There I was in the back of this old pickup truck in the Wal Mart parking lot in Defuniak Springs, Florida with six other muling, grumbling mutts, some old tires and an assortment of greasy tools. This young couple picked us up along side Highway 81 in north Walton, County. We were all hungry and sickly. They fed us and took us to the Wal Mart parking area and put a sign on back of their dilapidated truck saying, “FREE PUPS FOR GOOD HOME.”
Them other squirmy dogs were a’yapping and wiggling around. This was driving me crazy so I just hung my head and front paws over the tailgate to get some fresh air. I did not care to associate with them anyway. They were just not my kind. I don’t think they was very smart. Yeah, I was weak and hungry too, but I did not make on like I needed any thing.
Pretty soon, I spied a man and woman getting out of a white Toyota pick up across the parking lot. The dude was old and moved a bit slow, but the much younger woman seemed spry and alert. I could see them talking real serious like when they read the sign below me. It was not by accident that I put myself over that sign where folks could see me. I had to find me a good home and get out of the bed of that old, run downed pickup with all them other sorry critters.
The couple approached my truck slowly and started talking to the young couple that had rescued us dogs. “Could you use some money to help feed these dogs?” the Old Dude asked the young couple.
The young man replied, “No, we won’t take any money. We are just looking for a good home for these pups.” The young man was right, I was just a pup when I got lost from my mama and got mixed up with this mess of scroungy mutts along side the highway just north of Bruce, Florida.
Anyways, when I saw the older couple approach our truck they appeared to be kind, maybe even gullible folks. I put on the most pitiful look I could muster in hopes they may take me home with them. I did not bark or grumble. I just moaned a bit to get their attention and I continued to hang my head over the tailgate. I made a point to stare at them with my dark brown eyes through my long, shaggy, curly black and white eye lashes. This seemed to do the trick.
The Old Dude, looked me over real good then asked the young man “What about this fellow here? Could we adopt him? We already have a Golden Retriever named P.J. that we rescued, but we could give this one a good home also. Besides P.J. needs a companion.” The Old Dude’s wife agreed.
Well anything to get out of this truck with this pack of whinnying puppies, but do I really want to be a companion to a lummox of a dog with a silly name like, P.J.? What the hell, anything had to be better than sitting in the back of a truck in the Wal Mart parking lot. Bedsides, I heard the young couple say that if they could not find us a home they may have to take us to the dog pound where bad things could happen to us. Better to live with P.J. than risk that fate I figured.
I heard the Old Dude tell his wife, referring to me, “That dog must be old. Look at all the grey, kinky hair he has.” Now that did insult me. I weren’t old, and I considered my appearance to be what humans would call salt and pepper. I wish I could have talked in human language. I would corrected the old fart, but I did not have to. His young, smarter, wife told the ignorant old fool, “No love, he is just a pup, probably just about six months old. That is the natural color of his coat, and look at the long brown hair under his little belly. He actually is quite a handsome little fellow,” the Old Dude’s wife correctly observed about me. Of course I agree with her.
These new people told the young folks who found us that they would give me a good home. They offered again to donate money for food for the other pups, but the proud, young couple refused any donations.
I did not want to let the Old Dude and his foxy wife know just how sick and weak I was, lest they would decide I would be too much trouble. I really wanted to have them take me home with them, but I was even too weak to walk to their white Toyota pickup. I just lay limp in the Old Dude’s arms as he gently carried me to the truck and carefully laid me on the back seat. I soon came to understand that both these people were kind folks and seemed to really care about me.
As we drove south from Defuniak Springs to my new parents’ home at the beach in Seagrove, I heard them discuss what to name me. Truth of the matter is I never really had a name before. They discussed several options and finally came up with the name Stanley. Seems that some member of their family, in their youth, had an old, loyal dog named Stanley. That sounded like a stately name to me and I think it fits my energetic, erudite, sophisticated, independent personality.
As we drove south, I heard her call the Old Dude, Tom and he called her Karen. So my new parents, or owners, depending on how one looks at things like this, were Tom and Karen.
