By Ryan James Leclerc
When I was in fifth grade, after years of pleading and fussing, I finally got my first puppy. And it wasn’t because Pop finally gave in to my impassioned requests for a canine nor was it intended to comfort my grief after having found yet another one of our poor felines on the side of the road flattened, stiff, and stone-cold dead. It was because my Mom, who was an ally in my fight for a dog, took advantage of a situation that Pop himself created, and in which he could make no protests when we brought the puppy home.
Pop decided one day, despite Mom’s clear refusal to do so, to purchase a motorcycle. It was a foolish thing to do, but even more foolish was that instead of driving it to our neighbor’s house and parking it behind their tool shed, he drove it home and parked it directly in front of the garage, audaciously drawing attention to his manly triumph over repression. I can still hear the unmistakable sound of the motor in the distance getting louder and louder as it came closer and closer, but unlike all the prior motorbike noises that would pass by and then fade away, this one grew louder still until our windows vibrated. When the motor cut out, there was a quiet stillness in the air that hung like a quilt as my sister and I exchanged glances with Mom, who instead of storming outside and berating Pop, calmly told us to get ready to go for a drive. There were no words exchanged as we got in the car and drove away, leaving behind a bewildered and somewhat deflated Pop standing next to his shiny new Honda Shadow with its orange gas tank and 750cc, liquid-cooled, 52 degree, V-twin engine that was still warm.
Forty-five minutes later, we arrived at a farmhouse at the end of a long dirt road with a sign out front that read “Free Puppies.” After playing with the litter for a while, we chose the one that was the most bashful and least rambunctious. The owner tried to convince us to take two, saying that our chosen one was most certainly a bit shy and would most certainly adjust better with a sibling. Mom replied that she didn’t want to push her luck and that if she were to take two dogs home, her husband would most certainly be gone. At least that is how we remember it, and that is how we came to name our new pup Gonzo.
Gonzo was my best friend, he was my hero, and he was my trusty companion who led the way while I delivered newspapers to the neighborhood in the cold, dark early mornings before school. I grew up with him by my side, and even though he wasn’t in the car when I got my license, or with me in the auditorium when I graduated high school and college, his dog hair was. He loved us unconditionally and never let anyone down. Finally, when he reached nearly 100 dog years, he traded in his collar for a halo.
I haven’t gotten a dog since, but will someday when I finally have a backyard to let it run around in. In the meantime, there are a lot of dogs in my life who I’ve come to know and love, and I’d like to mention a few of them, as well as rate them using the following scale:
One Skunk: This is the rating given to a dog that smelled strongly of skunk when adopted. The former owner mentioned that it had recently been sprayed by a skunk and that the odor would eventually dissipate, but it never did. The dog was never one to obey any commands and never really bonded with anyone, and when it was finally brought to the vet, it was discovered that it was in fact a skunk.
Four Stars: Greatest dog ever.
Five Stars: Greatest dog ever plus one.
Gonzo: A Malamute Husky/Border Collie mix and my first and only dog to date. Rating: Five stars.
Gus: Mom’s current dog whom she rescued from a shelter. The jury is still out as to what the heck he is, but according to a few good sources, he’s a Border Collie/Whippet. He has a wide white stripe on his head and a stare that will melt your heart. He loves to sprawl out on your lap and as long as Mom doesn’t leave the house—he has severe separation anxiety—he is as mellow as a cup of mulled cider. Rating: Four stars.
Chui: My mom-in-law’s four-year-old Yellow Lab. His heart is huge, bigger even than his brain, and sure, he may eat one of your socks or a frozen “poopsicle” now and then, but he is super sweet and we all love him to pieces. Take him for a walk, scratch his behind, and give him a marrow bone, and he’s a good as gold. Rating: Four stars.
Levi and Cady: Levi is Land Beaver’s “full blooded Puerto Rican scrounge hound” who is most likely a Border Collie/Golden Retriever mix. He enjoys chasing frogs, eating garbage, and canoeing. Cady is Scotty’s Border Collie/Mutt-next-door mix who likes barking, wallowing in the mud, and running away from you. Levi and Cady regularly join us on our mountain bike rides and backcountry ski adventures, and even though they almost always disappear, after 30 minutes or so of yelling their names, they always come back. Levi rating: Four stars. Cady rating: Four stars.
Grizzly Adams: Chuck and Chinch Bug’s brand-spanking-new puppy. Supposedly, he is a purebred Chesapeake Bay Retriever, but I’m convinced he’s an Ewok/Buffalo mix. Rating: Four stars.
Well, it looks like we have a five-way tie for second place and a clear winner. Congratulations to Gonzo.
Ryan James Leclerc used to be single and used to work on the sales floor of Onion River Sports. He is now married and works in the office of Onion River Sports. The creative license he procured in a back alley allows him to occasionally narrate from the past as though it were the present.