Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
February 22, 2004
I remember it well, a hot July day in 1967. I was driving our family from Andalusia, Al., to Lake Junaluska, N.C., in the used Volkswagen van I had purchased for eight hundred dollars. Drivers behind us were angered by the way we crawled up every incline in the hills of north Georgia and North Carolina. I had no way of explaining to them that the old buggy was doing the best it could.
There was plenty of room in the van for my wife, her mother, and our four sons. Room enough even for Frisky, Mark’s beloved Collie. My problem was not that we were crowded. It was the place that Frisky insisted on sitting. He positioned himself directly behind me so that his head was just above my right shoulder. There he sat for hours on end as we inched along our mountainous journey. What was maddening to me was that his fourteen-inch tongue, laden with warm saliva, kept bouncing around on my shirt collar.
When I could feel the saliva pooling up at my waist, ready to burst through onto my drawers, I could stand it no longer. At the first opportunity I yelled “Pit Stop” and everyone, including Frisky, bounded outside to take a break.
As we loaded back up, I insisted on having Frisky in the far back, near the luggage. That worked for a few miles, as Mark and his brothers talked and played with the beautiful dog. I felt stupid, having decided that we could not afford to pay three dollars a day for a veterinarian to keep the dog while we vacationed. Dog food won’t cost nearly that much, I had thought.
Soon, however, Frisky was back where he felt he belonged. Once again he began doing what he could do so well – drenching my shirt with warm saliva. If he could have talked, I know he would have said, “Big Daddy, I love you, and my way of proving it is to share this good old saliva with you, and I have plenty of it to share.” I never doubted Frisky’s affection; I simply could not tolerate his way of expressing it.
That day, driving through those mountains, I decided that enough was enough. I never wanted warm dog saliva to dribble down my neck again. If I had to tie that dog to a suitcase in the back seat, or wrap his mouth shut with duct tape, then I would do it. Something had to give or I would lose my mind.
For the next couple of years I managed to dodge Frisky’s saliva, even though it was a daily challenge. I could see it in that dog’s eyes; every time he came up to me, I could tell he wanted to wet me good with that warm saliva. When Frisky died, we were all saddened, though I resolved never to own another dog that was big enough to stick his head, and that wet tongue, above my right shoulder when we were riding in our car.
When I look around at dog lovers everywhere, I realize that I am a strange dude. I have never waked up a single morning in my life wanting a dog to lick me on my face, or to jump onto the bed with me. There has never been a moment in my 71 years when I wanted to wash a dog, or scratch a dog’s belly, or take a dog for a walk so he can urinate on a fire hydrant. If you are upset with me for telling the truth, then I am sorry. I do not want to lose good friends over this problem. If necessary I will repent in sackcloth and ashes. But the truth, the truth, I just had to tell it finally. Forgive me if it grieves you to find out what kind of person I am.
I am sure there must be a remedy for what ails me; the problem is that I do not want to be healed. I cling to this crazy notion that I can live a fairly normal life without coming in contact with warm dog saliva again.
Dog lovers are wonderful people. Some of my dearest friends are dog lovers; I just don’t care for their dogs. I stumble over their dogs going in the door to see them; before I can be admitted, the dog must smell me, check me out and approve me. In the backyard I must be careful where I step, lest my shoes become rather smelly. I find that a bit strange.
Stranger still is one friend’s Chihuahua, the barkingest dog in the history of the world. This tiny thing barks incessantly during my entire visit; the owner seems to be only mildly distracted. I am thinking, why not put the little devil in the washing machine so he can get a good bath while I am there. Perhaps the Chihuahua is there to insure that my visit is short; if that is the plan, it works quite well.
Since I decided to give up warm dog saliva for Lent, and forever, I have satisfied my need for a pet by collecting and enjoying dog stories. Dog stories require no washing, flea powder, vaccinations, pet motels, or dog food. Stories do not drench my shirts with saliva. Stories can be shared with other people. Dog lovers, on the other hand, jealously protect their dogs, sometimes as though they are family members.
While some of you are deciding which part of hell you want to assign me to, I hope you will enjoy this dog story. The telling of it will not expose you to warm dog saliva.
Boudreaux, he say to his friend, Thibodaux, “Let’s you and me go hunting. Our friend Bellidini, he will let us hunt on his land.” Thibodaux, he say, “OK.”
When they arrive at Bellidini’s place, Boudreaux, he says, “Thibodaux, you wait here, and I will get our friend’s permission to hunt on his land.”
Inside the house, Alfredo Bellidini says, “Sure Boudreaux, you and your friend can hunt on my land, provided you do me one small favor. My old hound dog is old and sick; he needs to be put to sleep, but I cannot bring myself to shoot him. Will you shoot my old dog for me?”
Boudreaux, he say, “Alfredo, my friend, of course I will do this favor for you, and thank you for letting us hunt on your hand.”
On the way outside Boudreaux says to himself, “I will play a trick on my friend Thibodaux.”
“Thibodaux,” he says, “Alfredo he say we can no hunt on his land, so I am going to kill his prize hound dog.” He throws up his shotgun and “Bow, Bow,” he kills the old dog.
Snickering to himself, Boudreaux finally turns around to see the look on Thibodaux’s face. To his surprise, Thibodaux is gone.
Then, around the barn, Boudreaux hears two gunshots. He hurries to find his friend.
Thibodaux is standing there smiling, his shotgun still smoking. He say to Boudreaux, “Boudreaux, I help you teach Alfredo a lesson for not letting us hunt on his land; I shot his horse and his cow.” + + + +