Sunday, January 27, 2008

Story Hour - Part VI

Story Hour is a collection of short, auto-biographical stories written by my father, about his childhood memories growing up on a farm in Upstate New York.


Spud was a unique dog. A German shepherd, who served his country during the time of war. Alec had decided, during the strong feelings of patriotism in World War II, that his dog was going to war, even if Alec couldn’t. Spud was inducted, trained as a “WAR DOG” and served with honor. He returned home (after de-training) where, perhaps, in the archives of The Pulaski Democrat there exists an article with his picture. As far as I know Spud was the only dog from the Pulaski area that served in the Armed Forces during war time.

As we all do, Spud grew older. His eyes and ears lost a lot of resiliency and he started becoming lame and slow. It eventually happened that a neighbor from up the road was driving home when old Spud walked into the road, directly in front of the moving car. He was not killed instantly, though it would have been better if he had been. Alec was at work at a neighboring farm and wouldn’t be home for several hours. The driver of the car and I carried Spud out behind the house and tried to make him comfortable. It was to no avail. He had been fatally crushed and was obviously suffering.

The only humane thing to be done was done. I buried Spud beneath a small shrub to spare Alec the sight of his old friend who had been so grievously injured. I believe we all shed a tear or two that night.

Several years earlier, on the farm there was another incident involving a dog. Garden planting day was an activity that involved everyone who was capable of helping in any manner. And on that particular day, potatoes were the name of the game.

The soil had been previously “fitted up”, the rows clearly marked and the planters were hard at work. Jack would make a hole with his hoe; Dugal would place a potato with an “eye up”; Dick would cover the potato with soil; and I would proudly step on each hill to ensure the soil was in firm contact with the seed. The big draw back to this plan was the dog thought it was a game and promptly dug the potatoes back up behind us.

After observing this a time or two and shouting at the dog (with no results), I picked up a stick and made a threatening motion towards him. I cannot fault the dog. It was my own action that prompted the dog to knock me to the ground and bite my face. Mom cleansed the wounds and applied iodine while the dog was tied up at the barn to await DG’s return that evening.

It was a very nice, reddish colored chow with a tail that curled over its back. I have heard many times since then that Chow dogs are temperamental and cannot be trusted but I know I caused the death of that dog. There was no hesitancy or regret in DG’s voice as he issued the order to Dick - "Shoot the dog, he cannot be trusted around the children".

And so it was done. To this day, I feel a terrible guilt about that dog.

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