Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lessons Learned from Little Dogs - The FrankenMutt

This isn't about one of our little dogs.  It is a memory of a little dog from years ago I call the FrankenMutt.

When I was finished my Freshman year at college in 1972, I worked the summer for a cousin of mine.  He was a painting contractor and I spent that summer working with him and his crew.  One of the more interesting parts of the job was a contract he had to rehab homes of welfare recipients.  There are stories I could tell...

Only one includes a little dog.

We had a job in North Dayton to do some repair work and paint the interior and exterior of an older fellow's home.  It wasn't a bad neighborhood, nor a bad house.  It was just in disrepair, mostly because the owner was old and unable to do the work.

I don't know why I ended up with the interior painting, but I did.  Usually it wasn't a bad job at all.  Well, sometimes it wasn't bad.  In this case I dreaded it every day after the first day.  The home wasn't dirty, or even cluttered.  No, actually it was quite neat and clean.

The problem was the dog.

It was most likely a Rat Terrier or perhaps a Jack Russell Terrier.  I am not sure of the specific Terrier breed.  It was difficult to tell.  You see, the dog was old.  It was wrinkled and warty.  Yes, it had warts all over its black and white body.  Big warts any Halloween witch would be proud of.

The worst part is yet to come.  It had no teeth either.  AND its tongue hung our to one side and it slobbered.  It slobbered like a Saint Bernard.  I am talking volume here.  Lots and lots of slobber.

It apparently also had had a stroke or something because it walked and ran sideways, dragging one back foot as it ran.  Its face was limp on one side.  I suspect that is why the tongue hung out and it slobbered.  It was an ugly dog.

The owner loved this dog.  He fed it Cheeto corn puffs all day long.  He said it couldn't eat much else.  For that reason the mouth area was constantly stained Cheeto orange.

Here is the reason I remember that dog... It hated me.  It would run at me time after time, gnawing at my legs with those bare gums and lolling tongue.  My white painters pants would have orange slobber on them at the ankle day after day.  I hated that dog.

I would move a step and it would attack.  I would reach for more paint and it would attack.  The owner just laughed.  I would jump as it ran up behind me and attack.  I still shudder when I remember FrankenMutt.  What a mean, nasty dog.

The funny thing is, that dog didn't have a tooth in his head.  It really couldn't hurt me.  It was like the Boogey Man.  It was just my mind, my disgust at its looks that make me crazy.  I would lift my leg up so it wouldn't bite me.  Yet it didn't hurt.  I just responded.

Aren't a lot of our fears like that?  Unfounded, toothless unless we flinch?  Don't we all have a laundry list of toothless dogs that hound us in our dreams, our quiet moments?

I often wonder now what would have happened if i had simply stomped my foot at that dog instead of running from it.  I wonder what would happen if we all faced those toothless fears, stomped our feet and didn't worry that it might mean a little orange slobber on our ankles once in a while?
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