bites.

When Mom and a friend – Phiddy Barnes, if I’m spelling it right – came back to our house from where ever they had been, there was this “pile” of fur laying on the front porch.  Nothing was EVER on our front porch except maybe milk bottles – when those were still delivered each morning (remember that?) or a new phone book – so as the two ladies cautiously approached, the lump of fur lifted what they concluded was the head, swollen up like a balloon to the point two beady little eyes peered out from beneath the inflamed, fur-covered tissue, and only at that point did Mom recognize Flip.  They scooped him up and rushed him to the vet.  He had been gone 7 days.

Over the next few years, he disappeared twice more, each time for less days.  However, each time he had been snake bit, and by the end of his life the skin around his neck hung loosely below, stretched beyond repair from all the swelling.  And, over time he built immunity to the venom with each subsequent strike.  It’s a biology thing – want to know more, I’m sure your physician or vet can explain better than can I.

A few times, I’d be brave enough to follow Flip behind our house, down to the creek, and across to the other side, which was thick woods.  There were no homes directly behind us at the time.  One afternoon, I hadn’t gone with him but I could hear the dog baying and howling way back in the woods somewhere, but in reality one time it was very loud and the next time, quite muffled.  That’s what prompted me to investigate.  I followed the intermittent beagle hound sounds until I finally came upon Flip, standing up a slight incline and shoving his entire face into a hole in the ground, where he’d then let out a howl.  After watching him in utter dumbfounded stone-faced fascination for a few moments, I must have made a noise because he pulled his head out of the hole, yanked around, startled, to see who was behind him, and when he realized it was me, he gave me that “oh, it’s you” look of non-chalant recognition and continued on his “mission”.  Apparently he had, or thought he had, trapped some kind of animal down the hole and he was trying to flush it out with that beastly baying and howling, and in between bouts of screaming into the hole in the ground, he’d lunge at the dirt edges of the hole with mouth wide open, bite off a big chunk, and spew out the diggings by swinging his head violently from side to side.  Then he’d return to the hole trying to scare his catch into coming out by howling into the ever-larger cavern he’d dug.  Never did find out what it was he chased down there.  I also recall refusing to give him his bath that time.

Or the time I was outside when he came up from behind the house, carrying a carcass proudly in his mouth.  We wouldn’t let him consume the remains in our presence, but every time he brought home a dead critter, after a couple days his whole belly would blow up and he’s pass gas mercilessly for days more….we didn’t even try to blame our father for that smell, as there was no way anyone or anything but that dang dog could have made a horrible aroma as that from ingesting a dead, wild animal he had caught.  That was the down side.  The upside was that he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, eat his dog food for a few days so I’m sure my parents were all to glad to save a couple bucks.

Pancho.  His name was Pancho.  He was my best friend Jan Rutland’s Chihuahua.    They lived around on South Shadowbend just over from Mary’s Crossing.  Pancho was a typical, shivering, snarling Chihuahua.  It wasn’t until my daughter got a Chihuahua – Lola is her name – that I realized that the shivering these dogs do is truly because in this climate, even in Houston, that’s cold for them plus they’re short haired, so there’s not much to cover them up.  Lola will lay out in the middle of winter in the yard and not shiver one bit, so long as there is direct sunlight.  And, it wasn’t until Lola came along that I learned to love Chihuahuas.  Lest I invoke mental pictures of animal cruelty with this story, let me just say that unbeknownst to either my brother or myself, each of us independently would, from time to time when Pancho came calling and (really) scratched on our back door asking to come in and visit his pal Flip, which Mom would never let him do, one of us might happen to slip outside to corner the dog and taunt him a bit, making him yelp and bark in that Chihuahua-scrawny-shivering-dog-like way they do.

Sorry, Jan.  No offense intended.  It was years later that Paul and I compared “notes” and both realized we had done the same thing, just because that type dog ticked us off, I guess.  Real men had HOUND dogs.  Anyway, that’s not really the story of Pancho.  That’s a bit of embarrassed history.  The story is that one day, I was in the front yard with Flip when we saw Pancho trotting up the street toward our house.  He got to our yard and by then Flip was just laying around being a dog, and I was there petting him and just pondering the green grass or something.  Pancho…apparently a bit ‘confused’….started humping Flip’s leg.  Flip sort of turned over and tried to get away, but Pancho kept after it and humped his backside.  At some point, Flip had had enough and so he sort of snarled at Pancho out of the side of his mouth, and then when Pancho started running away in terror, Flip chased after him and, in full stride put his long snout underneath and in between Pancho’s back legs and just lifted his head up all at once, sending Pancho flipping over in a mid-air somersault.  He landed on the grass on all four and then took off like a rocket.  I laid in the grass howling and laughing on my own, having never before seen anything like that!  Flip had just had enough and he “flipped him off”, so to speak.

