For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.
Oh, man. Writing on a Saturday, when it’s so nice outside? Ugh. Feels like weekend homework – something I’ve avoided forever. And yet, here I am, as promised. Today’s story is both sad and adorable like Old Yeller. You know what else is sad and adorable? I once heard a friend refer to that dog as “Old Yellow”, which she assumed was the dog’s full name.
When I was six, I lived out on an old ranch outside Nocona, Texas. I had a horse named Elmer (named after the glue, because he was totally old and about to die when we got him) and a collie named Patches. My older brother had a mutt named Buster, but I always thought he was a Dalmatian because he was white with black spots and I had read that book a hundred and one times.
Buster was neutered, but Patches had not been spayed and the first time she went into heat, we started noticing a little stray dog hanging around. I thought he looked like Benji, but as I have already established, I was not super good at knowing what dogs look like, basing all my dog breed knowledge on fictional dogs from story books.
My dad did not want Patches to get knocked up. The last thing we needed was a bunch of puppies. So whenever he would see stray-Benji hanging around, he’d yell at him or wave his arms menacingly to get him to run off.
But stray-Benji always came back.
Eventually, my dad had to get sinister and teach stray-Benji that when he said, “Go on, get out of here!” he meant it. So he started throwing rocks in the general direction of the dog. I know. It sounds pretty mean. Imagine how I took it, being a six-year-old Benji fan. But he assured me that he was just throwing the rocks near the dog to scare him away, and would not hurt the dog.
Not hurting the dog didn’t teach the dog anything, and stray-Benji kept coming back. We lived out in the country where our dogs ran around free, and as long as Patches was in heat, and stray-Benji was hanging around, we had to keep them apart, which was kind of a pain in the ass.
So my dad got out the heavy artillery: a pellet gun. This sent both my brother and I over the edge, as we were certain that our father was on his way to becoming a dog murderer.
“Hello? Special Victims Unit? Come quick!”
Again, my dad assured us that he was only going to shoot the gun in the air, hoping that the loud noise would scare the dog away for good. It did not. Eventually he took aim at the dog, swearing to us that he would just hit the dog in the butt, and that a pellet gun could never do any real damage.
You guys see where this is going, right? I apologize in advance to the tenderhearted.
So, “Sharpshooter McGee” accidentally hit the dog in the spine. The dog went down, and my brother and I saw everything. My dad had succeeded at keeping stray-Benji off our ovulating collie, but had failed at keeping his children from crying and screaming, “YOU KILLED HIM!” over and over and over. He promised us that the stray dog was just fine, then he picked up the dog and rushed him to the vet.
All that dog wanted was some sweet collie tail, which I assume he is getting a lot of in Heaven.
The thing is, my parents couldn’t really afford to get my dog spayed. And they couldn’t really afford to raise a bunch of puppies. A strapped budget had gotten my dad into this mess, and now he had to cough up the dough to have this poor stray dog put to sleep. And after that, even though we couldn’t really afford it, he had to bring home a live dog and convince us it was the same dog he left with.
My dad worked for an airplane parts manufacturer at the time, and there had been a stray dog hanging around the factory for weeks. He and the other guys at work would feed her scraps, from time to time. She was a beagle mix and she was more than happy to come home with my dad and pretend to be another dog, if it meant two square meals a day.
The other thing she was is pregnant.
She gave birth to eight puppies a few weeks later, which completely thrilled my brother and me, and almost made up for the fact that our accidental-dog-murdering dad tried to fool us with a fake-stray-Benji.