I had always wanted a dog as a child, but Mama wasn’t too keen on the idea. Neither was Daddy. Daddy had served in the Philippines in World War II, and came home afraid of the family dog even though he had known Fritz before he went to war. Fritz was in the family photo with his father and five sisters that he and his brother carried in their gear while they served. I later learned that the Japanese used dogs in warfare, but my father never spoke of it. So growing up, I made do with Fritz and with Wimpy – my aunt’s black cocker spaniel.
I remember going to our pastor’s house in Roseland which was down the hill from the church. They had a great dane who loved children and wanted to play with me, but I was so much smaller than it was and I was afraid. I stood up against a basement post with my dad behind me as a shield until they could corral him.
Finally, when I was in high school, Daddy got an overweight dachshund I named Toby which was from a Hungarian word for sausage. He wasn’t much for playing, but it didn’t matter at the time. He was very keen on protecting his bone, and when Mamma reached into the kennel for his dish not seeing the bone, he bit her and Daddy returned him to the man who gave him to us.
When I got married, my husband decided it was time for another dog. I don’t remember where we got Sandy from, but she loved being out in the yard. She was a pretty dog with little beige eyebrows. One night I was coming down the train station stairs and knew my hubby had come to walk home with me – I kept hearing, “Oh, look at the pretty dog!”
On the other side of our back fence was a set of railroad tracks, complete with the usual critters. One night, Sandy tangled with a skunk. We knew a skunk had been around when we got home, but didn’t really think anything of it at first. Up close, Sandy smelled fine, so we let her into the house for the night. As we were putting groceries away, we began to notice a funny odor. That’s when we put two and two together and took her downstairs for a tomato bath, which only made the odor more pronounced. She spent the rest of the week completely outdoors and managed to get skunked several more times that summer.
One evening we came home and Sandy was nowhere to be found. We searched the neighborhood and went to the nearest dog pound. We didn’t find her, but while we were walking down the aisle, I spotted a little buff colored cocker spaniel cowering in the back corner of her kennel. That’s how we came home with Chaya.
One night shortly after we got her, a friend was over. Chaya greeted Chuck and then disappeared upstairs. Chuck wanted to see more of her, so we called and called, but she wouldn’t come down. Finally, an exasperated Chuck called “Come here you ugly dog”, and she bounded down the stairs. That’s how Chaya become Ugly (much to my mother-in-law’s dismay and disappointment).
My husband worked nights on occasion, and one night I was awakened in the middle of the night by several loud thuds. I was scared to death, but slowly crept down the stairs. That’s when I heard the other sound – dog paws running and sliding. Ugly was using her nylabone as a hockey puck and having a grand time!
Then there was the night I got up to go to the bathroom. There was a full moon, so the bedroom was dimly lit. Enough to see Ugly lying on her back with all four paws straight up in the air. She had been sick that day and evening so I thought she had died in her sleep and scared her for a change when I dove down to the floor to check on her.
Ugly loved to sit in the front of the full length window screen door and watch the world go by. The mailbox was next to the door, and Ugly would watch the mailman come up the walk, deposit the mail in the box and walk away. THEN she would bark. We imagined coming downstairs someday to an empty first floor if she wouldn’t bark until the burglars were long gone!
Ugly had to be top dog. She tolerated Hawkeye, the English springer spaniel puppy my husband brought home, but when we added Beulah (to mate with Hawkeye) a year or so later, she was miserable, so we gave her to a good friend where she lived a long and happy life (and kept the ugly name!).