My parents have been keeping our two dogs, Pumpkin and Pippin, while we wait for the yard to be fenced in. It's been a month that the 'rents have kept the pooches. I think that all involved are enjoying the visit. The honeymoon may have come to an end, though, when our little Pumpkin was caught under the table with a stolen loaf of cinnamon bread.
Mom complained about the behavior, but as Dad has reminded us that our family dog, Boots, was much, much, much worse. In fact, none of us can look at a picture of him without chuckling about how horrible he was.
We met Boots under difficult circumstances. It was 1988 and I was 14. My Grandpa Krieg, my father's father, unexpectedly died leaving behind a 6-week old Boston terrier. Going to my Grandpa's house without him there was weird. My brothers and I sat in the living room, with the same avocado green carpeting and gold and orange couch that had been there since the 70's, trying not to look at my Grandpa's empty reclining chair. After a few minutes the back door opened and a black and white blur came barreling into the room, preceded by a very long and active pink tongue. This thing was catapulting off of our chests and faces while simultaneously licking. I think I heard crying in the corner. I think it was my mother.
You see, we had already agreed to take the puppy.
My brother, Todd, thought he was the coolest looking dog ever, with its squished up face and constant snorting. I can't say what Erik thought because he was so young. I thought it was amazing that we had found an animal whose behavior seemed to be worse than my youngest brother's behavior, possibly even more embarrassing.
We stayed at Grandpa's house with our new dog during the days of the visitation and funeral. I can remember sitting in the front yard and my mother begging me to point out anything that would make this dog likeable. Mom didn't like his color, his face, his noises, or I really did think he was cute. Wild, but cute.
Taking that dog home sealed the life-long commitment my parents were making, and they did it with their usual we're-going-to-make-this-work attitude. My parents weren't the type of couple to fret and not know what to do. They just jumped in with both feet and kept going.
Boots. Good ole Boots. In the photos I have posted you'll notice that we all are smiling - but look at Boots' collar - notice the two fingers looped through it so as restrain the animal at any moment. He was lightening fast and if the front door opened it he was out it like a speeding bullet. Boots especially loved to escape when our elderly neighbors were taking their elderly dog out for a stroll. He was also fairly indestructible, as on one of his escapades he was hit by a car. I stood in the front yard screaming as we all listened to the thud of his body hitting the carriage of the car he had just been run over by. Then we saw the black and white blur shoot out from under and continue on his path of destruction toward whatever pedestrian he was going to antagonize. I'm not even making that up.
Boots was kind of like a giant mouth with a little, muscular body attached. He loved chasing balls, as we discovered when I got the bright idea to take him to a soccer game. He chewed through his leash and escaped onto the field chasing the ball like a mad dog. It was hilarious watching the refs chase the dog.
My brothers thought he was part shark because he could chew through anything. In fact, those two sweet boys put Boots' bone under my dad's dresser and watched as the crazed pup chewed through the wood to get to his favorite treat. Yes, that dog chewed a hole in the dresser large enough for his head to fit through in order to retrieve his bone. My parents didn't seem to find that one quite as funny as we did.
Boots didn't take well to training in the beginning, either. My dad bought a choke collar in order to try and get a more submissive animal and began taking him on walks. Boots hated the leash and would pull in the opposite direction. Dad had read to just keep walking and that the dog would eventually submit, so that is just what Dad did. He would walk, Boots would pull. At some point on their journey the leash seemed particularly heavy and dad turned around to see what was what. That dog had pulled so hard on the choke collar that he passed out. Dad had been forcing an incapacitated animal to walk by dragging him along. What must the neighbors have thought?
After an especially worrisome encounter with our elderly neighbors Mom decided it was time for obedience classes. It took Boots three tries to finally pass the class, but we all benefited. Dad jokes that if Mom told the dog to sit that my brothers and I also sat. Boots knew sit, stay, drop, and speak. He was still wild but more manageable.
Boots did have his upsides, though. He would let me dress him up in doll clothes and push him around in a stroller. I thought it was hysterically funny but he seemed to enjoy the pampering. Boots was also Erik's constant companion. Erik was almost as wild as that dog at times, so I can only imagine my parents' relief at knowing that Boots wouldn't leave Erik. We always knew where they were because Erik's favorite command to give the dog was 'speak' by putting up his thumb. Boots would sit right in front of Erik while he gave the command to 'speak' over and over and over. For hours. For days. It was maddening, and endearing.
That dog. He lived a long life of chasing balls and wreaking havoc even after he was old and blind. That crazy animal provided my family with a bit of levity in the days after my grandfather's sudden death, with a ton of respect for my mom as the only human who could control the dog, and with a deep affection for the boy/dog relationship. Looking back I see that Boots was the perfect addition to our family. We were already sticking out like sore thumbs for not looking like your typical American family in the 80's, so why not throw in a dog that some people might call ugly with horrible behavior, and who answered to 'd***n dog'?
Boots made us look good!