When I was growing up, a dog was always part of my family. The dog I remember most was Duchess, a little blonde cocker spaniel, who will always have a special place in my heart.
Duchess was bought with paper route money saved by my brothers and sister. However, shortly after they began driving and dating, they were not as active in her life as they once were. It was then that I had ‘exclusive’ rights to say she was ‘my dog’ because I was the youngest in the family.
We acquired Duchess from a local breeder on Route 40 East. She was AKC registered and I remember the day we picked her up. All the puppies were in wire pens and we selected her to run around the yard. We laughed as she ran and tripped over her feet. She was definitely our choice because of her ‘star qualities’ – a clumsy run along with her little round head and sweet eyes.
Duchess was a little nervous and had one strange quirk, but I called it talent. When I’d wave my hands and arms like a conductor, she’d look up and start snapping her mouth. Her sounds were right in tune with the quickness of my flying arms. I thought she was so talented to do this every time. “Let’s do the conductor,” I’d say. Her little mouth started snapping away. What a talented dog!
Oh, yes, Duchess was not only talented, but also protective. She would stand guard at every friend’s house where I’d visit. My mom knew where I was when she saw Duchess sitting on someone’s porch. My little dog even followed me to school. From our house, school was about 8 blocks away. She'd follow me to school and wait on the stoop landing which was right outside my classroom window. First thing, I'd go over to the pencil sharpener and look out the window to see if she was still there. She'd stay a little while and then head back to the house. It amazed me that she knew her way home. Back then, there were not too many people who walked their dogs on leashes. Things were so different then than now.
In March, 1957, we found Duchess to be a great traveling companion too. She went with us on our family vacation to Biloxi, Mississippi; and, why not, she was part of the family! Duchess had her own place in the car. It was on the platform of the rear window and then after a few miles, she’d move down on the seat to stick her head out the window to let her ears blow in the breeze. What a faithful companion!
There was one time when Duchess ran away with some mutt dog; and, of course, she came home pregnant and sick. She had a miscarriage and needed to be rushed to the Vet’s office. He kept her at the animal hospital and said it didn’t look good. That night, I prayed God would heal her. Even back then, God was trying to show His love, grace, and mercy to me as He allowed my dog to live! I remember thanking God and crying ‘happy tears’ that my friend was coming home.
Then when Duchess got older, it was hard for her to hold herself until she was let outside. She had frequent accidents and had my mom in a complete uproar. However, we all agreed that she was worth all the inconvenience. When her little body shut down, my dad was the one who lifted her up into his arms and took her to the Vet to be euthanized. He had a tough job and tears filled his eyes. My entire family shed many tears at this loss. However, we did what was best for Duchess. She was only ten years old when she died. I thought ten was old then, but now dogs live (like people) much longer.
Duchess shared a lot of time with me, and, to this day, when I see a little blonde cocker spaniel, I think of her and how much fun we had together. Duchess was one talented and faithful dog! She’s a wonderful memory on how deep the pet-human bond goes!