From author Bev McQuain:
My lifelong experience with man’s best friend includes forty years as owner of Canada’s largest canine security company. With hundreds of dogs, and hundreds of security officers over the years, there have been myriad humorous events; some hilarious, some bizarre. Now that I’m retired, I find myself recalling and chuckling, so rather than laugh alone, I have documented them here. Enjoy!
As I write this, there are two big dogs bidding for attention by nudging my arms. I hold them responsible for any typos that you may discover in this manuscript.
I cannot imagine my life without a dog. Grandpa gave me a year-old dog for my first birthday. From that day forward, the only times that I’ve been without a ‘best friend’ were during the mourning period following a departure to canine heaven. Sadly, a dog’s life-span is much shorter than our own.
So entrenched was my passion for dogs that I grew up day-dreaming of a future in which I would own a kennel. I envisioned a (very handsome) me all grown up relaxing in a hammock, reading a book while surrounded by a litter of playful puppies.
Flash forward an unspecified number of decades and that dream became a reality …almost.
One bright warm August afternoon, I looked out over the field and smiled at a couple of old retired Dobes with legs flailing in the air, thoroughly enjoying life as they rolled in the grass. As I gazed at them, I harkened back to my childhood fantasy; so I picked up my chaise lawn chair, a book and a newspaper, and released a litter of boisterous six-week-old puppies who followed me down to the big maple tree.
It was perfect! I was comfortably settled into the lounge. The puppies were playing close by, the weather was cooperative with nary a breeze to ruffle my newspaper; …then along came Junior, and the dream began to unravel.
Junior was our little Shetland pony who had learned numerous annoying tricks when he had starred in a children’s television show. There will be more about him in a chapter about our bizarre pets, and my advertising agency’s exotic animals; but for now, accept that Junior was a glutton for attention.
The pony began to nuzzle my newspaper. I ignored him, straightened the paper and moved it aside. Again he nudged the paper, again I offered no response. Of course it became impossible to read. He continued to assault the newspaper and jostle my arm, but I was determined to ignore him.
Finally, he decided to join me. He plopped his hoof onto my solar plexus and began to climb up onto the lounge. This, of course collapsed the chair, me and the fantasy.
CHAPTER 1 – IN THE BEGINNING
I don’t like to brag, but I was walking at nine months of age, and running away from home by the time I was a year old. As mentioned, my grandfather gave me a year-old dog for my first birthday, and somewhere in an old album, there’s a photo of me as a year-old toddler beating that dog. I’ve owned a few hundred dogs since that time, but he is the only dog that I ever pounded upon. The dog was preventing me from wandering away from home to seek adventure in the wondrous world beyond the end of the lane.
Almost from the first day, the damned dog would block my path as I was attempting to escape. I would scream at him, hit him, but he wouldn’t let me pass. My tantrum and his barking would summon mother to swat my butt and take me home. Those were the days that butt-swatting was allowed, in fact encouraged with the motto, “Spare the rod and spoil the child”.
Of course, I was a perfect child so aside from the aforementioned; I never needed punishment, corporal or otherwise… (Please! There is no need to confirm this with my mother or my siblings!)
As we grew older, my dog and I grew closer. Amos, as we called him, was a mixed breed Spaniel lookalike. I remember him as clearly as if we were together yesterday. We were inseparable, even though he continued to betray me. When mother called and I was not inclined to respond, she simply called the dog, and he would race to her and happily lead her to my hiding place.
We were eight years of age when my world was shattered by my best friend’s departure to animal heaven.
Several weeks later, my reward for passing grade three was my choice from a litter of free, unplanned mixed-terrier puppies. The sire had obviously been one of those street-wise scoundrels who promised everything to get what he wanted, then abandoned his conquest to raise the litter on her own.
My decision was cast in stone when one of the pups (not the best-looking one), scurried over the edge of the whelping box and leaped at me. My parents and siblings pleaded with me to at least consider the pretty black and white that snuggled and cuddled, but the scrapper that growled and snarled and yanked on my shoelace would be stuck to me like Velcro for the next nineteen years.
