Dog(s) of the Year(s)
If my wife, Susan, had been an exotic dancer, she would have fan-danced to David Rose’s 1962 classic, The Stripper, as “Shorty Keystone”. Because according to Sooz, stripper nicknames are best derived by combining that of your first dog with the street where you lived. Ergo, had I headlined for the Chippendales as “Freckles Lincoln”, I figure my skivvies would have been stuffed with sawbucks. Soley because of my stage name. Hardly by virtue of my physique. And never in appreciation of my dancing ability.
A liver and white cocker, Freckles was aptly named. I don’t remember much about his life, but the memory of his death is indelible. One crisp, fall morning he bolted past my mother and out the front door in pursuit of his nemesis, a Red Arrow tractor-trailer, as it rumbled down Lincoln Street in Easton, Pennsylvania. Sadly, he caught it. I came home from kindergarten to find my mother crying inconsolably and Freckles in a cardboard box in the cellar. I was not allowed to see him. My first brush with here-today-gone-tomorrow death. Only after losing other pups and pals over the next 65 years would I come to appreciate how merciful that can be.
Four Aprils later Mrs. Zettler’s miniature dachshund had puppies and tiny, black and tan Freitag Von Spritzen blitzkrieged our household. Born on Good Friday and a tinkler when tickled, “Tags” dominated our Pennsylvania, Kansas, New Jersey and Oklahoma homes for the next 14 years. He loved Hartz Dog Yummies, nightly walks and his wicker bed, despite the bald spot it wore at the base of his tail. For some inexplicable reason my brother, Rob, started calling him The Moose. And he took to it.
In Tags’ later years as his muzzle grew grayer, back stiffer and tail barer, I was off to college and the navy. My visits became fewer and farther between until one day, while out on the line in the Mediterranean, mail call informed me of his passing. On that inevitable, gray afternoon I remember flying with my sun visor down so the crew couldn’t see my tears. Mom wrote that they buried him in the backyard in Oklahoma under a sundial tombstone. Dad had a brass plaque made. It told Tags’ tale in eight words. Theirs too.
HE SHARED THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
– John Genther