Sunday, February 27, 2011

Man's Best Friend

Most of us got a puppy growing up. Those of us who did can remember our ankles being attacked, our socks begin destroyed and the smell of “puppy breath”. One of my more memorable dogs was Prince. He was born on my eighth birthday. So my birthday present was to go see my newborn dog. For six weeks we would go visit my puppy every few days. He had a little pink spot on his nose that none of the other puppies had, so it was always easy to pick him out of the crowd. Being a breed dog he only lived for around eight years. He got cancer and in the end we had to put him to sleep. Thinking of him always reminds me of that poem by Lord Byron:


Near this spot are deposited the remains
Of one who possessed beauty without vanity,
Strength without insolence,
Courage without ferocity,
And all the virtues of man
Without his vices.
This praise, which would be unmeaning flattery
If inscribed over human ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the memory of "Boatswain," a Dog
Who was born at Newfoundland,
May, 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey
Nov. 18, 1808.

The words of this poem certainly ring true. Prince had all of those qualities. It's no wonder that dogs are called man's best friend.

Prince was one of the biggest dogs in the neighborhood and, as pit-bulls had a bad reputation, people were a little nervous whenever he was around. Sam's first encounter with Prince, but without us, is worth relating. This goes back to when Sam was probably ten or eleven. He had just started hanging out at our house and he had been around Prince maybe two or three times. Sam felt perfectly safe around the dog provided that we were right there with him.

We wouldn't have deserted Sam to the dog willingly, at least not until he knew Prince better. However, Prince was very head strong and, on occasion, he would decide he wanted to explore the neighborhood without us. When that mood took him he would suddenly make a break for it without warning. It was during one of these getaways that he ran up on Sam.

Prince had decided to make a dash out of the yard just as Sam was walking up the street to our house from his grandmothers. He was about half way there when he saw Prince come flying down the road. It seemed to Sam that there was murder in the dog's eyes and he appeared to be running strait for him. He knew he had to react quickly or become the first kid in the neighborhood killed by a bloodthirsty pit-bull. There was no time to reach any of the houses around and beg for entry, he had do do something instantly.

He looked around and saw that his only real resource was a clump of trees beside the road. He grabbed hold of a nearby pine tree and began to climb with everything he had. He had gotten perhaps ten feet in the air when Prince reached the base of the tree. In a flash Prince flew past him without so much as looking up. Sam hadn't been the target at all, he just happened to be standing right where Prince wanted to go. If Sam had known Prince better he would have realized that he was actually safer with Prince around than without. After musing for a moment Sam climbed down and finished his journey to our house.

We all had a laugh when Sam told us what had happened. There were actually several occasions when Prince gave us a laugh at Sam's expense. The next one that springs to mind happened years later around the Christmas holidays. Sam, Joshua and I had been left home alone while Mom and Dad went and did some shopping. One of our duties was to make sure we took Prince out whenever he needed to go.

The faithful animal always started whining long before he actually had to go, so we always had plenty of time to get him outside. Of course, there were times when he simply wanted to get out and get a bit of fresh air. You could never be sure if he was whining because of one thing or the other. Usually we didn't chance it. If he said he needed to go out then we took him.

However, on this particular night we were playing with the video camera. As I said, Mom and Dad were gone to town, so we started making funny videos to show them when they got home. While we were working on that Prince began to whine. We were right in the middle of things and didn't feel like stopping so we gave him the “Love” treatment. Dad had taught the dog that it was time to be affectionate whenever you said “love”. So, at times, we would use it to distract him if he was whining.

Sam rubbed the dog down telling him “love” again and again until Prince was content. Then we went on with our recording. After just a few minutes he began asking to go out again. Once more Sam gave him the “love” treatment and once more he got quiet. This went on for perhaps thirty minutes. Prince had started whining every couple of minutes or so and we assured him that we would take him out as soon as we were done.

Sam gave him the treatment one last time. He put his hand on Princes head and rubbed all the way down the dog's back as he said “love”. Well, as Sam's hand ran down the creature's back it became obvious that the beast couldn't wait any longer. Prince had given Sam a steaming pile of “love” right on the living room floor. This put us into action at last. Josh and Sam took Prince out for a walk while I cleaned up the mess. For the most part he was a faithful, patient animal, but nature can only wait so long.

Of course, his patience didn't do anything for him when he was eating. He brought the expression “Inhaling your food” to life. I remember once Dad had given him the ham bone from Thanksgiving dinner. It still had plenty of meat on it and so we figured he would really enjoy it. Dad dropped it on the floor and we went about cleaning off the table. As I was going back and forth between the table and the kitchen I looked down and saw Prince laying on the floor, but no bone.

Dad said that if he swallowed it he would be able to digest it and we went on with what we were doing. A few minutes later Prince was walking around the house wheezing. He seemed perfectly normal. He was smiling his dog smile and wagging his stubby little tail. However, he wasn't breathing normally. His breaths were quick and short and wheezy.

As I was looking him over he suddenly threw his jaws apart as far as he could and made a loud puking noise. I saw the ham bone slowly working it's way up his throat. It came out of his mouth like a snake coming up out of a read basket and then dropped on the floor. Prince immediately began to breath normally again. I picked up the bone to throw it away and realized that it was basically as big around as the dog's throat and that it was hollow all the way through it. Then I realized that the dog had been breathing through the hole in the bone. That was why he had been wheezing. Needless to say, we never gave him another bone like that.

There were times, of course, when a mere bone wouldn't satisfy his hunger. I myself have seen him attack a cow. Well, he didn't really “attack” it I suppose, and honestly he wasn't trying to eat it either. I think Prince merely had a hunger for adventure that he was trying to satisfy. That would at least explain why he did what he did.

Joshua, Sam and I were all down at Mrs. Woody's house hanging out in the yard. As I have mentioned in other stories, Mrs. Woody was Sam's grandmother and her house was by one of the pastures for Folk's dairy. There were a number of cows out in the field that day. Mr. Folk would rotate them in and out to let the cows graze or the grass grow.

As we were playing in the yard suddenly Prince flew past us and ran under the fence that surrounded the pasture. The three of us ran to the fence calling the dog, but he didn't pay us any attention. He ran in amongst the herd of cows, jumped up on one and bit it right behind the neck. The poor animal began to “buck” (for lack of a better word) like no cow I had even seen before. It was like watching a rodeo. As soon as one cow had thrown him, Prince would jump up on another.

This continued for perhaps ten minutes with us standing on the sidelines yelling for him to come to us. In the end he cut out of the field heading a different direction.

“I have never seen anything like that... I've never even heard of anything like that...” I said as I stood there stunned.

“I have.” Sam replied, looking out over the pasture.


“I live here remember. I've seen Prince do that before...”

We burst out laughing and went back to our game. This is one of those things were I am glad there were witnesses. Most people might not believe even though three of us saw it happen, but if I hadn't seen it by myself I don't think even I would believe it. Still, “Truth is stranger than fiction” as they say.

All in all Prince was an amazing dog. I think all children should get at least one puppy growing up. Amazingly those dumb brutes can teach us a lot about the better parts of human nature. Prince has long been dead, but I hope and believe that I will never forget him. I can say in truth that he was one of man's best friends.

In closing I have to say that all good things come to an end. It may be hard to believe, but this is my fifty second post. That makes it a year since I started. I do have other stories to tell an one day, Lord willing, they will be told. However, for the time being I have to put these tales down to begin work on another writing project. It is my intention to try and have these stories published. If I can I may add a few more stories to the printed version. I would like to thank you all for taking the time to read these stories. I hope that you've gotten as much enjoyment out of reading them as I got out of writing them.

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