80: Run of the Mill

80: Run of the Mill

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Run of the Mill

The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue.

~Author Unknown

Jimmy was one of those dogs who lived up to the expectations of his breed. Jimmy was a Boston Terrier—a companion dog. If Olympic medals were awarded for canine companionship, Jimmy would have earned gold.

My daughter and son-in-law bought Jimmy for me when I was newly divorced and badly in need of friendship. I had seen him in a pet store and fallen in love with his half-white puppy face and his stubby off-centered tail that made him appear to move like a car with an alignment problem. I was surprised and grateful when Tina and Chet showed up on my porch with Jimmy wrapped in a blanket. I searched for the perfect name for my new housemate and friend. I decided to name him after one of my favorites, James Herriot, the English veterinarian who penned such charming stories about his animal patients and their humans.

I had no idea Jimmy came from a puppy mill. The vet I took Jimmy to for his first well-puppy visit was happy to enlighten me. She could not find one thing right about my little pal—if it was not a clear-cut case of a clinically diagnosable problem or deficiency of some sort, then it was surely a potential problem, all caused by the puppy mill. At one point she actually asked, “How could you?” Honestly, I didn’t know about puppy mills.

By now, I loved Jimmy. I certainly wasn’t taking him back to the store. If getting him in the first place was socially irresponsible, how bad would taking him back be? Besides, he was a gift. I learned a lot about puppy mills and vowed to boycott their puppies in the future. I, however, could find no flaws in Jimmy. From his sandpaper tongue to his sweet puppy breath, he was my no-fault friend.

Jimmy settled into my life. He spent hours on my desk beside the keyboard. When I sang with the music playing, Jimmy howled softly in disharmonic accompaniment. When I talked to myself, he vocalized as if in response. Jimmy never barked at anything. I worked as Executive Director of a foundation that funded and operated a summer camp for children with diabetes. He spent many hours at camp with me. The children loved him. Jimmy was my perfect buddy.

When I began dating my future husband, Doug, he and Jimmy made accommodations for each other. When I started to visit Doug’s home, Jimmy, my sidekick, accompanied me. Jimmy was soon comfortable there with Doug. After several months of intermittent drop-ins, Doug’s cats, Jake and Tom, came out of hiding and introduced themselves to Jimmy with minimal hissing and swatting.

After a two-and-a-half-year courtship, Doug and I married. Jimmy and I moved in with Doug and the cats. Doug and Jimmy started a unique form of communication. If Doug made a grunting sound or cleared his throat, Jimmy mimicked it. I wanted to believe it was coincidence. If Doug made a long sound followed by a short one, so did Jimmy. Whatever sound pattern Doug used, Jimmy did the same. It was unreal. Still, we had never heard Jimmy bark. Even if neighborhood dogs barked, Jimmy did not.

One evening at dinner Doug said, “What good is a dog that doesn’t bark?”

Well, I was somewhat offended. Obviously, Jimmy was a lot of good to me. I saw no reason to change one single hair of his black and white coat.

“I’m going to teach him to bark,” Doug said.

“Okay, but you may be sorry,” I warned, envisioning my timid pal becoming a boisterous four-legged pest.

Evenings, I arrived home from work to find Doug and Jimmy on the floor working on Jimmy’s barking lessons. Doug woofed. He then placed his hand gently on Jimmy’s throat. Doug woofed again. After a few days, Jimmy let out a soft, small yapping sound. Later, Jimmy began to yap on command.

“Now if I can get him to bark like a man,” Doug said. The lessons continued.

Doug taught Jimmy well. He occasionally barked at strangers.

Jimmy lived out his years as my companion dog. Had my life depended on it, Jimmy would have barked like a man, I’m sure!

~Karen R. Hessen

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