Ashley Cooper Arrives

“Never look a gift horse in the mouth…” has been offered as sound advice to those who should not wish to be seen as insincere  with their signs of gratitude.  A nod, and a “thank you” is sufficient.  Just take the old nag out back somewhere away from onlookers; look in its mouth, then shoot it.

But if the gift is a dawg, I suggest your inspections not be restricted to the mouth end.  Review the entire beast, and ask for veterinary references.  The lack of such will cost you money…lots of it.

For my birthday this year, a friend gave me a dawg, not that I needed one: I already have a dawg,  a cat, a hamster and three toads.  Over the years my house has given shelter to a wide array of critters, domestic and otherwise.  But none of the ‘coons, pigs, Guinea pigs, J-birds, rats, bats, rabbits, and other swamp varmits ever came with such a list of needed repairs as did this one she-dawg.

We picked her up in Charleston, South Carolina.  Charleston is a city between two rivers: the Ashley river and the Cooper river.  Well, we named her “Ashley Cooper”–the landmarks being her only legitimacy.  If she had papers, they wouldn’t have given her to me.

Now, don’t get me wrong: her parents were both registered with the American Kennel Club and I suspect with the Democratic and Republican parties as well.  The problem was that the mother was a Golden Retriever named “Honey” who had occasion to know a Rottweiler named “Bo”.  The AKC (and the DAR) have rules, so there was no benefit of clergy.

The result of this philosophy was a mixed breed that looks like a Labrador that works out with weights.  She has muscular shoulders, jaws like a vice and a big head proportionate as a frog’s and almost as slippery (Houdini traits mentioned later).

She has ear mites.  Her ears look like someone had packed woods dirt in ’em with a shovel.  She had never had a bath that you could tell, and normal dawg stuff like coming when called or knowing how to heel along on a leash were quite foreign to her.

She did have one talent: she could ride six hours in the car without needing to pee, which is several grades above the tolerance of the rest of the family.  But, she drooled enough to not have enough liquid left in her to pee if she’d had to, so I reckon there is a limit to her credits.

When we got her into the car, we soon realized she was dirty.  Her perfume had gone sour.  She was covered from one end to the other with sand, pine rosin and fleas, yet she hardly scratched at all.  By the time we got back to Atlanta, the rest of us were scratching enough to more than make up for her lack of enthusiasm in that department.

Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but Ashley Cooper was unaware of it.  I figured she’d missed Sunday School when that was covered and, for all appearances, didn’t hang out with the missionary crowd.

I need to let you know at this point that the dawg ain’t dumb; just uneducated.  Specifically, she had no knowledge of any kind of prevention whatsoever having come from a home where preventative measures of any kind were unheard of.  It wasn’t in her dictionary.  She had heart worms, but didn’t know any better, nor did she have any idea how many hundreds of dollars a problem like that would eat.  Not only that, but the vet thought she might be…with puppies!

“Could be a false pregnancy…” the vet said.  But I know my luck.  when it comes to chance and fortune, the trend has been to confound and bewilder me.  The plagues of circumstance that invade my daily life do not hold back any punishment whether I’m due one, or not.  That I don’t need puppies right now, nor want them, increases the chances of her having a mess of ’em.

The odds of any improperly bred mongrel taking up residences at my house will be improved only by its propensity to fecundity disproportionate to our relative needs for such.  If she ain’t pregnant yet, I’m sure it will happen before we can have her “fixed”.  It is inconceivable that she is inconceivable, and will probably need a “C” section.

If that happens, get your order in early due to the likelihood of a huge demand.  We won’t be keeping any.  With another dawg already, a cat, and a hamster (toads don’t count: they come with the property), I’m holding out that our next pet be something that eats dawgs, cats and hamsters: a python perhaps would be the ticket.

The condition of the dawg is not all that unnerves me: it’s her habits.  Does she pant or snarl?  No… she smiles.  You can’t know what she’s thinking.  It throws me off a bit.  It isn’t normal for a dawg to do that and it looks rather insane, if you want to know the truth.

Well, she does snarl some at Cosmo Topper.  He’s our other dawg.  He is male, having avoided the knife for four years.  Maybe that she won’t have anything to do with him is a good thing, but he is certainly glad to see her.  My wife says his curiosity borders on rudeness.  In spite of Topper’s friendly gestures, Ashley Cooper communicates firmly that her receiving department is closed.

Once we got her home, we washed her, played with her, petted her and fed her.  She can eat.  Probably has a tape worm, but you can’t get a pill down her gullet with a ramrod!  She’ll spit it out and smile at you.  Ghastly!

She’s an escape artist.  We put her inside the fence and she crawled right under it through a space you couldn’t shove a golf ball with a tug boat!  She can climb the fence like a monkey, and jump over it like a goat.  She’s a one-dawg menagerie, that girl is.  Chains and harnesses are a waste of effort: she’ll shed ’em like you’d shed a fiberglass sweater in July.

First time out if the fence, she stayed gone two days.  I acted like I was trying to find her, but offering no rivalry to any self-respecting detective agency.  In spite of my prayers, we found her, and started all over again with the expensive medicines hoping to clear up some of her numerous   infestations.  We’re not emotional about it; you tend to give that up with lack of sleep.  She howls.

Consider it advice or warning, but be aware that other people can be generous with gifts that have no value to them personally.  If you are of that bent, never make such a gift to anybody who you might need to ask for a loan at some later date.  The recipient of your misplaced generosity may well hold a grudge, and hold it for a time conservatively gauged in centuries.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Helen on May 12, 2011 at 3:23 am

    This was posted July 1, 1989. Why am I the first to post a comment? Are your other friends (I assume that there are some) too polite to tell you what they really think?


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