Old Mack’s Tales

June 9, 2011

We’re Suckers for Sad-eyed, Skinney Dogs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" @ 2:20 pm

We’re Suckers for Sad, Skinny Stray Dogs.

When Chris saw his photo in the St. Pete Times she got that old familiar look in her eyes.  It’s either pity or love at first sight; sort of the way she looked at me that night in the Overseas Nightclub when we first met.

We were sitting in Starbucks on 22nd Avenue North, just a few turns northwest of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Tax Collection Office where we’d gone to renew her driver license. She didn’t get it because she doesn’t have a passport and didn’t have her birth certificate in her purse—one now has to have one or the other, plus a photo I.D. and a utility company bill with the same address as the one on the I.D. card to get a driver license renewed. We didn’t have enough cash on hand either; the last time she renewed her license it cost ten bucks; today they wanted fifty-six dollars.  So Chris was reading the Times and sipping her coffee when she saw the mutt’s photo.

The dog was a stray the Animal Police rounded up weeks ago in half-starved condition.  Their advertisement said it was healthy and fully recovered, but even in the photo featuring its sad eyes one could count its vertebrae and ribs.  With its bony tail curled over his hips Chris said it looked like a Basinji.  I argued that the Basenji’s ears stand up, not hang down like a hound’s.  But one glance at that mutt’s mug and I guessed it was a Polish Cur. That made her angry; she thought it was an ethnic slur.  It wasn’t a slur, but I had no time to argue further.

I dumped my full cup of bitter Starbucks in the trash can and told her we had to leave to keep  an appointment with my physician at Bay Pines.

As I was preparing to leave our house, gathering keys, cap, hearing aids and dentures, Chris was on the phone speaking to A.J., telling our daughter she needed a ride.  “Can you spare twenty dollars?” Chris asked as I headed for the door.  I laid the bill on the table; I suspected, but didn’t ask what she wanted it for.

Doc Reynolds made short work of my visit.  He listened a moment to my lungs gurgling and asked how much I was smoking.  “I’m back up to a pack a day.  But that’s not what’s making me wheeze.  I mowed my lawn at the crack of dawn and stirred up a lot of dust.”  He renewed the prescription for Progesterone and the latest, or cheapest, drug for lowering blood pressure and then showed me a large aerial photo of an airfield with five carriers berthed and the Bay Bridge in the background.  “That’s Alameda Naval Air Station,” I said.  “Last time I was there it was decommissioned.  That’s where the DOD sells its surplus stuff.”  Reynolds looked disappointed.  He was nostalgic for those glory days when Alameda had been home port to the carriers of the Pacific Fleet.  His eyes had almost the same  sad look as the lost dog in the newspaper photo.

I’d been home long enough to warm up the left-over baked beans and make a bean sandwich.  I was eating the damned thing when Chris and A.J. came in with the dog.

The dog was already right at home. He bounded over to my chair and tried to climb on my lap.  I pushed his paddle-like feet off of my knees and ordered him to sit.  When he obeyed I gave him a piece of my bean sandwich.

“We can call this one Seymour, or Walter Glass.  I prefer Walt,” I said.  Walter was my late father-in-law’s name as well as one of Salinger’s characters.  “Waker” was the name of the twin who died in Japan, and Seymour committed suicide, so I don’t think we should use either one of those.”

“They’ve been calling him ‘Booger,’ or ‘Goober’ at the animal shelter.  The girl who has walked him daily came out to the car when we were leaving and got all teary eyed.” A.J. said.

We led all three dogs out back.  Buddy and Walter raced back and forth from fence to fence and then did a tail chase around the perimeter.  Leo, Dorian’s big gray pit bull came out and stood at his fence acting fierce for a minute while he and Walt got acquainted.  It’s amazing how quickly dogs can socialize if their owners don’t get alarmed by their antics.

Walter crawled under my van and deepened the hole Buddy and Zooey use on hot days, but when he returned to it to cool off after his run, he found it occupied by our calico cat.  He looked surprised when she didn’t vacate his hole and was a bit startled when she licked his nose.  But they both nestled down in the cool sand, nose to nose, as if they were old friends.


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