My sister has suggested that I write a post about our dog, Tag. The problem with that is that almost all the images I have of him, and there are many, exist only in my head. And this will be no short story.
We got him from a farm on the outskirts of our town, picking him out of a big litter of puppies. I wanted a more colorfully marked female, but my mother chose Tag, who was curled up, sleeping in the food dish. I remember the flecks of food in his fur on the drive home. I have loved all my dogs, but in the 64 years since no other dog has ever come close to Tag. Because it was the days before leash laws Tag was free as a bird, and he followed me everywhere in my younger years. My mother said she never worried about me because of that.
He quite literally jumped through hoops for me. Hula hoops. I had a mental image of somehow creating a flaming hoop for him to jump through, but never actually attempted to implement that particular fantasy, mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to hold a flaming hula hoop. I made a rope harness for him to pull a wagon, and charged the neighborhood kids a penny for a ride. My success with Tag prompted the neighbors to hire me to train their dog, who paid absolutely no attention to me, so it was the student, not the teacher, who deserved the credit. Another plan of mine was to hitch Tag to the wagon, a kerchief around his neck with a shopping list and money tied inside, and send him to the little neighborhood market up the street. I was sure it would work. We lived with my grandfather in those days, in an Italian neighborhood, and though I didn’t speak the language, when my grandfather would slip me a couple of dollars go to the store and buy a box of dog biscuits to keep beside him for Tag, I knew what he wanted me to do.
When one of my uncles slipped me a dollar or two and I marched myself to the pet shop and bought a kitten, my mother wasn’t amused. That that cat had kittens long before my mother thought to do anything to avoid it was quite the episode in my, and Tag’s, life. He attended the birth, helping clean up the kittens as they were born. My mother said he was a better mother than the cat was. He would lay on the big cement back porch, with the kittens jumping on his slowly wagging tail. When his tail would change directions the kittens would tumble off, only to jump back on. I can see it so clearly, even now.
Tag would show up at school at recess to say hello. My mother said he’d be asleep on the porch and he’d suddenly leap to his feet and take off. She’d look at the clock and know where he went, and she also said that he was the only dog welcome at the school. Or so I ‘remember’. Even I wonder about some of these memories some times.
When I got too old for Tag to follow me every day he would follow the older neighborhood handyman on his rounds. John was on foot, pulling a wagon full of his tools, and my father would see him and Tag all around the area. One day John was up on the roof of the barn-type structure behind the house next door, and Tag attempted to climb up the ladder to join him. He got halfway up and was stuck, leaving John equally stuck on the roof. My father, the fireman, had to come to their rescue. Eventually we moved across town, and Tag kept disappearing, only to be spotted by my father, back in the old neighborhood, still making the rounds with John.
In the 5th grade we were supposed to write our autobiography, my mother said that mine should have been titled, “An Ode To My Dog”. Little did she dream she’d name a blog post for me one day.