In the summer of 1999, I was working for a weekly newspaper in Emmett, Idaho. Part of my job was to take the hard drive containing the current week's edition to our parent paper in Nampa and take care of the output of the negatives. I had to wait until our editorial department was done putting the finishing touches on their stories before I could head for Nampa and it was usually eight or nine o'clock before I left. I've heard that since that time, the glorious technology of email has since rendered the weekly drive unnecessary but back then, the pleasure was all mine.
Since I arrived at the Nampa paper after-hours, the managers of the various departments had gone home and I was left to mingle with some of the funner, more laid-back employees. People brought the kids or their pets to work with them and none of the muckety mucks were any the wiser.
One night, one of my co-workers had with her an adorable little puppy. We visited as I held the puppy and I learned that her dog had had a litter of puppies, pure bred Cocker Spaniels, and that the little girl that I was holding was one of those pups. The dog that I had while growing up was a pure bred Cocker and I have so many great memories of her. Morgan and I actually had a Cocker Spaniel at home that we had recently gotten from the pound (which is a story in and of itself) and I thought that maybe she would like a little pal. My coworker was selling the pups for $100, non-papered. I got her phone number and told her that I would get back with her.
Morgan and I decided that I would go over to my co-worker's house and see if maybe one the puppies was right for us. I called the next day and found that she had gone to work but her husband was home and I was welcome to come on over. I got driving directions and headed out.
I knew that they lived in a trailer park but didn't know what else to expect. Now, I know that there are plenty of nice, clean, normal people who live in trailer parks, but I'd like you to picture the most stereo-typical, white-trash trailer park that you can imagine. That is what I found myself driving into that day. All around me were cars up on blocks, windows with Nascar blankets being used as curtains, beer cans and bottles littered the ground and children and pets ran around in various stages of nudity (the kids were half naked, not the pets. Most of the pets were actually dressed quite nicely.). I pulled up to the house, which was unremarkable among its aluminum-sided single-wide neighbors. The door opened and the husband stepped out. The first thing that I noticed was that he was wearing a wife beater tank top. The second thing I noticed was the smell. As he approached, my nose detected that he had very liberally applied some form of cheap cologne, probably just moments before, as I could still smell the alcohol in the cologne. My nostrils actually stung as I stood near him and breathed in his pungent scent. He was followed by four or five little boys, all under the age of seven or eight and all in matching wife beaters. Everyone looked freshly scrubbed and their shirts were all blindingly white in the morning sun. It was as if the boys' father had hung up the phone with me and said "Boys! Gitcher finest. Company's a-comin'!" I could picture all the boys standing in the yard, scrubbing themselves and each other as their father turned the hose on them. I'm pretty sure that each of the boys was wearing a splash of cologne as well, but I can't be positive as the patriarch's aroma was so overpowering.
We exchanged pleasantries and then they brought out two of the most adorable puppies that I had ever seen. There was a boy and a girl, both different patterns of tan and white. The female was mostly white with a sprinkling of tan freckles across her nose. The male was mostly tan with a white chest. I asked if they had named the pups. I wish that I could remember what they told me the female's name was, but I'll never forget what male was named. "Big Sexy," one of the little boys replied. The father grinned at the blank look on my face and said, "You know, like the wrestler." I suppressed a giggle and told him that I didn't follow wrestling. He then informed me that he, his wife and their boys all followed WWF religiously and that they knew all the names and stats of all the wrestlers. In fact, they had been watching wrestling before I showed up. All of the pups had been named after wrestlers, but Big Sexy and his sister were the only two left.
I couldn't decide which pup I wanted. This family obviously loved their dogs, but I couldn't help but feel as if I would be doing quite a service to the dog that I chose by taking it away from a life of wrestling and cheap cologne. I asked if I could see the mother of the pups. "Sure!" the guy replied. "We have the father, too." One of the boys brought the dogs out and they were unremarkable in appearance, other than the fact that they suspiciously looked a lot alike. I can't be sure, but they shared too many similar features for me not to suspect that they were brother and sister.
