My Most Memorable Mutt, By Lee Pitts •

Lee Pitts is a freelance columnist for The and Paso Robles Press; you can e-mail her at [email protected]

Dogs have always been my favorite. I don’t like crowds and I’ve always had a tendency towards loneliness, I was very happy alone with myself, my wife or my dog. If a friend or stranger arrives while the dog is walking, I immediately kneel down and start petting him and talking to him, because he invariably thinks I’m the best chew toy for rough skin because of the wagging tail. I prefer to talk to dogs because they listen better, don’t interrupt, are apolitical and don’t tell stupid jokes. It’s no coincidence that someone’s best friend can’t talk or ask for money to borrow.

I have had many dogs in my life, but the best was Cindy, named after my brother’s girlfriend. (Believe me, Cindy’s dog looked much better.) She was a short-haired black and white German woman who walked on three legs. We lived on a piece of land at the edge of our little town, and shortly after we bought it, Cindy came hobbling into the house on three legs. Apparently she was hit by one of Henry Ford’s dog-killing machines. We were just about to take him to the vet when my angry alcoholic dad came home from the bar and said: No way. You don’t spend a lot of money on a dog. I said I would pay for the vet because I had more money than my parents at the time, but that put him into a drunken rage. So I sat down under the lemon tree where Cindy had built a nest, put my head on my lap and cried my eyes out. I never forgave my old scoundrel.

My father also kept Cindy out of the house, but he was usually drunk and didn’t pay attention to my disobedience. When going through the rooms, my older and favorite brother got a room with a bathroom, my sister got the biggest room in the house with a closet, and I was delegated to the back porch. That’s right. The porch had a 7% slope so rainwater could run outside, but it had an attribute the other rooms didn’t have: a door. My parents thought the door was locked, but they didn’t know that late at night, when everyone was in her room, I opened the door wide enough for Cindy to sit on the porch where she slept next to me. Since I had to feed the animals early each morning before they started mooing, growling or singing, I snuck Cindy out and she came to the kitchen door to greet me like we hadn’t seen each other in years. I think my mom knew, but my dad didn’t.

Cindy was easy to raise, and anyone who came to visit her received a polite handshake from her. Cindy was the kindest dog I have ever known. One of my FFA projects involved breeding rabbits, and one day I accidentally left the latch on the feeder open and all 50 roasts came out overnight. Without prompting, Cindy found them all, took them into her sweet mouth and brought them to me without a scratch.

Like me, Cindy loved all animals, although I think she would agree that chickens can be very annoying. She followed my oxen when I trained her, she could herd the sheep, and the only time she barked was when she informed me that Houdini the pig had disappeared again. Cindy may not have been the best quail shooter, but I guarantee you she was the best pig shooter.

A wise man once said: We measure our lives by the dogs we own. The only downside to dogs is that their lives are too short. When our last dog died, my wife said she didn’t want a new one because it hurt too much to lose her. But lately I’ve been lobbying for another one. Recently, my wife casually told me that her glasses were not strong enough and that she might go blind. When I saw an opportunity, I asked: Does this mean we’re getting another dog?

Well, if that’s the case, I hope I get one like Cindy.

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