My parents were both dog lovers; they were both raised in dog families: terriers on my father’s side (all of whom were named “Tech,” by my grandfather in honor of his MIT experience and, of course, to avoid confusion) and cocker spaniels on my mother’s. My mother’s family showed far more creativity with names: the ones I can recall were Booboo, Tinker, Dusky and Cricket.
My father used to tell us that the main reason he married my mother was to get her dog – a black and white spaniel named Ferdinand. (My brother and I believed him – seemed like a perfectly logical reason for getting married to us!)
I remember walking with my mother from our house on
Fletcher Street in all the way down to the Dudley-Weed Drugstore on Portland, Maine Pine Street for the Sunday paper. That was the early 1950s; I was about seven years old.
And then there was the day Ferdy had to make The Last Trip to the vet’s office. My father, tears in his eyes, lured him into the back seat of the Chevrolet wagon with Oreos; Dad couldn’t even look at an Oreo after that, let alone eat one.
But we weren’t dogless for long; neither of my parents could live without them! They soon got the first of their many springer spaniels; they named him Dudley (after that same drugstore in
). From that time forward, we had at least one – and up to three – dogs at a time, although my father used to complain that with three, he felt like a hotel doorman; all three dogs were always on the wrong side. Portland
Abner, Matilda, Rufus, Martha...those springers padded and wagged their ways through our lives (they alternated sexes and colors: male/female; liver-and-white, black-and white but, alas, never a tri-color). As my parents became older, though, the number of dogs in their household dwindled – it was just too much for them to manage – and soon they were left with just Jim.
“I can’t stand it,” my mother complained. “There just aren’t enough of them with only Just-Jim.”
And so, for one Mother’s Day many years ago, my father presented her with Beau, who graced their front porch, their gardens and their lawns – wherever they happened to move him – with his sweet face and gentle demeanor.
When my mother died, Beau came to live with me; today, this Mother’s Day of 2013, Beau sits beneath one of my lilacs.