When we arrived at my new home, I met P.J. Now, ain’t that a ridiculous name for a dog. Well it befits him. He is a ridiculous dog. P. J. is a big old, neurotic Golden Retriever. I could see from the beginning he was good for nothing.
At first, P.J. did not take kindly with me coming into his house. For about three hours he walked around and around me with a chewy in his mouth whining like a pitiful puppy. The good news was that he did not growl at me or bite me. I was still pretty sick and weak at the time so I just ignored him as best I could. After a while, P.J. settled down and went to sleep. I thought he was just too old and tired to put up a fight. Later in our relationship, I Learned P.J. would fight me when he got enough of my antics. Actually I found out he liked to fight other dogs whenever he could.
The day after we arrived at my new abode, Karen took me to the pretty lady veterinarians at Kindness Pet Hospital to check me out and get the shots civilized folks feel we dogs need to be healthy. They may call this place Kindness, but those shots stung , no matter how gently the the considerate Doctors treated me. I felt pretty lowly all that day, but by my third day at home with Tom and Karen I was feeling pretty chipper–better than I had ever felt.
Karen fed well, and P.J. and I agreed on an eating arrangement that worked for both of us. Karen made sure I got enough to eat before the big dog gobbled up all of my food. It was a good thing that Karen thought to do this because I am a picky eater. I smell my food first then eat slowly. The big red dog just gobbles his food down, and mine if he gets a chance, before I can savor my meal. Despite his sophisticated name he has no manners whatsoever. It is a wonder the big oaf does not have stomach problems all the time.
Later on, after I became a real member of the household, I figured out strategies to enlist P. J. to help me get things I wanted or needed. If I thought breakfast or dinner was a little late, or I needed to go outside to potty, I would bark at P.J. and wake him up from his nap to go beg for food or let us out. But P.J. was way ahead of me on this procedure. Over the years he had learned to go beg the Old Dude for food or a chewy, knowing full well the lazy old man would simply call to Karen and say, “The dogs are bugging me. I think they are hungry or they need to go out.” This strategy worked every time, so I did what P.J. taught me. I begged Tom, who always called on Karen to give me what I wanted.
Man, man, you ought to see the house and yard I live in now. It is a young dog’s dream. The house, a big two story affair, is stuffed with junk that I love to explore and chew on. It looks like something I have seen on that TV show the American Pickers. Oh yes dogs do watch TV. At least smart dogs do. Seems Tom and Karen built not only a house to live in but a studio and workshop where they create pottery, paintings, photographs, greeting cards and write stories. Tom has many tools in his workshop, but when I hear him cussing, I don’t think he knows how to use most of them. It is one of my favorite places to explore or potty if it it is raining outside. The Old Dude got really upset when I did this the first time, so I humor him by doing my business outside most of the time.
The house sits on a big lot with many trees. Karen had planted vegetable and flower gardens all over the place. Sometime Tom helps her with the vegetable gardens, but he tells her, “Your flowers are pretty, but you cain’t eat them.” Karen explains to the ignorant fellow that the flowers attract bees who pollinate the vegetables. Well even I, a dumb dog, can understand that.
Many squirrels and birds live in our yard. Now I am fast, but those damn squirrels can out run me. I have yet to catch one. But I do catch rats. We live next to an overgrown vacant lot, therefore rats occasionally come into the lower part of our house which is supposed to be our garage. I have heard Tom tell people on many occasions, “Of course we don’t put our cars in the garage. That is like putting a twenty gallon gasoline bomb in your house.”As I said before, my parents have strange and wonderful things in our garage they use to engage in their many hobbies. For instance, Karen prepares all of her greeting cards she sells at Sun Dog book store in Seaside downstairs. They call these things necessary equipment. I call it clutter.
But rats do get in downstairs and hide down there. I have, with serious resolve, taken on my responsibility to ferret out and extricate these rascals from our home. I guess it is just in my nature to dispose of rats. I heard Karen say it is in my breeding. Karen and Tom can’t decided on my heritage, but they agree that I am a ratter.
When I smell those varmints, I corner them up amongst the project stuff downstairs, and bark at them until they come out or l wear myself out. As soon as the critter makes a run for it, I jump on him in a flash, grab him by the neck, take him to the backyard and dispose of him. This makes my new parents happy and me proud to be a working member of the household. P.J. is not much help in catching rats, but he does give me moral support.
