A Boy and His Dogs

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Growing up in the Burgh, we always had dogs. Most of my friends had dogs.

The first dog I remember was Prince. Prince was a mix of German Shepard and something else. Mom ran over his tail with the car. He lived a long life, but with a much a shorter tail.

Ikie (Ike), was the only pure bred we ever owned. Mom won him on a local TV show called "The Sheriff of Cactus County." He was a Cocker Spaniel and his registered name was "Dwight David Eisenhower".

Patches was the last dog I remember. She was a mongrel. Patches was alive after I married and my kids knew and loved her.

But my favorite dog was Candy. Her breed combination was unknown. I can still see her as a medium sized dog, reddish brown. She loved me and I loved her. There was that unconditional love between a dog and her owner.

Like many other Burgers, we let our dogs run. They roamed Lansingburgh during the day and came home at night for food, comfort and human companionship. There were some nights they didn't come home, but eventually they got hungry, and missed us, and came home. Of course sometimes they didn't come home: falling victim to a car, a fight with another animal, or maybe they just found a better place to live.

Prince, Candy and Patches "disappeared". But Ikie did not runaway nor fall victim to nature. He had a pedigree and was apparently smart enough to stay close to home. I'm pretty sure we did not let him roam the way we did our mixed breeds. Ikie had heart problems and lived with us until he died. I remember the vet prescribed digitalis. As any pet owner knows, you do what every you can to keep a family member alive. For a blue collar family in the Burgh, this was a considerable expense, but our dogs were family.

Back to Candy. Why was she favorite? She was "my" first dog. At six, I was old enough to appreciate her loyalty and I could take some responsibility for her. Mom would probably not have agreed that I took full responsibility, but Candy was "my" dog. She followed me everywhere. Down to the Whipple School field to play, playing in the yard and participating in our street games.

I lived 1/2 block north of Whipple School. Every morning Candy and I walked that 1/2 block to school, and she waited with me for the opening of the doors. When school was over, Candy was there to walk home with me. She knew that we could spend some quality time together. I'm not sure what she did while I was in school, but I never really thought about that.

One day, when school finished, I went outside and there was no one to greet me. This had never happened before. I can't recall how old I was when this happened, but, I do remember that Candy was not there.

I went home upset. Mom and Nana (she lived with us), assured me that Candy had probably just wandered off on an adventure and would return that evening.

I went to bed, still no Candy. In the morning, no Candy.

After a few days, the story changed. Candy was probably sick and wandered off to die. Or perhaps she was hit by a car. Or fell victim to one of the other fatal conclusions that afflicted the other free-running dogs in the Burgh.

It wasn't long after losing Candy that we got another dog. I forget the dog chronology, but the next dog was probably Ike. And my grief subsided. Candy became a part of my past. I still remembered her and the fun we had together, but my attention turned to our new pets and to growing up.

Fast forward twenty years or so. Terri, the kids and I were visiting Mom and Dad at the 4th Avenue homestead, 1/2 block north of Whipple School. We were reminiscing about the dogs we had as I grew up. When the discussion turned to Candy, I described to the kids how Candy was my favorite. I talked about how she met me every day after school. I described our time together, probably embellishing the relationship a bit. I told them about the day that Candy wasn't there to meet me.

Dad, laying on the couch, said "Elsie, you better tell him". "Bill, shut up!", she replied.

A long family secret was about to be revealed. As it turns out, Candy did not run away. Nor was she sick. Nor was she hit by a car.

One day, while I was at school, Candy bit the mailman. Mom took her to the vet and had her put down.

Until the day she died, I sometimes reminded Mom about running over Prince's tail, throwing out my baseball cards and... Candy.

Bill Lorensen, Lansingburgh '64