He was a very clever dog, and although I’m sure that he regularly broke the “Keep four-on-the-floor and stay off the furniture” rule; he was caught only once. His transgression was discovered when the family returned home late one evening. My mother had preceded us quietly into the house while shushing us so as not to wake my sleeping little brother in her arms. Suddenly she stopped, turned to us with an extra “shush”, and nodded toward my bed. There luxuriating in a deep, deep sleep was my little terrier.
He stretched and yawned as he prepared to snuggle even deeper into the softness of the comforter, when one eye opened to gradually focus on the apparition of the entire family angrily staring at him.
He leaped to the slippery linoleum floor and began to run. He performed that familiar cartoon scene by running full speed in place for what seemed like a full minute before he actually gained enough purchase to begin to move off the starting point.
It was decided that scolding was unnecessary; we felt that he’d learned his lesson.
He was a little guy about twelve inches at the shoulder, with a tail that curled over his back not unlike that of a piglet. We called him Scamp because the name summed him up in a single word. That was long before the Disney movie …(I should have copyrighted that name).
Until I graduated, the only time Scamp and I were separated was between the times that he sat at the end of the lane to dolefully watch me disappear into the distance on my trek to school; -and the wagging, whining and prancing welcome upon my return.
He performed a number of unusual tricks, like “Speak Loud” when he would utter a big ‘Woooof’ that belonged to a dog three times his size; and “Speak soft”, when he would utter a little whispery laryngitis voice.
He could skip-rope, even jumping in and out on command without tripping up. He rode with me on my bike, which was no mean feat; he sat sidesaddle on the crossbar with his forepaws resting on the handlebar. He sat behind me on my pony’s rump, and when the steed was parked, Scamp would move forward to sit in the saddle to warn all and sundry that no one touches his mount until the boss returns.
Despite his less than impressive stature, he fancied himself a ferocious guard dog and took his self-assigned duty seriously. No one bullied me.
When we were kids, we had a tent that stood in our yard for most of the summer. On clear nights, I and my younger brother often slept in the great outdoors, imagining that we were on a jungle safari. Of course one doesn’t venture into the jungle without protection, so my one-dog security force slept under the covers with us.
One night our ever-alert guardian perceived a prowler, and without regard for his own safety, the brave warrior sped off uttering his most ferocious growls into the darkness to confront the wild beast.
This woke us. We remained frozen, staring terror-stricken into the black as we heard a brief struggle. Suddenly the tent flap flew up and our guard dog dove under the covers shaking with fear. All three of us jumped up and ran to the house yelling for Mom.
Two kids and one defeated dog received a scrub-down with tomato juice; the only known anti-skunk mendicant of the day.
Scamp was thirteen when I said “I do”, and brought a new being into our lives. He merely tolerated my new wife, never threatening, just ignoring. It took some time before he accepted her as his mistress.
My mother facetiously claimed that she had been deeply hurt when the dog unceremoniously left the only home he’d ever known to move in with my wife and me in our new house, a few blocks away. When we went off to work, Scamp would trot over to spend the day with mother, but at five o’clock he would hurry to our new home to pretend that he’d been keeping vigil there all day long.
Because of his initial reluctance to accept my wife, I had some apprehension regarding the arrival of our new attention-hogging baby boy the following year. We brought the infant home from the hospital, introduced him to the dog, and immediately placed the baby in his crib and walked away. Scamp seeming to realize that he’d been left in charge, took up sentry post under the crib and from that moment on, warned all that no one was to approach the baby’s crib or carriage without permission.
A career opportunity prompted a move from our small town home to a big city duplex apartment, so Scamp was moved back to my parents’ home. For a few weeks, he would trot over to our now vacant house, still anticipating our five o’clock return from work. At twilight, Dad would walk over and force the dog to accompany him back to the homestead.
Several months later, I received a call from Mom suggesting that I might want to come home to say goodbye to my now fourteen-year-old dog, who was dying. I dropped everything and with tearing eyes, covered the distance to home in record time only to be welcomed by an excited, whirling, jumping, yapping, puppy-like Scamp.
Mom was livid; she swore that the dog wouldn’t eat, couldn’t run, had lost weight, did nothing but lie unresponsively on the porch; yet upon my arrival, he was a puppy again.
