Dog Dog by Judith Ann Moriarty The Storyteller

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I think it’s appropriate, don’t you to write about dogs I have known, and in some cases endured. They should have been so lucky to have a place where they were sent for grooming. West Bend’s Pooch Palace would be just the ticket.

My first dog was Skippy, a honey-colored cocker given to nipping the heels of the kid who delivered our newspaper by tossing it from his speeding bike. It must have been the bike that drove Skippy wild. Anyway, one day Skippy was sent elsewhere and that elsewhere was never explained to me. He was named after my favorite peanut butter. I still prefer it.

Then came Jet, a black cocker puppy, but he ran out into the street in front of our Smalltown home, and the driver of the truck that hit him brought the body to our front door. Unfortunately, I answered the door. Cuddles was next, a mutt to end all mutts. I figured he was my dog. Mine. One day, in the day before leash laws when dogs roamed for miles, I found Cuddles dead as a door-nail in the alley behind our house, down the way a bit, sprawled out. What a tragic sight. We figured Cuddles was poisoned with rat poison, a common thing to put by your garbage bag back in the day.

Dad and I dug a hole in the northwest corner of our lot, where the lilac hedge bloomed in the spring. We made a white cross and dropped Cuddles into the hole and that was that. It was the only time I saw my dad cry, and it was likely because I was crying. I’ve buried a few turtles in my day too.

If “groomed” is the correct word, I must say our “grooming” tool for dogs consisted of a big zinc washtub, a hose (or more likely we hauled water from the kitchen sink) and at least one kid to yell, “look out, the dog is about to shake off the water!” We had some big dogs that liked to roll on dead stuff or mix it up with skunks, so they got the zinc-tub treatment. We pulled burs out of their coats. And sometimes had to scissor them out, lots of them, depending on which field they had roamed. I never clipped a dog’s toenails until the late 60s when I lived in the suburbs and thought a poodle was tres chic.

After the first horrible trauma of clipping the nails of said poodle, Licorice, I decided that well, if I was really chic, I’d take the poor thing to the groomer to be clipped, bathed, bowed and sent back to me smelling like a proper poodle should. It strikes me that this is about the time that dog grooming caught on in the U.S., and I’m not talking Kennel Club grooming, just a simple clip, toenails fixed, and maybe the rear end glands squeezed. Let’s not go there, okay? I always removed the silly bows. Licorice couldn’t tell me to, but I knew it wasn’t his style.

So now I’m in the age of condo dogs, one of which I just saw on a leash strolling down the street wearing a red sweater. Dogs here, or so the condo association rules go, are not to exceed 12 pounds. Uh huh. It’s a nice dog though. Goes to the groomers I guess. And the owner even takes the dog for rides in what appears to be a stroller for little kids. One night I woke to the sight of a big, big dog pulling a cart with a driver in it. If you’re reading this and you drove the dog down Ridgewood Drive, would you come forth please?

When I lived in a tiny Milwaukee 17-story condo, the place was awash with dogs, some nasty, some not. Let me tell you, you aren’t taking risks until you ride up 17 floors with a dog on a short leash. I heard there were several incidents where dogs got into it on the elevator.

What this is leading to is a bit of tale about my son’s family dog. An adorable Yorkie (some aren’t so sweet you know), Chloe leads quite a life, traveling about in a silvery huge bag slung over her mother’s shoulders. She gets to travel in style in the silver bag as an airline passenger. Somehow I can’t wrap my head around this. And of course, she is groomed to the max, with interim baths courtesy of her mother Kristi’s loving hands. Chloe has her own heating pad too. She’s not a Wisconsin dog, more of an Arizona dog, and she rarely gets to go outdoors, just in case a mountain lion or whatever would make a meal of her.

Various items of clothing keep her warm when she visits Wisconsin, but so far no Packer gear. My oldest grandson remarked recently that “Gee Grams, what I really want this year is a real dog. Chloe doesn’t DO anything.” Well, he’s right. Chloe, as darling as she is, strikes me as an accessory, sort of like a cell phone or wristwatch. “Get me a white Labrador Grams,” a dog that can DO things. I can’t of course, and his family is so busy that there would be little time to exercise a dog. No. 1 grandson is 15 now, and I told him that someday he’d have his own living space, and someday in the not so far future, he would have the dog of his dreams, a pure white Labrador. Maybe even one that loves to ride the elevator up and down in a high rise somewhere.

As for groomed to the max Chloe the Yorkie, she never has to go downstairs to floor one. She has her own little teensy “pee pad.” I guess this is what’s meant by “a dog’s life.” Or is it?

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