As the editor of Dog Living I receive a lot of submissions on books. This is one of the few I didn’t want to put down. Well, I read it digitally, so let’s just say I didn’t want to turn off my iPad!
The author (Bev McQuain) has been gracious enough to allow us to share some excerpts from the book with our readers. It was tough deciding which chapter to share, but I figured we could all start at the beginning. Trust me when I say this chapter is only the beginning of one heck of a great, humorous read. When I asked Bev (a guy with a girl’s name) if there was anything I should share with our readers about him, he replied, “Naw, not much to tell. I’m just an old fart reminiscing and remembering the ‘Good ole days’ when I had 60-plus dogs and a couple of hundred guards.”
So without further ado, here’s Chapter one from A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Kennel.
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.
A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Kennel is available on Amazon.