To say that P.J. is strange is putting it mildly. The other night I was just asleep at Karen’s feet. P.J. was asleep on his bed about five feet away. All of a sudden he jumped up and raced toward me growling for no good reason. True, I do give him cause to growl at me all day long, but not on this occasion. I guess he had a nightmare and wanted to take it out on me. For whatever reason, he scared the bejesus out of me. I thought he had taken leave of his senses and was going to eat me up. I cuddled up to Tom, but he had no sympathy for me so I went back to Karen for protection, who stroked my rough fur and told me not to worry. She said P.J. just had a bad dream.
But the old dog can be useful. Being a young active fellow who has worked all day catching rats or chasing squirrels and birds out of Karen’s gardens, I get really really hungry about sunset. Usually, P.J. is doing what he does best–sleeping. I need his help to get Karen’s attention so she will feed us. I bark at P.J. to interrupt his slumber and in dog talk tell him to go beg for food. He then goes through his routine of bugging Tom who in turn prevails upon good-natured Karen to feed us. I guess the old dog ain’t so dumb after all, because his tactics seem to work every time. If I have to go out to potty in the middle of the night, I want P.J. to go with me, so I bark him awake so he can beg Karen to open the doors.
I take these nightly potty breaks to inspect our yard and bark at any unwanted critters or humans. Tom and Karen, and even our neighbors, say I bark a lot. But what is a dog to do? One of my many jobs is to warn Karen and Tom of intruders. I remember once about three in the morning, Karen had fallen asleep on the living room couch and I was fast asleep on my bed at her feet, but with one ear open. I heard someone in our front yard, so let out my shrill, alarm bark, the one that tells those nearby there is something amiss. It is different from the bark I use just to shoo away unwanted squirrels or lizards. This is my serious bark, telling Tom or Karen, ‘There is danger here–do something.’
The next morning, Karen told Tom at breakfast, “I don’t know why Stanley got on a barking fit in the middle of the night.” But when she went out into our yard that morning she discovered that some villains had come into our yard and stolen three of our plastic flamingos. I don’t know why people who come to our part of paradise have to do tacky things like that. Karen and even the Old Dude praised me for being a good watchdog. I was happy to see they appreciated me and figured this made up for some of my bad behavior.
Four little mixed breed dogs live with Bob and Rhonda across the street from us. They bark all the time, and of course I must answer them. Of late I have learned I can jump the banister on the downstairs front porch, so I go visit these dogs and stir them up whenever I can. I find this to be great fun. Bob and Rhonda like me. They say I am cute, but I don’t think they appreciate me disturbing their mutts. I bark at them every time they walk in front of our house just for the fun of watching them go nuts on their leashes and drag Rhoda and Bob down the street.
Yes, I do like fun and adventure. I get away and run about the neighborhood any chance I get. P.J. is just too old and set in his ways to keep up with me. Sometimes I do get to lead him astray. Our little adventures wear him out, but if the truth be known, our little escapades invigorate the old fellow as well.
We live just one good golf shot from the aqua, blue waters and gleaming white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes when the tourists are not around, Karen and Tom take us down and allow us to run in the surf. I chase the seagulls, but they are faster than the squirrels and they can even fly away. Old P.J. just mosies along with the Old Dude. Once I talked P.J. into traveling East down the beach with me to a secluded state park called Deer Lake. As we pranced off down the beach, Karen became quite upset and kept calling for us to return. P.J. wanted to obey and go back, but I talked him in to continuing our adventure. I know I was wrong in not obeying Karen, but I just could not pass up the opportunity to see what was down at Deer Lake.
Eventually, Karen persuaded some county workers cleaning up the beach to drive their truck down the beach and corral P.J. and me. She was some pissed off, telling me, “You are a bad dog. You corrupt P.J.” She thinks P.J. is such a goodie-two-shoes, but I know better. I have seen him do devious things to get what he wants. Anyway, Karen is such a sweet woman, and I am so cute when I turn on my charm, she can’t stay angry with me long. Too bad P.J. just does not have my charisma, but for some reason she loves him as much as she loves me.