I finally decided to take the male since we already had a female at home. I wrote out the check for $100, bid them farewell, gave the female pup a look that I hope she understood was apologetic and headed for home with my new little friend.
We decided to name him Spanky. He was only about five weeks old, which is actually too young to be taken from his mother but I think that that is one of the reasons that he bonded with me so well. I took him to work with me and until he got too big, he would rest his head in my shoe while I worked. I always took my shoes off under my desk and I guess he found the smell of my feet comforting. He would climb up on my pillow when I slept and sleep with his nose touching mine. He rode in the car with us when we went to the store. We took both dogs with us anytime we could.
The first night that we had him, we went to a friend's house and took Spanky with us. It was there that we discovered that Spanky was completely infested with fleas. The poor puppy probably had a quarter of his body weight in fleas living off of his blood. The problem was that flea treatments are made for full grown dogs, not puppies. All of the shampoos or dips that I could find said that the product shouldn't be used on dogs younger than three or six months old. I wasn't about to wait that long so I bought some flea shampoo and bathed him. I made sure to rinse him really well and he never seemed to suffer any ill effect, except maybe mild retardation, and that might have been an effect of inbreeding.
One night, Morgan and I were in Nampa and I offered to drive Morgan by the trailer park where I had gotten Spanky. When we got there, there was a dog sitting in the entrance of the trailer park with a Keystone Light can in its mouth. Of course, by then I had told Morgan all about the wife beater dad with all of his mini-me's. The dog with the beer can just put it over the top. Since then, we have always referred to Spanky as being inbred trailer trash.
He has been a really good dog. He is now almost eleven years old and has never bitten anyone. Each of our kids has used him as a step stool or pillow. They have tugged his ears and poked him in the eyes and he has patiently endured. Anytime I sit at the table or computer he sits on my feet. He is terrified of thunder and every summer time thunder storm will find him cowering under the covers of our bed. He has learned not to steal food from adults, but he is not above slyly nipping a cookie out of a child's hand. Whenever I do give him food, he takes it from my hand so gently, his teeth never even grazing my fingers. He barks at everyone that comes to our door and my kids think it's hysterical to knock on the table and then call "Come in!" Spanky will bark for a full minute and then eye the door suspiciously before he is convinced that there is no one there. He loves to watch TV. Lady and the Tramp and Sesame Street are his favorites.
Spanky has an inborn need to kill all squeakers. Any toy that squeaks, whether it is a dog toy or a kid's toy will be systematically demolished until the squeak has been squelched. Sesame Street episodes with Ernie and his rubber duck are torture for Spanky. He will pace and jump up on the TV stand and whine. We finally found some squeakers at Petco that can withstand his maniacal killer instinct. Morgan used to squeak the toy repeatedly until Spanky was practically foaming at the mouth then stuff the toy into Mike or Noel's pants and instruct them to run. It was so funny and the kids loved it. They would bring the squeaky ball to Morgan and ask him to put it in their pants. Spanky would go nuts, chasing the kids and trying to get the ball out of their pants.
After we had Spanky for a few years, I noticed that at birthdays and Christmas he would get really agitated watching the kids open their presents. He would even paw at the wrapping paper, helping to tear it off. I started buying him a few toys at Christmas, wrapping them and placing them under the tree. On Christmas morning, after watching the kids open a few gifts, he is excited enough that when I give him one of his toys, he completely unwraps it himself.
He is a part of our family and we love him like we do one of our children. A friend was over a few nights ago and asked about Spanky, how long had we had him, etc. We were telling him about how Spanky came to live with us and a little about his eccentricities. Morgan attributed most of Spanky's weird tendencies to his heritage. "His family tree is a stick!" Morgan told our friend.
We love this crazy pooch that we lovingly call Mike's older brother. He has enriched our lives and I hope that we have enriched his.