Monday, January 31, 2011

The Dog Is Dead

Most people have some sort of pet when they grow up, and I was no exception.  My sister and I were owners of a long list of goldfish that we won each year at our church festival, who we named very original names such as Pumpkin and Goldie.  These fish died at an alarming rate, but that didn't mean the fun had to end there.  When Bridget's fish Pumpkin died, my Mom allowed us to put him in a thimble box and have a proper burial for him out among the Lilies of the Valley at the back of our house.  For about the next two weeks, Bridget faithfully dug up Pumpkin every day to look at him.  I will never forget the day when we took him out of the box, and, in a state of decomposition, one of his eyes was missing.  After mentioning this startling fact to our Mom, Pumpkin, or what was left of him, mysteriously disappeared.

My fish, Goldie, never recovered from the death of his companion, or so I thought.  I observed him (or her because you never can tell with goldfish) closely as the days went by.  I finally brought my diagnosis to my Mom.

"Mom, I think my fish is nervous because his friend died."

"Oh yeah, how can you tell?"

"Well, his poop is stuck in his butt."  And it was true, he had been swimming around with an ever-increasing length of excrement attached to one end of him from, you know, grief-induced constipation.

We also had a dog, who I originally named Muffin, but who ended up as Barney when my Dad got home from work and promptly changed it.  And this decision proved to be some insightful forethought as it would be hard to call a large mutt who fathered numerous illegitimate children around the town Muffin.  Barney was a friendly old dog, but the fact that he could not be confined by any means also made him the bane of my existence.  He had a bad habit of following my sister and me to places where he should not go--namely, but not limited to school.  He once even (thank you automatic doors) followed me inside of the grocery store.  And, as much I tried to pretend that I didn't know whose dog it was, quite obvious. 

Sadly, when I was was in high school, Barney was hit by a car while my Dad was out walking him, and he had to be put to sleep, as the euphemism goes.  And it is at this point in the story when I must introduce you to my neighbor Judy.  Judy wasn't that old, but she had terrible hearing.  And, for reasons unknown to me, she would not wear a hearing aid.  It was not uncommon to get an awkward smile and the answer, "Yes" to a question of say, "What time is it?"  As kids we quickly learned that Judy usually had no idea what we were saying to her, which wouldn't have been much of a problem except for the fact that she frequently tried to engage us in conversation. 

Barney died in the winter, and as spring rolled around, we were finding random bones in our driveway.  One evening while we were all in the backyard, Judy appeared at the fence between our yards, and called out, "Have you been finding the bones I've been throwing over for Barney?"

Clearly, she had no idea that Barney was no longer with us, so my Dad tactfully replied, "Oh, thanks Judy, but we had to have Barney put down this winter."

To which Judy smiled, nodded, and sweetly added, "Well, isn't that nice."

All the while, Judy's husband had been sitting on the back porch overhearing this conversation.  And, in what I can only imagine was the extreme frustration of someone who has been misunderstood for years on end, he screamed, "The dog is dead, Judy!  He said the dog is dead!"

"What was that?"

"I SAID THE DOG IS DEAD!  It's DEAD!"

"Oh, well why didn't you say so."

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