On another occasion, Karen and Tom had things to do that kept them away from home all day. A storm whipped up which really upsets P.J. He wandered around downstairs whining and crying pitifully. To distract him, I convinced the reluctant P.J. to break out out of our front porch and go rile up Wanda and Bob’s barkie little dogs. As I have mentioned, this one of my favorite sports.
Rhonda took it upon herself to return us home, but the storm got worse. This became too much for P.J., so he chewed our way through the wooden fence on the front porch and we broke out again. This time we took a long trip West down the beach toward the community of Seaside. We got about a mile away in front of the only high-rise condo on our beach. Many children came out to play with us. I dearly love to play with little folks because they have so much energy and can run fast. P.J. Just stands there and allows the little ones pet him, but I run their little legs off.
Of course, Karen really got up set by this little escapade. The truth is we had gotten so far from home, we were lost. Karen had had the foresight to have the vet to implant a high-tech locating device under my skin. Some kind gentleman, at the condo, called the animal control folks of Walton County and they came out and found out who owned us and called Karen. She came down in the little Toyota truck and brought us back home scolding me all the way. But again she eventually got over being mad at me, hugged me and told me she loved me even though I was an exasperating little dog.
All my bad behavior has prompted Karen to try to teach me discipline. She has even threatened to take me to obedience school, but I think she has given up that notion and is going to take on the job of improving my behavior herself. I know I try her patience. I don’t try to be difficult by running away, barking at other dogs and people, tearing up pillows Karen has made for Tom, shredding magazines, and even eating Karen’s checkbook, but I am still just a puppy and I can’t just sit around the house doing nothing like the lazy P.J. After all, I, unlike P.J., earn my keep by catching rats and shooing away potential burglars.
A ninety-one-year-old guy, also named Tom, who lives down our street has marked off a one hundred meeter running track on our street. He comes and jogs that course every day with his mean, shaggy, brown chow dog. Old Tom is a neat, pleasant fellow. He has participated in and won some senior Olympics competitions, but that chow dog of his is unpleasant and can be downright mean.
Just the other day, Karen was bringing P.J. and me back from our favorite swimming hole. Old Tom’s chow was out in front of his his house with his master. I thought I would be friendly and just go over and try to play with that honery, female dog. As I ran to her she growled at me. Now I am here to tell you that P.J., as sweet and laid back as he is, just don’t take no gruff from any other dog no matter the size–especially if that dog is growling at me. Well P. J. lit into that chow and fur flew all over the place. Of course, I had to join and help P.J. as much as I could. I think the chow got a hunk of J.P., because my old buddy limped around for a day or two after that, but he seems to be his old self again.
Karen was mortified by our behavior and tried to apologize to Old Tom. He dismissed her concerns and told her that his dog needed a good whipping anyway. Well P.J. and I certainly did that for him.
As I said, P.J. will take on most any dog in a fight, except our neighbor, David’s dogs. David has two giant, white great Pyrenees dogs. Their barks sound like thunder when we walk in front of their house. P.J. and I just walk on the far side of the street in front of their house and look the other way when we walk by. If they are in their fenced yard, I pray that that fence holds them back, because I don’t think even P.J. could handle these monsters.
Speaking of David, he is a hairstylist who works out of his house. He gives Tom and Karen their haircuts. He is a sweet, gentle guy who took care of P.J. and me when Karen had to visit Tom the two weeks he had to spend at the Bay Medical Center Hospital over in Panama City last February and March. This was a bad time for all of us–especially for Karen and Tom. David took good care of us and saw that we got good food and potty breaks.
Tom’s son Sean and his daughter Paige came over to do what they could while he was in the hospital, but Karen did all the daily heavy lifting. She took on the trying job of making sure the doctors, nurses and technicians were doing their jobs correctly. But lo and behold, no sooner than Tom entered the hospital, Karen twisted her ankle badly rushing down our stairs to go to care for him. Man oh man for a time around here we had the cripple assisting the more crippled.
