Friday, May 27, 2016

The Dube Memoirs

The other night I was reminiscing about Dube.

If only you had known him. Dube (pronounced "Doo Bee", as in the Romper Room Doo Bee) bounded into our lives Christmas Eve 1974. My parents said they had some "last minute" Christmas shopping but would be home in a couple of hours.

To this day I'm unclear why his former owners gave him that name, especially considering the spelling. My memory is clear, however, of how we met.

At age thirteen, I was going through a tough time at school. The eighth grade isn't easy for anyone. For me that included the onset of a Bipolar disorder (which to this day I swear that dog somehow incorporated into his own psyche). I was in the living room with my grandmother playing Chinese Checkers. I was sitting on the floor, half-engaged with the game which was on the coffee table. My back was to the front door.

I wasn't sure whether my imagination was playing tricks or not. It turns out that it was the sound of a one year old, galloping ninety-five pound Boxer -a sound which lasted for perhaps half of a second before impact. What felt like the entire defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers suddenly on my back was followed quickly by a forced faceplant into the carpet and a cold, wet nose in my ear. As quickly as I had been tackled, I was on my feet and marveling at the rapidly disappearing hind quarters of my soon-to-be best friend. We let him roam the house, investigating all of the rooms (and stealing clothes from my clothes hamper).  In less than one second, our lives were forever changed by someone who would engage in no end of antics, including eating (and I do mean eating, not merely chewing) all four corners of the coffee table when his palate didn't fancy a window pane, linebackering my poor dad, eating apples from an apple tree in the back yard -leaving the cores still hanging on the trees (!), joyfully dragging bags of trash through the house when we were all at work or school, leaving all of mom's shoes on the stairs with various degrees of chew marks, sleeping on the sofa and/or using it as his personal napkin, constantly egging me on to an infinite number of wrestling matches, and putting an exclamation mark on all of this by charging across the basement at full speed and headfirst through the patio door.

That was the first time I discovered that mom took valium.

My closest friends all knew and loved him. And what wasn't to love, from that docked tail to those pointy ears and permanent mischevious facial expression which was a spot-on match for the earliest Marmaduke comics. He loved all of my friends and treated each one of them differently. His intelligence level constantly made me rethink everything I did at home. Leave food on the counter? He reached it no matter how far back one pushed it. A bowl of cereal errantly left for a moment at the kitchen table was a near-certain casualty. He couldn't reach the top of the table, but that didn't stop him. On more than one occasion I returned to find him sitting at the table eating my breakfast! This was a real feat since the chairs swiveled. One morning I thought I'd get even by spinning the chair, effectively chasing him out of it. In true Boxer spirit, he hunkered down a little and gave me a very mischevious "make it go faster. I dare you" look.

They say that the first year of development in a dog's life is equivalent to fourteen years in a human's. That might explain why in our household I had to compete with him for pack status. I'm sure that in his mind, anyone who can learn to open doors and gates, get even with the Beagle who lived down the street, and keep everyone within four blocks in any direction on their toes must be worthy of some serious Boxer street cred.

I miss him to this day. I'm convinced that he's in Heaven, waiting for the rest of the family and friends to catch up. Not that I'm in a hurry to die, but seeing him again will bring closure to the loneliness I've felt without him over the years. On the other hand, I'm happy for him. He's in Heaven, he's surely a delight to God, and he's with my dad.

I just hope he hasn't linebackered dad again.

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