Life

Westminster: A Distant Memory Of A Dog

No, this is not one of those sappy first-puppy-ever stories. For the record, my first dog – my family’s first dog after I was born – ok, after I was old enough to remember having a dog, because apparently there was a cocker spaniel when I was quite young, but of which I have no memory at all – the first dog I remember was a mutt that my dad brought home. He didn’t stay around long, I don’t really know what happened but I do remember he had this habit of nipping at people. I think he went to live in the country somewhere. Not country the way horses go to live at the glue factory, just “in the country”. Where he could chase chickens, I guess.

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about. Watching Westminster this week, I saw an Old English sheepdog, and thought of an old friend. He had an Old English sheepdog. Big, enormous dog. Lived upstairs in an apartment in Orlando, Florida. With an Old English sheepdog. Who was afraid of stairs. So every morning, and every afternoon, rain or shine, Phil would pick up this huge shaggy dog and carry him down the stairs so he could do his Old English thing outside. It was a truly absurd sight – it all you could see was this huge, shaggy, terrified dog with two human legs staggering beneath it, coming down the stairs.

But what I really remembered was how I met this dog. One Friday morning in the fall of 1974, three of us were talking between classes at Mississippi State, and decided it would be a really great idea if we went to the MSU-Florida game at Gainesville the next day. We knew Phil lived in Orlando, which was supposedly close to Gainesville (it’s actually 100 miles). So we called him, asked if we could crash at his place, he said sure. At 1:00, three of us piled into Keith’s Ford Pinto and headed south-by-southeast. I should mention at this point, that I’m 6’5″, and Perk (I never knew his real name, all I ever heard him called was Perk) – was almost that tall. It was a crowded car. But we headed for Florida, through Montgomery and Dothan, Alabama, Tallahassee, past Gainesville, on to Orlando. Got in about 3 in the morning, Phil pointed to a folded-out sofa bed and a cot, and we crashed.

I was awakened at about 7AM by a blast of warm, smelly air and what felt like a large slug dragged across my face. I opened my eyes and saw – something. There was a mass of hair about 4 inches above my face. That was all I could see. 4 hours earlier, when we arrived, Phil hadn’t said anything about a dog. There was no sign of a dog. So nothing provided a context within which my brain, frantically trying to cope with an infusion of information which bore no relationship to any reality I could comprehend on 4 hours sleep after a 14-hour drive, could order this new universe within which I found myself. So I did what any sane person would do in a similar situation. I screamed. I scared the hell out of Perk, whon was also crashed on the sofa (against the wall, and thereby safe from this thing), I woke up Phil and Keith and Janet, and worst of all I scared the hell out of the dog. 60 pounds of hair and slobber went crashing backwards and took out about half their living room furniture on the way, leaving only a small puddle on the floor by the sofa. Phil should have mentioned that dog.

Florida pounded Mississippi State. The Bulldog punter kicked one out of bounds 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The next punt saw the snap go over the punter’s head and into the endzone, where Florida fell on it for a touchdown. We left at the end of the third quarter.

Phil should have mentioned that dog.

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