Of course, P.J. and I did our part. When Tom and Karen were laid up we came and sniffed them all day long to make sure things were not going downhill with them. Everybody knows that we dogs can sniff out an illness long before humans suspect they are sick. Our problem is we don’t have vocal cords to communicated this information We do talk in many ways and could be understood, if our human friends, would just learn our language. Tom and Karen, especially Karen, have caught on to what we are trying to tell her.
When they got Tom home after a week in the hospital, he had to go back in three days later because he had bad infection in both arms. The doctor also prescribed a strong blood thinner which damn near did him in. He had to go back to the Emergency Room to correct this mistake and stay another week to renew his blood platelets and get strong antibiotics. After the Old Dude returned from his second stay at the hospital, I am here to tell you he was sure a mess when we got him home. For sure, he wanted to be at home with Karen and us dogs, but he looked like the fellow Frankenstein that I have seen on television. As I said before, I do watch TV, but only selected programs. Tom had tubes coming out his neck and both arms and bruises on his stomach where the doctors had performed test on him.
Tom became exasperated with the home health care people the hospital had recommended. I heard him tell Karen that they were a ripoff and charged Medicare far too much for the services they supposedly provided. He and Karen call in a registered nurse who was an old friend to administer the antibiotics. Dru, a sweet, smart lady, came every day for two months to treat Tom. I tried to help her in her duties, but she kept telling me, “No Stanley, I don’t need your help.” But I know she liked me because she talked to and petted me all the time. That is all a dog can ask for.
As time went on, Tom became more pert so he and Karen invited friends and neighbors over to the lot across the street and boiled mounds of shrimp, potatoes and corn. Tom and Karen don’t actually own the lot. It has been owned by a family from Dothan, Alabama, but they have built nothing on it since they purchased it forty-something years ago. Tom talked to the doctor who administers the family estate, and asked for permission to clean the land up so we could get to the beautiful Eastern Lake. The good doctor was only too happy to have Tom clear the debris and cut the small trees on the property. Tom devoted many days, and chainsaw blades last winter converting the bramble and dead trees into a lake view park.
This is a pleasant place where P.J. and I go swimming. The Old Dude keeps a flatboat and sailboat here. Grandkids use the aluminum flatboat to fish out of and go to the beach when they visit. When Tom tries to teach grandkids how to sail a boat, I hear him tell them, “You need to know how to sail a boat. Any fool can turn a key on to start an engine.” I see him trying to teach them many things. Some of it gets through, but most of his words are just lost in the wind. He tries to teach me things too, but I guess I am too stubborn to try to learn new things. After all, I am just a puppy and there are many fun things to do in life, like chasing squirrels and birds and shredding magazines all over the living room floor.
Karen has put out a crab trap in the lake. We catch a few crabs every week. I help Karen corral the little buggers. She boils them then makes crab cakes out of their meat. I ain’t much on eating crab meat, but the humans seem to like it.
P.J. and I dearly love to go swimming in the lake–especially in the hot summer. Sometimes, we swim way out into the lake chasing ducks that have come in for the winter. Those rascals are tricky creatures. When you swim out to get them, they are sitting on top of the water, but as you get closer, they just disappear below the surface and stay there for the longest time. After they hide beneath the water, P.J. and I just swim around a bit looking for them, but our little legs get tired so we have to swim back to shore. When we get back our long fur is full of water so we do like all dogs. We find the nearest human, preferably one that is not fond of dogs anyway, stand close to them and shake vigorously showering them with doggie water. P.J. taught me this trick. I find this especially fun.
Once Tom felt a little stronger after he got out of the hospital, he started building a floating dock to put in the lake. I overheard the engineer, Duane Porte, tell Tom he could get him a permit to build a permanent pier into the lake, but the permit alone would costs $800. The last I heard, Tom said he has about $500 in his floating dock including the $100 he paid to grandson Nathan to help him build it. I heard Tom tell Karen that Nathan was a good worker. He told her, “You just have to show him something once then turn the project over to him. He will work on his own until the task is complete without further supervision.”
