Our Dog Dick

by Bubby/Auntie Bessie



He was a tiny puppy when my father brought him home in his coat pocket. It was bedtime and we were all in our parents' big brass bed, listening to a story about Clara, the bad girl, when the puppy was placed in our midst. What excitement! We named him Dick after a neighbour's dog who was a lean beige-coloured whippet-like animal, probably a thoroughbred. Our puppy was a short-haired black and brown mongrel, and when full-grown was not much bigger than a terrier.

We lived in a three-story building. There was a store on the street level where my uncle Max had a ladies' wear shop called "May's Ladies Wear". There were two dwellings above the store and we lived in the top one. When my brother Irving was quite young and still not in school, he would sit on the step which led into the building and Dick always sat beside him. Every now and then my mother would look out of the window to see if Irving was safe. Since the building was flat up and down, she couldn't see him so she called his name and Dick would trot out to the curb, look up at her and then look at Irving on the step so she knew all was well.

Hilda and Helen would dress Dick up in doll's clothes, when he was still a puppy, and wheel him up and down the street in a doll's carriage. With a frilly bonnet on his head, he was quite ugly and a conversation piece on Greene Avenue. However, when he grew out of the puppy stage, his rides in the doll carriage came to an end. Dick wouldn't stay put.

We had a cat, too. Tabby was a stray who wandered into the house and stayed and was with us for many years. He was a big red cat, mean-tempered but he tolerated Dick. We did not make a pet of Tabby. Hilda once tried but the cat bit her and from then on Hilda was afraid of cats. When she intended to visit where there was a cat, she would telephone ahead to put the cat in the basement. My grandchildren had three cats at one time.

Tabby had one eye. He lost the eye in a fight or someone with a BB gun had hit him. My mother felt sorry for him and fed him scraps from the butcher shop and our leftovers. We did not know of cat food in tins.

I did not remember what finally happened to Dick and I owe thanks to my brothers for reminding me. As in every neighbourhood, there were some rough games. At play, a boy hurt Helen and Dick bit him and tore his pants. The pants were replaced, but not long afterwards, Dick got into trouble again by being a watchdog.

Where we lived, the police checked the back doors of the business establishments every night. Dick knew one regular policeman, but when a new or replacement officer came to check my uncle's back door, Dick bit him and tore his pants.

Our family was in the country for the summer at that time and my father had to choose between paying for the pants or having Dick put to sleep. Dick was put to sleep and we never got another dog.

I cannot end this story without saying that, although Dick loved us all, as we loved him, he was really Howard's dog. He waited for him every day at school to walk him home.


Editor's Note:
As Irving's daughter, I'd like to add that I heard many stories about Dick over the years, but never the one about what became of him.
I suppose my father wanted to pass on Dick's living heritage, not the sadness of his death. I think my father thought Dick was HIS dog, too.
That was probably the charm of that exceptional animal. More than a half century after his death he is remembered by those who never knew him.


Painting by Bessie Sager
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