Adventures with man's best friend

 I am a dog lover - no question about it.  Maybe, because as a young boy growing up in Jamaica, my dog, Shane, was my protector.  I named Shane after the hero in Alan Ladd's movie, Shane. I remember the little boy in the film running after his hero, Shane, as he rode away to have an epic gunfight in town.   Shane!  Shane! The young boy cried out as he followed his hero on foot. This image stayed with me, and when I had the chance to name my hero, I called him Shane. Shane was black, skinny, fast and bright. I guess that Shane was an extension of how I saw myself, but he was also brave and robust which were some of the characteristics that I wished I had. I was weak and afraid. It was a codependent situation. I need him, and he needed me.

There were very few regulations for dogs during the fifties in Kingston, and if there were any, nobody followed them. Dogs roamed freely around town, and if you were unfortunate enough to run into the wrong dog at the wrong time,  he would bite you. I was bitten before when walked into someone's yard and had a confrontation with an unexpected dog. So, looking out for "bad" dogs was common practice when I was an adolescent.  Many people had warning signs on their gates, "Beware, of Bad Dog" This was to warn the public that the dogs in their yard would attack if they came too close.  Dogs were a deterrent to thieves and vandals. However, the general public had to be careful also because the dogs did not discriminate. 

One night, as I was walking in the dark pass one of these houses with the "Beware of Bad Dogs" sign with Shane walking about ten yards behind me. I was going quite far, and I did not want Shane to come because it was dark,  I had to cross many busy streets, and he was not on a leach.   However, Shane was determined to come along.  No matter how often I would say, "Go home, Shane"  He would turn and run back for a few yards but as soon as I continued my journey, he would turn around and follow at a safe distance behind.  Well, it was a good thing Shane did because as I was walking past one of the gates with the sign, "Beware of Bad Dog", to my surprise the gate was open, and an angry dog came rushing out. Shane saw this, and he was there in a flash, grabbing the dog by the throat and engaged in what seemed like an epic battle until the dog retreated in his yard. Wow! I was excited. Shane walked by my side as we moved through some of the dark streets of Kingston with no further incident.


Shane was my first love, but he was not my last.  There was Lucky.  I did not find Lucky.  She saw me. At the time, I lived in southern California in the late 1990's when I found this dog sleeping in my car. As I opened the car door, she scampered out took off up the street. I thought that was strange and never expected to see her again, but when I returned home, she was tied up on my front porch. My wife had convinced her to stay around with food and water because she was hungry and lost. Lucky was a beautiful collie with bright, loving eyes and she turned up at a time in my life when I needed a friend. I just found out that I had diabetes, and I decided that I would use exercise to help keep my diabetes under control.  So, I started a regiment of running 5 miles every morning, and Lucky would be my running partner.  Every morning rain or shine, I was running the streets of Whittier with Lucky by my side.  We ran every day for ten years, and we became part of the folklore around Whittier.  People around town saw us over the years, and we were once written up in the local newspaper as I did a ten mile run over Turnbull canyon with my kids on bicycles and lucky and I on foot.  Lucky and I became well known around our little town because people got used to seeing us run every morning.  Some mornings, we would race other runners with their dogs. And, every so often, we would run to from my house to Disneyland and have my wife come to pick us up in her car.  Many times after a good run, I would pick up Lucky in my arms and carry her for the last four hundred yards are so. She loved it.  We both loved it.

One day, Lucky and I were preparing to run at the local high school when I noticed two bulldogs off their leach a football field away. They saw Lucky, and they were off running towards us.  I stood there in a daze as these two massive dogs came closer and closer. Luck saw this too and got her head out of the leach and headed up Whittier the two Bulldogs on her tail.  I screamed for them to stop, but off they went in the middle of busy traffic. After about ten minutes, the two Bulldogs returned, but there was no sign of Lucky. I went home depressed and thought I had lost Lucky forever until I heard a tap on my front door. I went to see who it was and it was Lucky.  She got away from those dogs and crossed my busy streets and found her way home. At that moment, I experienced a brief moment of happiness. Lucky was back, safe and sound.


