We watched the movie Dog the other night. If you haven’t seen it, you should, especially if you are a dog or pet lover. It chronicles the trials and tribulations of two disabled veterans. One was human and the other canine.
Together, they were on a road trip to the funeral of the dog’s fallen handler. The best way to describe the movie might be to call it a comedic near-tragedy. Many will have tears of laughter, and some of sorrow before the credits roll.
However, this is not a movie review. Rather it is to share some memories. Yes, a silly movie about a disabled veteran trying to prove he was still capable of being a soldier and a disabled dog just trying to survive took me down a path I did not expect.
I first cried over the body of a beloved pet at five. A neighbor poisoned her, and as she was dying, she dragged herself home. We found her lying in our driveway. Yes, she roamed free a bit, but this was long before leash laws and other governmental intrusions into our everyday lives. Also, she was somewhat of an escape artist, and the old fence around our rent house was not hard to breach.
Perhaps my folks should have done more to keep her home when the neighbor complained. However, he reportedly complained about everyone’s pets, kids, cars, and yards. It meant nothing to David, my little brother, and me, whatever the reality. Lady was gone, and we were heartbroken.
We lived in a “no pet” zone after that. We tried to domesticate a raccoon once, and we rescued several litters of rabbit kittens, feeding them by hand until they were old enough to put back in the field. We also had a few parakeets and an aquarium or two, but baby rabbits, crazy raccoons, goldfish, and birds cannot replace a dog. Then Groucho came into our lives.
I cannot remember where we got Groucho or who named him, but he was a piece of work. He was a mutt, but he was a loveable mutt. He also thought he was the king of all he surveyed.
He tolerated us because we’d scratch him behind his ears and play chase with him. He was our four-legged little brother until the day we came home from school, and he was gone.
The story of Groucho’s disappearance is a bit complex, and details are of little consequence. The facts are these. Dad had a chance to take in a registered German Shepherd with great lineage and obedience training, Sven.
Groucho did not take well to a new alpha male, and within a short time, he disappeared. Supposedly, Dad gave him to another family. David and I seriously doubted that story, but the truth made little difference. We were in shock and mad at Sven and Dad for a long time.
Eventually, we forgave Sven. I’m not certain we ever forgave Dad completely, but he was our dad. Besides, Sven was a great pal and protector. There was no way we could stay mad at him. Once, he saved my brother from a bad situation by annihilating a very large cottonmouth water moccasin.
He also stood guard regularly when dad was away at night. He was always ready, beating us to the door if someone knocked and letting them know he would not tolerate any nonsense with a deep growl.
Then, we came home from school, and he was gone. This time there were no tall tales about a new family. Sven injured himself as a pup, which is why we got him.
He was always in some pain, and as he aged, it was worse. Finally, the vet told our folks there was nothing more they could do, and my folks agreed to have him “‘put to sleep.”
We were teenagers and old enough to know what that meant. We even understood why it was necessary, but it took a long time to get over not being able to say goodbye.
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