Pancho kept coming back for visits and try as I might, I never really did connect with a Chihuahua until Lola, and she’s a miniature – so cute, so cuddly, and LOVES me just like my grandbaby!

Sorry, Jan.

Over the years Flip’s range of wandering grew larger and larger.  One day we got a rather amused phone call from our vet’s office.  Seems that Flip had wandered over to that side of town and, when someone opened the door of the vet’s office to bring in their animal for treatment, Flip just trotted right in and sat down in the waiting room, seemingly to wait his turn to see the doc.  Well, Crump played along, gave him a quick checkup and then they called us to come get him.  Dr. Wilson told us later in life, that’s what he’d do when Flip came around – he’d reach down, give him a pat and a quick health check, and send him on his way.  In this case, my very annoyed, but equally amused and amazed mother had to drive down there to pick him up and bring him home.   I’m sure our dog Flip is one reason why where are leash laws everywhere today!

Well, over the years with snake bites, Shepherd bites, car strikes, and impromptu office visits, I’m sure Dr. Crump was mightily surprised when, one Sunday night around 8 o’clock, he got a worried call from the Bilodeau family asking him if he could meet us right away at his office to tend to one very sick beagle.  I’m also sure that Dr. Crump, if he’s still living and is retired, is thankful to have had a “patient” like Flip to help him build up his nest egg.  Anyway, Flip was lying in the utility room sort of sprawled out, but when we called him for dinner, he refused to get up.  This was not like him and my brother and I both became very concerned, enough so that we started looking at him more closely.  And that’s when we discovered it….there it was, swollen to twice or 3 times normal size….one of his testicles.  We rushed him (again!) to Dr. Crump, who did whatever he had to do to diagnose the affliction:  Doggy VD.  Yep, Sir Flip Winston Bilodeau II had contracted a sexually-transmitted disease.  As if that wasn’t funny enough, when Crump innocently asked us all “Do you happen to know where he’s been”, the look of “oh no, surely you’re NOT going to actually HAVE an answer to that question are you?”that came over my brother’s face when I started rattling off all the places I knew he had “frequented”, was as priceless and funny as just finding out that the dang dog had a venereal disease.  Treatment was swift and dramatic.  He had to be treated with antibiotics, and in that good old Bob Barker way, he was immediately castrated (neutered).  Nuts!  Oh wait, NO MORE nuts!  No more fun, either.  After that, Flip gained weight and became…well, listless is how I can describe it.  I guess when the libido goes, it leaves you a little “empty”.

Turns out, we found out later, Flip actually was known as the stud of the neighborhood, apparently having impregnated a number of….bitches…who also were allowed to roam around freely.  Little did we know that the 60s and 70s was not only the decades of free love for people, but also for DOGS!

As time went on and both Paul and I went off to college, we’d come home less and less but oh, when we did, no matter what Flip was doing if he heard us driving up, he’d drop what he was doing and great us with a great baying and jumping for joy as he dashed up to us, tail wagging fiercely as it slapped his sides.  I’d get out of my car and spend a good 5 minutes just hugging and petting and talking to the dog, and he was always so happy to see us.  But as time progressed, the ravages of old age eventually took their toll and the dog developed ‘hot spots’ – big raw, oozing sores a couple inches across, basically some kind of skin infection where all the hair would fall out and it would scab over, and Dr. Crump had to treat it with ever-increasing doses of antibiotics.

It got to the point that Flip became mostly, or maybe the right word is profoundly, deaf.  And, it was bad enough that if you tried to go outside after dark to call the dog home and he saw you, but didn’t hear you (because he couldn’t), he’d turn tale in the darkness and try to run the other direction so he could “stay out late and party”, but if you ran after him and got close enough that your yelling could penetrate his internal silence, he’s shrink all the way down to the ground and just stop dead in his tracks, until you caught up and took him by the collar to drag him home for the night.  It was that “dropping down to the ground” he did, cowering in fear mostly of my father’s wrath, that later in life would come back to haunt me as my eldest son Tucker would “noodle” – become completely limp – if you tried to pick him up when he didn’t want you to, making it 10 times harder to move him.  Same with Flip – but horizontally instead of vertically – equally tough to drag the dog across two yards when his belly was dragging the ground and his rear feet were stubbornly planted in front of him so as to purposefully impede your progress.

So instead you’d just stop and give him a sound whipping until he stood up and walked home.  Dumb dog…never did learn to outsmart us.  Tucker, on the other hand…did (learn to outsmart us).

I was still driving the ’67 Ford Falcon so that one time I came home from UT Austin for the weekend, probably in the spring of 1979 (my senior year), Mom and Dad met me in the driveway as I pulled in.  That, by that time, immediately seemed unusual but as I got out of the car, I decided to let events unfold as they might.

