Maude McDaniel, Columnist
Mom couldn’t think of anything to write this week so I tried to be helpful. I suggested a column about bones, and one about sniffing versus licking, and one about the delightful appeal of female dogs compared to that of male dogs. (Even if you’re what Mom calls fixed, whatever that is.)
For some reason, none of them seemed to appeal to her. But finally, she said grumpily, “Okay, if you’re so smart, write your own column,” so here I am.
But first I should introduce myself. My name is Rusty, and I have written for you before, but you probably don’t remember me. That’s because Mom takes credit for these columns, just because she is my owner, and I have heard her laugh and accept the praise that is rightfully mine, all the time pretending she is the writer.
Not so. I am the writer and I have the chops to prove it. Well, I would have, but I ate them.
First, I have to tell the world that there are things you want to do — if you’re a dog — and no amount of scolding is going to stop you from doing it. In my case, it’s barking. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t stop myself, for instance, from barking at cats out in the yard. It’s just part of my being a dog, I guess, one of those things I can’t keep to myself. It is my mission in life to bark at cats. Although when I see a cat at the vet’s I am very quiet and polite, inquiring amiably into their well-being. I don’t quite understand that myself, but that’s the way it is.
There are a lot of cats outside because of those disgusting humans (if you’re one of those people, just stop reading me right now!) who get tired of their pets and throw them out of the car into some field to live on their own for a few weeks and then die quietly in a ditch under a cold rain.
I can see these feral cats (as Mom calls them) perfectly from my favorite place up at the bay window with all the pillows in it. Up there, it’s all a doggie paradise; but not so much outside for the cats. Although I do remember two cats that lasted outside for a couple of years, until I almost got to think of them as friends — though still barkable.
Meanwhile, Mom yells at me to stop barking — and I ignore her. Oh, I do love ignoring her. Only when she comes at me with the leash and takes me away from my window, attaching me to a chair on the floor, can she shut me up. I am proud to say I am a dog with endurance, although unfortunately she has more.
Still for a boss she’s not too bad. She tells me she always loved dogs — has had eight of her own, including me. And that’s NOT including the china ones she collected as a child. It seems that when no one in her family could think of anything else, they would buy her a little ceramic dog. I shouldn’t think they would be anywhere near as nice to have around as a real live dog. In other words, me.
She has told me all the names of those eight, and I didn’t even get jealous. They were Spot, (a Christmas present when she was seven), and Jeep, her teenage buddy. Then after she grew up and had children she could use as an excuse to get a dog, here came Blitzen 1, who died of distemper in two weeks, and Ginger, a feisty little hound who lived to be 17. And darling Blitzen 2, a golden retriever who broke her chain and was hit by a car. After that came dear Piper, an English spaniel, who lived to be about 9 and sweet Lexie, a golden retriever-German shepherd mix, who died at about 8. (All those adjectives were supplied by Mom.)
And then she got ME! Took long enough, didn’t it?
You’ve heard it before, I know, but she told me that if I ran out of things to talk about, I could always repeat the story she likes to tell about when she was singing a solo, which I think is something like howling. (I hear her practicing sometimes.) It was down at Centre Street Methodist, where they used to leave the side doors open in the summer, before air conditioning.
One of the members, the story goes, lived in the neighborhood and his dog came searching for him, and came in one of the open doors, and decided to investigate all that strange yelping up front. He went up the stairs into the choir loft and started running among the pews there while Mom kept on singing because there was really nothing else to do. Once he even brushed up against the back of her legs, which she says now was a sensation unlike any other she has ever had while singing a solo.
But she is proud that she kept on singing, although I am sure the congregation was more transfixed by the dog’s tail twinkling above the pews, and didn’t hear a note of it. Finally the dog’s master came up and persuaded the dog to come down, through which Mom just — kept on singing. (It was a long solo.) “What else could I do?” she says again, and I think she has a point.
The best part of it all is that it gave her an unforgettable story to entrance her future readers. (More than once!) And I am beginning to understand the value of a good story. Have I ever told you about the time on a walk when I smelled this adorable little female poodle around the corner, and — yes, Mom, what do you want?
Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.