Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bow, the Homecoming Queen

(Originally run 4/24/04 on my old personal site)

Ernie Simpson

I have, more than once, referred to our friend, Ernie, as our “gentle philosopher.” This has been done not in jest. Why? Read on. –tlp-

What a wonderful little friend, a beautiful little pet, who thought she was a homecoming queen, with her bows, and painted toenails. Solid black, and didn’t weigh five pounds. She was a miniature poodle, and finally found her self-esteem, after years of abuse.

One afternoon, on Brenda Street, I had come home from work, and heard my wife drive up. Ruth Ann had been by my brother’s pet shop on Matthews, and spotted this little dog. Jim had her from repossession, he had sold her a couple of years before, and the owner never bathed and rarely fed the dog, or cared for her. Jim had to cut all her hair off, down to the skin, in order to clear the tangles. She looked for the world like an emaciated rat. It was evident she had been abused since she was a puppy.

Her AKC papers said her name was Bow, so we kept the name. Bow was afraid of everything; you could see and sense the fear of the little dog. She would hardly eat, and it seems she was even afraid when she was offered the food. Gradually, little by little, with gentleness, and petting, and using a soft, soothing voice, Bow came to lose some of her fear.

Her hair grew out; we kept feeding her nutritious food, and continued to win her confidence. If she heard a noise or a loud voice, she cowered in a corner until one of us picked her up and soothed away her fright. It took almost a year of this for her to trust us, and know she was safe. This was an unusual little dog and her spirit was almost broken by this abuse.

She was already a mature young dog, and had achieved her full growth, so we kept her in the house, and she wanted to sleep with us. We let her, under the cover at the foot of the bed. She would cry to get in bed, and we gave in and let her under the covers. This was against my better judgment, but soon I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything.

The years went by, the little dog was a constant companion. We didn’t take her out of town very much, but kept her at home, with food, water and a newspaper handy. I had her groomed regularly at Jim’s shop, and he did a great job. This is where Bow achieved her greatest self-esteem. Her hair looked shiny and fluffy, and her toenails were always painted red, with a red collar and red bows clipped to her ears. She seemed to know how pretty she was, and strutted mightily for several days after being cleaned and groomed. She and I shared many a conversation about this, and she spoke quite well when I quizzed her on the business of being a homecoming queen. She knew, and didn’t mind telling me her feelings about the situation at all.

With all this, Bow developed into the eternal optimist. She didn’t like to be bathed, however, but accepted it somehow as punishment for something, she knew not what. When she was taken out of the bathtub, and dried off, she shook from top to bottom, ran from room to room, like a streak. Finally she was dry enough to be blow dried, and fluffed up, and of course she showed her thanks for our making her beautiful once again.

Bow always loved to lie by my side when I sat in the recliner and watched TV. She growled when someone approached the two of us. She was jealous, protective or something, I’m not sure. She sure didn’t allow anyone to come close when she was beside me in the recliner.

Arthritis began to take a toll after she aged to about thirteen, and her teeth began to give her problems. I took her to the vet, and he took out several bad teeth, and to keep her comfortable, I fed her wieners, cut up in small pieces. She could no longer chew the hard dog food.

Soon her sight began to fail, and it was easy to tell she couldn’t run without pain, and she moved slower and slower. I had a little doggie bed I put in the closet that I had gotten at K-Mart. She took to it right away, and was always quick to go there when I left for work.

I checked on her always at noon, and made sure her food and water was fresh. She spent the most of the time in the little bed except when I took her to the recliner with me. She no longer could jump into the chair, so I helped her up to her favorite place, which I think was beside me.

One cold February day in 1991 when she was about fourteen, I came home at lunch from work to let her out, and I found her cold and lifeless in her little bed. This sight broke my heart. This wonderful little pet had asked nothing all these years from me except love, and that’s what she gave in return.

I buried her in the woods down by the arched bridge, behind the house. It hurt for days. I have not wanted to have another pet since. Bow was the greatest, best little pet I’ve ever had. I surely will remember that little dog, and how she was a part of the family. Every dog I ever had was the best ever, and Bow was no exception. Whenever I felt like my life was becoming a humdrum affair, I’d come home, and Bow would whiz throughout the house with a clear welcome home that brought me back to happiness and just plain old fun.

I read a piece not long ago about a pet owner’s having fifteen minutes of fame, which was created for a tired and weary traveler, glad to be home from a week on the road, and just off the plane. It was the same for me, too. In those years I had to travel a lot, but when I got home it all changed. Was I one to be cool, distant and a grouch upon arrival home? Heck, no. It was easy for me to turn into a blithering idiot as I got out of the truck, because I knew I would be greeted by a homecoming queen, a black, hairy little princess, mad with love for only me. Whizzing through the house, showing off just for me. She gave an emotional rescue I needed. I would raise my voice an octave or two, and exclaim, “Bow, you been a good girl today? Yeah, you have, you been a goooood, girl!” By then, I was ready to bound into the house, with the stress gone, to greet the rest of the family, because I was restored to my own fifteen minutes of fame, given to me by Bow.

Ann Landers once said, “Don’t take the affection shown by your dog as conclusive evidence that you’re wonderful.” Well, Bow never read Ann Landers; besides, unconditional love is hard to come by, and not given freely. So when Bow gave me joy for the moment, I thought I was great, cause Bow said so.

Dogs are amazing creatures whose loyalty, unabashed love and devotion to family never cease to amaze me. The lives of men and beasts have been intertwined since time immemorial, and some of us, thanks to our four-legged friends and other predecessors, are the fortunate inheritors of thousands of generations of the practice of getting along together. I’ll always be grateful to Bow for her part in sharing this with me.


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