Jerry's View: It's a dog's life
By Jerry Robinson
Editor’s note: Publisher emeritus Jerry Robinson, who died in 2014, wrote a newspaper column for more than 60 years. Today, April 6, would have been his 102nd birthday.
My kids care about me and my time alone since I lost Elsbeth 18 months ago. They offered to get me a dog to keep me company and maybe gnaw at a solicitor's ankles when I am trying to nap. I love dogs. The truth is I think I'd have trouble taking care of one.
Mac, my first dog as a youth in Portland, was a beautiful mutt no more than knee high to my ten years and smart as a whip! We went everywhere together. Since he had no shoes I went barefooted out of respect. Actually I only got new shoes for school each September and mostly wore through them before June so going barefoot was a way of life for us kids. Mac did not seem to mind being bare pawed either.
I left home at 18, leaving Mac to my younger sis Norma. I married and moved to Seattle. One afternoon, a rather gentle Collie wandered into our neighborhood in McMicken Heights. His long hair was slightly matted, possibly from neglect. He rested on our porch. He may have been tired of walking or maybe he liked to sound of kids playing in the yard. Whatever the reason, we adopted him. He seemed like the captain of his own ship so we called him Skipper. He took to the kids well, to the point of recognizing youngest son Tim, who had somehow crawled out onto
33rd Ave S. in his diapers. Skipper knew enough to stay out the street himself, rescuing Tim by grabbing his diaper to drag him back into the yard. My wife was shocked. I was too when I learned how lucky we were to have taken Skipper into our lives. After that, we let Tim live with Skipper outside in a doghouse. He developed a fondness for canned dog food and to this day loves to chase a ball in the yard or fetch a stick.
Some years later we took Skipper to the vet for an ailment. The vet was very kind and gently told us Skipper was a SHE. We didn't bother renaming her. She was special regardless of gender.
During Skipper's time with us, we also acquired McTavish, a Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie). A truly lovable family pet we had to give away after a year. McTavish loved to play but two dogs and a growing family (and with Tim eating most of the dog food) was too much for our pocketbook in those days.
We moved to Beverly Park in the early 50's. The kids were older. Skipper had passed away. My wife helped Tim pick out a new dog. We found a Cocker Spaniel-Terrier mix at the King County Dog Pound. We had a little debate over the name. Tim had his choice, "Tiger" for no particular reason since the dog did not have stripes but rather white patches on a black coat. My wife thought a good name would be "Richard". Why people give dogs "people" names I don't understand. They agreed to call the dog Richard-Tiger. Lucky for me it was easy to pronounce. I'd always wanted a hunting dog. Richard was not it. Oh, he could roust pheasants quite well. The trouble was, he rousted them out 1/4 mile ahead. To get a shot at a bird, I would have need a rocket launcher. Apparently dogs need to be trained. Richard-Tiger was a real high energy dog, barely stopping for a breath before heading down another corn row. When we were close we could get off a shot or two at the birds he found. We discovered he was very good at fetching the fallen prey. Unfortunately, he liked to chew on them first. I guess you could say he "tenderized" them before we plucked them.
I won't dwell on the demise of any of our dogs but I will note that Richard-Tiger was hit by a car and died at the animal hospital. Not too much time later we found a pedigreed Basset Hound in Issaquah. We named him Charlie Brown, mostly after Charles Schultz's comic strip character.
Secretly, I knew that Basset Hounds were fine hunting dogs. Their excess skin and fur was terrific for moving through the brush and burrs without too much trouble. To our surprise, Charlie Brown was a drinker. More than once a bar patron or a policeman would bring Charlie home from the Flame Tavern on 128th St. SW where he'd been lapping up beer from a saucer provided by the bartender who had taken a liking to him and his mournful eyes. Charlie Brown must have gone on a permanent bender one afternoon. He never came back and the kind folks at the tavern had not seen him for weeks.
Daughter Carla had a Dachshund (German for wiener dog). She moved out of the house at 18, leaving Elsbeth and me with the responsibility for its care. We tolerated the incessant barking and whining, and chewing things for those happy moments when Tessie slept in our laps.
Later, Carla found a small Cockapoo-Terrier mix she called Smokey, likely for the soft black, white and gray fur. Smokey came to live with us when Carla had to move out of state for her job. Smokey was our good luck charm, mostly sitting in our lap(s) while we rooted for the Seahawks, Huskies or Mariners. Smokey was instructed not to move when the game was on the line in the closing minutes. It helped that we had a light grip on his fur. Smokey proved valuable in many games in those years.
Last month, for Christmas, son Ken knew I needed a companion. He brought me "Biscuit". Biscuit is fabulous. He does not need much care. He rolls over easily at the sight of a stranger. His belly laugh bark delights visitors. I don't have to get out of my chair to let him out and he does not seem to ever get hungry. I just know that he's great to have in the house. I took a picture of him to show you how cute he is.