Lucky had three litters of puppies. From her first litter, came little Lucky who was an exact copy of her mom but Spike was nothing like his mom. My wife, Berkeley, later bought another dog as a gift for our daughter and named her Sally. For many years, we had four dogs roaming our big backyard. Some years later, a large stray dog cleared our six-foot wooden fence and impregnated both Lucky and Sally.  Lucky and Sally delivered six puppies each about nine weeks later. Suddenly, I was the proud owner of 16 dogs. I don't know what it feels like to own 101 Dalmatians, but it was a real challenge to care for sixteen dogs. However, it was so much fun to have these twelve puppies yelping behind me as I tried to feed them. After a month or so, they were strong enough for me to find them a home.  I put the 12 puppies in a box and took them to my son's junior high school and by the end of the day, they were all gone.

My brother Ronnie in New York wanted a dog for his young son Anthony. So, I decided to send little Lucky, the young look-alike of my favorite, Lucky,  to Anthony as a gift. Ronnie and I made the arrangements to fly her to New York.  The plan was simple, but I did not realize the impact this sudden dramatic change would have on our precious little Lucky. The day came for me to send her and I put a leash on her and drove her to LAX airport. Little Lucky was excited.  She was going for a drive, and she always loved that. When we got to the airport, I walked around with her for a bit. She was happy. She was in a new place and was exploring the surroundings with me.  LAX was fun for my sweet little Lucky. Then without any warning, the airport attendant came, put her in a crate and stored in the cargo section of a plane. I can't imagine how scared she must have been.  I know that when Ronnie went to pick her up, she was screaming.  The screaming continued all the way home and into the night.  The crying continued for a while, but she finally settled into her new home. About six months later, I want o New York to visit Ronnie, and I had a chance to see little Lucky.  When she saw me, she was baffled.  Lucky recognized me, but everything was different.  She growled at me and showed me her teeth as a warning to not come too close.  Looking at her sharp teeth was a  strange experience for me. How do you explain to a dog that you sent her to live with a friend?  About six months later,  Ronnie decided to send Lucky back to Los Angeles. He returned her to me because Lucky shed so much hair and his wife Ramona had an adverse reaction to dropping hair. When I went to pick her up at LAX, I did not know what to expect.  However, when she saw me, she ran right over and acted as nothing strange had happened over the past year.  She jumped int my car, and we drove home.  When I let her out of the kitchen door into the backyard, I thought that the other dogs might not recognize her and we would have a commotion.  Nothing like that happened. The other dogs acted as though she had left for a few hours as she had a drink of water and started to play. 


 Little Lucky' had a brother, Spike, who could hardly be more different from her.  Spike was skinny, fast and athletic with sad eyes.  Little Lucky was chubby and slow with bright eyes and a sunny disposition. Little Lucky was always friendly to strangers while Spike was not. Spike would jump the fence, sit on our front porch and chase the mailman and anyone else who came close to our house.  After a while, the post office refused to deliver mail to our house and forced us to get a post office box. On one of the many times that jump over the fence and sat on the front porch, the wife of the mayor of our small town came to visit my wife.  Of course, Spike made an uproar as she came up our walkway.  My wife ran out and calmed him and allowed to sit quietly on the front porch. However, she decided to demonstrate to the mayor's wife that Spike was harmless and took her hand and placed it innocently in front of Spike's mouth. Spike snapped and bit the Mayor's wife. Wow!  I thought the dog control services would come immediately to take Spike away, but he got a reprieve because the mayor's wife did not file a complaint.  

Spike loved me and was very protective of me. He would follow close behind me whenever we were together. I decided to test his willingness to do whatever I did at a dog beach in California some years ago.  I knew that Spike hated to be in the water. He disliked taking a bath or any other water-related activities.  So, I decided to walk into the water and to see if Spike would follow me.  He hesitated at first but then took one cagy step after another into the water.  As I went further out, Spike would start to swim towards me. I finally decided to walk out of the water because I knew hated to be there but if I went in, he would too. 

I would sometimes wonder why Spike was so loyal to me and it dawned on me that when he was a tiny puppy, I would let him sleep on my chest as I worked.  Spike was small enough to fit under my shirt. I believe that is when we bonded. He must have remembered those moments when he was older. I miss all my dogs, but I miss Spike with his sad, thoughtful eyes, most of all.