I took him with me to the city and advised the landlord that he’d be there for a week while my parents were away. Did I lie? Of course, but it was for a dog, so it didn’t count. I knew Scamp would win over the landlord …and he did in only three days.
Not only did he not die, he lived happily ever-after …almost. Scamp lived to the ripe old age of nineteen.
CHAPTER 2 – BUT WHAT ABOUT THIS LITTLE DOG?
Following a period of mourning, I, my wife and my son, who was then five years old, all realized that life without a dog was intolerable.
When I was about twelve years old I fell in love at first sight with a Dobermann Pinscher, and promised myself that someday I would own one. This however was not the time. I had opened an advertising agency, and we lived in the city with a fifty by one hundred foot lot, so there was no time and no space for a Dobe. We visited the local Humane Society in search of a small city-appropriate dog.
“Hey look, this little guy’s really cute,” we said, “and this wee fella wants to go home with you.” But no amount of coaxing could drag our kid away from a big, black, fully grown cross-bred with the height of a German Shepherd Dog and the girth of a Labrador Retriever. The attraction was obviously mutual because the animal ignored us and pressed against the fence in attempt to reach my son.
It was suggested that the dog had been rescued from an abusive environment, but with the dog control officer’s assurance, and some rigorous testing on my part, we headed home with our new pet that weighed more than the Dobermann Pinscher of my dreams.
King, true to the promise he made from behind the dog pound fence, attached himself to our son. Wherever went the boy, the dog was a few feet away. He surprised us by becoming overly protective of his young master. Our son would call us when the dog placed his body between our son and any new kid to non-aggressively block him until we approved of the new playmate. If we were not within range, he would growl at any adult who dared approach his little master. Fortunately, his threat was enough to ward off anyone, so the dog never had to follow through.
King was a racist! One strange idiosyncrasy was his dislike of folk who spoke with an Italian accent. He would growl quietly but make no move toward the speaker. We were constantly on alert when such inflections were within earshot.
Upon hearing the accents of two painters during renovations to a house next door, we took extra precautions to ensure that the dog was never outside without one of us in attendance. However, the painters were Dutch, and the dog actually offered a friendly greeting and displayed no reaction when they spoke their broken English to him. It seemed that he could recognise the difference between Italian and other accents.
He was a dedicated garbage-digger. I dreaded morning walks on garbage day, but after he was finally trained to reliable obedience, I was able to confidently take him off-leash for his early morning constitutional through the neighborhood to a field beyond.
One garbage day, while my concentration was momentarily diverted to the upcoming workday, I realised that the dog was far ahead of me at the cross street.
I whistled a recall, but to my surprise he did not instantly return. Instead, he looked down the cross street, then at me, and again back to the cross street. He seemed to be gauging distances and assessing his chance of getting down the street and into some garbage goodies before I could get to him. Finally, he made a decision. Ignoring my repeated whistles and shouts, he took off at full speed down the cross street and out of sight.
Now, he is dog and I am human; I should be able to out-think him. I turned around and raced back down my street to circle the block in the opposite direction.
The dog had his head buried in a garbage can, blissfully making his selection from the delicious smelling menu. He wasn’t worried because he knew he had a big head start. He finally lifted his head to glance back toward the direction from which he expected me to approach, so I was able to sneak up behind.
When I was about twenty feet from him, I screamed, “HEEL!”, and the startled dog actually left the ground and flew to my left and began to crawl in heel position …and on the entire long walk home, he screamed, yipped, and yelped at the top of his lungs.
Doors opened to see who was killing a dog. A lady yelled, “I’m going to report you!”
I shouted, “I never touched him!”, and for all who were watching, I held my arms out and up, so they could see that I wasn’t beating my dog. Still the beast continued to yelp and scream all the way home.
If ever I felt like beating a dog, this was the time; however, I could only assume that the previous owner of our rescued pet might have caused the dog to anticipate some heavy discipline.
Despite his mass, King was extremely gentle. He applied brute strength when wrestling with me, but with my son and his playmates, he was like a kitten. In fact, he matched strength when playing with our kitten.
Sadly, the big lug disappeared one day, never to be seen again.
Once all hope of his return was lost, we opted for a new dog.
Look for the next three chapters tomorrow at the same time.