Unfold they did.  I could tell by the look on both their faces that something was wrong….terribly wrong.  Sure enough, they had decided they’d meet me outside the moment I drove up, because they know that the moment I arrived home, always the first thing I did was to wait for Flip to come running from where ever he was, to greet me, before I went inside with him to greet my parents.  By this time Paul was in Med school in Galveston, so I was the Prodigal Son, returned home to joyous greetings….

Not this day….Flip didn’t appear.  I recall starting to ask Mom about it but I could tell by that look on her face, she needed to talk first so I just stood there.

“Flip is gone.  We had to have him put to sleep earlier this week.”

“Really?  Why didn’t you tell me?”

“We didn’t want you to blow your exams…” (it must have been at the end of one of the last semesters….).

“He was a dog.  He had a long life.  He was a great friend and I’ll miss him, but believe me, I would not have blown my exams over his passing.”

They then proceeded to tell me the rest of the story, whereby throughout Flips life both Drs Wilson and Crump had told them, “when the time comes, if you have to put the dog down, don’t bring him to us – we love that dog too much to have to put him to sleep.”

He had become so deaf, and so lame, and so infected with sores, that by the time Dad took him to yet another vet in town to see if there was anything that could be done, when the vet was finished examining him, he said they could try and prolong the dog’s life but that it was all but over anyway, so it might just make more sense to put him out of his misery.

Mom told me later that Dad petted the dog, gave him a little hug, turned around out of the exam room and left the building, crying, as he had to turn over our beloved Sir Flip Winston the Second to be euthanized….

I think it was probably harder on Dad than it was on me at that point, and while I did, and do to this day, miss Flip, I also recognized that he probably was suffering so much that it was the only humane thing to do.  Funny that we think very little of alleviating our pets’ suffering and yet, we sometimes cruelly do nothing to alleviate the suffering of our fellow man, not by euthanizing them but by going beyond ourselves to actually help them.  I’m not an advocate nor supporter of ‘assisted suicide’ or anything like that.  Please do not equate a story about us putting down our family pet, to anything like someone failing to care for their own loved ones, or anything like that.

When I moved to Brownwood in 1981, to manage my first Radio Shack store, after about a year there of living by myself I decided to get a dog…and guess what?  I found a really neat beagle to adopt.

I tried my best to keep the dog safe and happy without letting him get me in trouble with the apartment manager where I lived, and when I bought my own house in 1982 and moved to it, I set up a perimeter electric fence to try and contain the fella so I could let him roam around my 1-acre lot without having to coop him up in the house.

That strategy did not work and one day I came home to find that he had disappeared.  I never saw him again, and I felt guilty for thinking that that kind of fence could contain a hunter.  It was not until years later when technology changed that dogs could thusly be corralled much more humanely with the later technology that would send some kind of signal to their collar to induce pain or a sound or something, to keep them from crossing over the line.  The electric fence never worked like that. It probably is what contributed to the dog “wanting” to leave me….and it was a really dumb idea in the first place, even if well-intentioned.

Since then and after I got married, we had a few dogs and one of them, I truly loved as much as I had remembered loving Flip. Molly was her name, and she was a miniature Dachshund we had bought (pure bred) for our daughter.  One day I got a panicked phone call from my very pregnant (with Tucker) wife, saying to come home immediately as it looked to them like Molly had drowned in our swimming pool.

Sure enough, when I got home, she had apparently fallen in, having gotten through the protected fence I designed specifically to keep her out, and maybe when she tried to take a drink, she fell in on that cold November day and just could not get out of the frigid water before she died.

I cried that day, having to take the lovingly wrapped carcass to our neighbor, the vet, for ‘disposal’.

Someday, I’ll probably have another dog, but it won’t be until long after my grandchildren are old enough to be at that age where, if they come see their loving grandparents, we’ll be here and so will our beloved puppy, to visit with and love on them.  For now, I can be satisfied that our daughter, who gave us a most wonderful and beautifully cute granddaughter (9 months as of this writing), also has two wonderful grandpuppies who both love me like crazy, just like Flip and Molly did.  Kennedy, the male mini-Yorkshire Terrier and his ‘little’ sis, Lola the mini-Chihuahua.

There’s nothing in the world like being Gumpy to a granddaughter and two grandpuppies, and it was my own childhood experiences with my beloved beagle Flip, and his sidekick Pancho, which helped prepare me for what arguably shapes up to be the greatest time in our lives…grand-parenthood!

Thanks for reading.  Hope you got a good laugh, maybe had a moment of nostalgia about your own pet, and that you will forgive me if I mistyped anything or if my actions were anything less than honorable.  It was never my intent to be cruel or careless, but as kids, sometimes we have to make mistakes to learn from them later in life when something “rings a bell” as that article I provided at the beginning of this story did to me, the other day.

Blessings to you and your family.

David B

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About djbgumpy

Information Technology
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