The following short story is a blast from the past about a brindle pit bulldog that we grew to love.
He was quite intimidating with his two bottom canines protruding above his upper lip and growling as though he wanted to rip an arm or leg off. I unbuckled my daughter from her car seat and helped her down to the ground only to have her start wailing and clinging to my leg. I tried to assure her that the dog wasn’t going to hurt her but, deep down inside I too, was very nervous. He paced back-and-forth warily as I shut the van doors and shepherded both kids close to me. A gray-headed lady appeared from the house across the drive and fussed at the dog.
“Stop growling, Buddy. They’re not going to hurt you,”. She looked at me and then down at my wide-eyed children. Grimacing, she pulled a key out of her pocket and proceeded to unlock the door to the apartment I was there to look at. As short little legs and myself slowly climbed the steep stairs, Buddy and Camby, a honey-and- white-colored Corgi, bounded up them, nearly knocking my daughter over and sending her into another crying spell. Buddy growled, clearly not liking the shrill little-girl voice, which then elicited another command to be quiet from his no-nonsense owner. He obeyed, but kept his distance and his eye on these three strangers who had dared to invade his territory.
We decided on that rental, a barn-style apartment situated on twenty-one acres of wooded land. For the first couple of months, my daughter refused to go outside unless if either her brother or myself was out there with her. She was so sure that black dog was going to hurt her. No amount of coaxing could convince her otherwise.
One day, while busily washing dishes, it dawned on me that it was pretty quiet in the house. I wandered into the kid’s room and saw my son, but there was no sign of his sister.
“Where’s Sedona?” I asked.
“She’s outside, petting Buddy,” William replied. I could hardly believe my ears. I went over to the window that overlooked the driveway and, sure enough, right by the flowerbed stood my daughter and Buddy. He was in doggy bliss. His eyes were closed, his tail relaxed and hanging low. She was talking quietly to him as she scratched his ears, neck and down his back. I stood there a moment, soaking in the precious bonding moment before heading out to join them.
From that point on, we all became best friends with Buddy, who truly lived up to his name. Whenever the kids were outside, I could count on him to be close by, watchful and gentle.
But there was one thing about Buddy that took some getting used to-he stunk. It was a mix of doggy smell and soured puke that, after petting him, made you feel like you needed a whole body shower. Ms. Fuller tried everything, from baths to pills, but nothing would alleviate the stench.
Apparently, he didn’t like the smell of himself either and preferred the scent of eau-de-skunk, for he was perpetually annoying the little creatures whenever he saw them. It didn’t matter how many times he had been sprayed- which was a lot while we lived there- he could never let one of the annoying creatures waltz by without bullying it.
Unfortunately, he decided to do just that on one cool, spring morning. He and I had a habit of walking every morning at five-thirty. Our ritual went something like this-I would go over to the white garage doors at the end of Ms. Fuller’s large, brick home. One door she kept partially open so that Buddy could come and go as he pleased. It was to this opening I would come, bend down and softly call, “Buddy”. In a few short moments, I would hear the “tinkle, tinkle, tinkle” of the metal identification tag attached to his collar. He would press his body down as low as possible and wiggle out from beneath the garage door. Down the paved drive we would go and then out onto the gravel road, surrounded by darkness, the sound of gravel crunching beneath my shoes and the tinkling of his collar. By the time we had retraced our steps to the paved drive, the sun would just be starting to think about rising.
On this particular morning, Buddy and I had just arrived back at the paved drive. Heavy fog and semi-darkness exposed the silhouettes of the objects around us. Buddy happily trotted along, his tag clink-clanking rhythmically. Lost in my thoughts, it took a moment to register that the cadence of the clinking was increasing and he was no longer by my side. There he was, making a beeline for some object, without hesitation. I strained to see through the low, dense fog at what could be so intriguing. It didn’t take long for it to register what had caught his attention.
The small cat-like creature with it’s triangular head and bushy tail was standing perfectly still, facing Buddy as he barreled across the grass. With his tail straight up, Mr. Skunk was ready to let loose the yellow, smelly liquid, but Buddy paid no heed. As he continued on his trajectory, my thinking went through a rapid volley of circumstantial potentials. I opted to run, and fast! Maybe, I reasoned, if I ran fast enough, I could get out of there before any of the stench permeated my clothing or clung to my skin. So, I did just that. With all my might, I pushed my forty-two-year-old body into a full-on sprint and then ran fast and furiously, at least as fast as the old bones would let me. I congratulated myself on being quick-thinking and began slowing the pace. But the rapid clinking of Buddy’s tag urged me to pick up the pace once more. Why in the world I thought I could outrun a dog is beyond me, but at the time, I figured if I could just stay ahead of him, then maybe, just maybe I could still avoid the smell. Of course, he soon passed me and I slowed to a fast walk as the aroma of eau-de-skunk wafted back to me. I slowly walked the rest of the way back up the hill toward the house, scowling at Buddy as he stood there, panting and smiling his doggy smile with his tongue lolling to the side.
I opened the door, stepped inside and sniffed deeply. There was not a hint of the skunk smell! I smiled, pleased that I’d had the foresight to bust out of there quickly. My fears of having to join Buddy in his dirty, stinky corner of Ms. Fuller’s garage were put to rest. I cheerfully bounded up the steps, walked over to William’s bedroom door and opened it.
“Good morning, William!” I said, my smile reaching from one ear to the other. William stared at me, wide-eyed.
“What IS that smell, momma?! You stink!!”. He grabbed hold of his nose and waved his hand at me. Visions of Buddy and I snuggled up on his well-worn, flea-infested bed danced through my head as I dejectedly shut the door and headed for the shower. That dog! If only Buddy hadn’t gotten skunked!
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