Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dog Story

Yesterday on the train I was reading a book by Dorothy Sayers set in Scotland and realized that a dog we'd had when I was a child was named Jock, not Jacques as I had thought for more than 40 years.

I always wondered why my parents had given a French name to a Scottie. Now I know they hadn't. They had given him a traditional Scots name: Jock. And I had thought that he looked pissed at our attempt to Frenchify him. Now I wonder what exactly Jock was pissed about.

He was one in a series of pets that we had in Port Chester. They all met curious ends. There was MacGregor, a collie who drowned in the Byrum River. My mother said the fireman who had jumped in the ice cold river to try and save MacGregor was sobbing when he came to 535 King Street and apologized over and over again about his inability to save him. Somehow I picture my mother exhaling smoke from her Kent cigarette and saying, tap tap ash drop: don't worry about it. She was probably relieved to have one less thing to look after, one less animate object out of her control, running away.

I always loved the Scottie magnets sold in the restrooms of the Howard Johnson's on the turnpike to Maine.

I can remember sitting in the car for what seems like hours and was probably 15 minutes, holding the white Terrier in one hand and the black Scottie in the other and clicking them together over and over again. I like to think that my parents noticed my obsession with the magnets and thought a live one would be just the thing for their precious princess.

So Jock was "my" dog inasmuch as a Terrier can be anyone's dog. And like all our dogs, he ran away a lot. We were taught that it was the dog's fault, like running away was a bad trait that some dogs had and others didn't. It probably never occurred to my mother that the dog needed to be fenced in, walked or taught to sit stay and hang around the house. I imagine her opening the back door, out he goes and oops! doesn't come back. Bad dog Jacques, I mean Jock.

Here's how it ended for Jock:

My mother gets a phone call from a woman in New Jersey. Evidently the woman was driving with her kids in a station wagon with the back down. (That's how we rolled back then, no seat belts and the chance that we would tumble out the back on a steep incline.) Anyway, the woman's children had seen Jock trotting along behind and encouraged him to jump in the car and join them! And miracle of miracles, his stubby little Scottie legs were able to propel him two feet in the air to jump into a moving car! They were across the Tappan Zee Bridge before the woman even realized there was a yippy purebred Scottie in her car! The children loved the dog!

My mom said keep him.

My mom said keep our dog! New Jersey was too far to go to pick him up. The other family loved him. He was always running away. It was turned into a dog fairy tale of how he had run to his true family, a miracle story, jumping into that car, the children there happy and laughing, loving Jock.

But I thought we loved him. Sure we kept opening the door but we always hoped he would come back.

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