The other night, as I dined in a fancy French restaurant surrounded by my husband’s colleagues, the gentlemen next to me asked, “Does your dad still have the three-legged dog?”
You’d think by this point in my life I’d be used to near strangers asking me about my life, but it still startles me. Evidently the look of shock on my face caused his wife concern and she leaned in to ask what we were talking about.
“Honey,” he said. “This is that woman I was telling you about. The one whose Dad had a three-legged dog.” And then he launched into his memory of attending a Senate bonfire at my dad’s house over ten years ago. My dad — and his three-legged dog — are memorable that way.
Normally we got our dogs and cats the way every farmer did – from the city people who drove out to the country to dump their unwanted pets. The new animals were named without imagination – Socks because she had four white paws, Pumpkin because she arrived on Halloween, or Stupid, because, well, she was stupid. Although, I believe she was renamed one morning after the milk truck arrived to pick up our weekly stock. Stupid barked and growled as usual but this time Mom punched open the back screen door and shouted “SHUT UP, STUPID!” just as the poor truck driver was climbing out of the cab. He apologized and Stupid was renamed.
But our two most remarkable dogs came to us in a different way. Rookie was our first. The tiny puppy arrived, cradled in the arms of my high school sweetheart, a birthday present. When my boyfriend walked into our living room and handed me the dog, Dad couldn’t have looked more shocked if the guy had handed me an elephant. Dogs did not belong in the house
Although Dad didn’t approved of the fancy baseball-referenced name, Rookie quickly became an indispensable part of farm life. If he wasn’t already in the truck when Dad left, he’d run up the driveway and leap into the back before Dad turned onto the road in front of our house. When my youngest brother was born, Rookie appointed himself sole guardian and planted himself on the baby’s blanket. I swear he didn’t budge until that kid was able to walk. When Rookie died, Mom made sure he was buried where she could watch over him from the kitchen window.
It was a few years before the next good dog appeared, arriving like Rookie in the arms of my brother’s girlfriend. He came with a sister that Dad allowed us to name Daisy evidently softening since the Rookie naming. However, we called the male Friday, after the day he arrived. Daisy was a pretty little blonde haired dog while Friday, on the other hand…well, as Dad would say – he must have fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.
Neither dog seemed suited to farm life and it wasn’t long before we lost Daisy to an accident. Friday hung on though and eventually became Dad’s constant companion. When Dad headed out to the field on his tractor, Friday ran beside the front wheels, waiting to chase whatever darted out, coming within inches of the tires. One day, he dashed after his prey and was run over. Dad rushed him to the vet, something unheard of for previous pets. They amputated Friday’s leg and he survived. We tried calling him Tripod after that, but it didn’t stick.
Being a three-legged-dog didn’t slow Friday down one bit and within a few weeks he was out with Dad, running along side the tractor, like a good dog should. In the evenings, I’d find Dad on the front porch watching the sunset. In his lap would be a beat up old tom cat and at his feet would be Friday.
My dad always said he was a fortunate man. I’d smile for a moment thinking he meant his kids, but he’d continue, “Why, most farmers are lucky to have one good farm dog in their life and I’ve had two.