When Nathan was not working with his PaPa on the floating dock, he took P.J. and me swimming down where the lake empties into the Gulf. This is the best swimming hole in the world. Nathan is one big strong, energetic young person. He is going to play on the Varsity foot ball team at Jesuit next year even though he will only be a freshman. He is already as big as, but much stronger than his PaPa. He ran me around so hard, I about fell out. My tongue hung out the side of my mouth and I could not wait to get back in our air conditioned house where I slept all night long with nary an interruption. P.J. was pretty much zonked out also.
Just yesterday, the Old Dude and Karen decided to take P.J. and me in their little aluminum flat boat down to the swimming hole. Tom was teaching Karen how to operate the boat. Neither of them was paying much attention to us dogs. As soon as the bow of the boat hit the sand banks of the swimming hole, P.J. jumped ashore and headed for the beach. Since it was summertime, many people, including a passel of young children, lined the shoreline. P.J. and I both love children and allow them to pet us all they want.
I don’t know what got into P.J. on this occasion, but he decided to head West on the beach for about a mile. I did not think the old dog had the energy to make such a trip. Of course, I had to go along to take care of him. We played along the way and had great fun. During our sojourn, P.J. had to take a crap on the beach which in Walton county, is a big “No, No.” P.J.s bowel movement really upset a woman on the beach. This woman accosted Karen who was chasing after us about P.J.’s bad manners. Karen tried to explain to the angry person that we had run away and she was trying to catch us. Later that week, Karen met this woman at a bookreading down at Sundog books in Seaside. The embarrassed woman came up to Karen and apologized for overreacting and her bad behavior. Things went well for the two of them after.
Tom tells me I am a sassy dog. That is not true. Maybe a bit headstrong and serious about my duties as a watchdog, but not sassy. Tom yells at me when I bark at our neighbors and their ill bred dogs, but that is my job. When Tom yells at me, Karen tells him “You scared him. You know you love that dog.”
Tom sheepishly admits, “I do love him, but sometimes he drives me nuts with his barking.” But that is what I am supposed to do. I must alert the Old Dude and Karen to dangers they are too dumb to see.
A few days ago, the UPS man came in his brown truck with a package for Tom. Of course I barked at the man in the brown uniform until he gave P.J. and me a treat. Now I would say that is one smart man. I wonder how many treats he gives to barking dogs every day. Anyway , Tom had ordered a mechanical turtle from Hammacher Schlemmer that shines blue lights on the ceiling, plays soft music and makes surf sounds. When Karen saw the strange turtle, she asked Tom. “Why did you get this? This is used to put children to sleep.”
“Well it could put adults to sleep as well. Besides, I just wanted it,” he responded. Now I am here to tell you that the Old Dude does not need any help sleeping. He can sleep all night long then nap on the couch during the day. Nowadays, because he is taking some medicines, he does have to pee several times during the night. P.J. and I don’t let this disturb our sleep.
I don’t like the damn mechanical turtle Tom brought into our house. I bark at it when it shines its lights on the ceiling, plays soft music, and make ocean sounds. It will never put me to sleep. It is a strange looking thing and I don’t trust it.
The Old Dude don’t yell at me any more after I cornered the water moccasin in our garage. He praises me over and over. He pets me and tell me what a good dog I am. Karen hugs me and tell me she loves me. This makes me proud, but I an sure they will get angry with me again when I pull one of my little doggie escapades.
I trapped the snake when Tom and Karen had gone out to lunch. They are always going out to eat and leaving P.J. and I at home. Of course I have duties, like corralling a snake. As usual, P. J. was no help. He just went to the back room and went to sleep.
I saw the critter slither into our garage, so I barked it into a corner. When Tom and Karen came back from stuffing themselves with pasta at Angelina’s, I had the mean fellow herded up in the front corner of the garage. I barked my alarm bark until Karen told Tom “I think Stanley has trapped a water moccasin.” Somehow I knew better that to go grab this creature like I do the rats. Tom got a big flat shovel and chopped the snake’s head off. I wanted to help, but Karen made me go upstairs while the Old Dude killed the snake and threw his remains in the empty lot across the street.
All in all, living with Karen, the Old Dude and J.P. ain’t too bad a life. It sure beats the hell our of being in the back of an old pickup in the parking lot of Wal Mart with a bunch of yapping dogs. Yeah, I think I will try harder to behave myself a bit more so I can stay in the good home I have found.