Saturday, February 25, 2006

Puddles, The Pup

One fine Saturday, during the summer of 1950, Pop drove us from Point Arena to Booneville in our old red International Harvester pickup truck. As usual, when we got to Philo Pop was dying of thirst, so we stopped at Pardini’s Restaurant and Bar. Mom and Pop had a couple of cold Burgies (Burgermeister Beer, Pop’s favorite). Brother Ron and I had a soda pop each, then we started to explore the bar area. Our exploration soon took us to the Men’s restroom, and when we opened the door the cutest black puppy ran out wagging her whole body, licking us, and in her excitement, piddling on the floor.

The bartender saw the excited puppy jumping all around us and piddling on his floor, and told us that a guy came in with the dog earlier, and must have left it in the bathroom. That started a search of the restaurant and the parking lot, and one fellow said he had seen the man with the dog, and had seen the guy drive off. After a while there was a general agreement that the man had forgotten the dog, or had abandoned her. Of course, by that time Ron and I had fallen completely in love with the cute little thing, and had already named her Puddles. We were sure that Puddles had been abandoned, and that no one would come back to get her, and could we keep her, please! At first it looked like Pop’s answer would be “no,” but after a while watching us, and Puddles, and petting her a bit himself, the answer was a qualified “yes.” Yes, we could take her with us, but we would leave our address and phone number in case Puddles had been forgotten, and her owner came back to get her.

So we took Puddles home with us, and after a while the worry that her owner would come back for her slowly faded out of our minds. At the same time, every one of us developed such a love for Puddles that before long she was an inseparable family member. Puddles was a cocker spaniel, but she also had some other breed of dog in her. What breed, no one had any idea. Puddles was smaller than a cocker spaniel, had a relatively longer body and relatively shorter legs, with short black hair and a bobbed tail. Plus the sweetest face and the most adorable eyes that two young boys had ever seen.

Soon Puddles was a part of and increased our enjoyment of everything we did. When we all went for the evening to the Point Arena Hotel bar (children could accompany their parents to bars in those days), Puddles would soon charm everyone in the bar. When Mom and Pop would dance, Puddles would take Pop’s pants leg in her mouth and dance too. At the end of the dance, she would go along the bar accepting packages of beef jerky from the spectators.

Puddles quickly made everything around her a part of her life. We used our wood burning cook stove to heat the room when we lived in the old abandoned high school building. To get maximum heating, we would open the oven door by pulling it down. Puddles soon found she could hop up onto the door, and even crawl into the oven to get nice and warm. She would then go to sleep, and as the oven got warmer, while still asleep she would move out of the oven, onto the door, and eventually move so far away from the heat that she would fall off the oven door onto the floor.

There was nothing we did that Puddles didn’t find a way join in. When Pop moved our milk cow, Cinnamon, from one pasture to another in town, he would tie a short rope around Cinnamon’s neck and give the other end to Puddles. Then Pop, Puddles, and Cinnamon would strike out down Highway One to the new pasture. Pop would lead, and Puddles would follow leading Cinnamon. Passers-by would stop their cars and look and laugh at the proud little dog leading the docile cow, with Pop in the lead, cigarette in one hand, can of beer in the other.

Mom worked at many cleaning jobs in downtown Point Arena, including the Point Arena Theater, the Motel, and the rooms above Titus’ Sweet Shop. When we came home from school we could tell Puddles, “Find Mom.” Puddles would trot out the door, lead us down the hill into the center of town, and then sniff at doors starting at the Theater and working her way down the street towards the Motel. Sometimes Puddles would find Mom at the Theater, sometimes at Fred and Flora Price’s bar in the Hotel, or in the Motel, but she always found her.

Puddles had a mysterious talent, too. At around five in the afternoon, Puddles would let us know she wanted to be let out of the house to wait in the driveway for Pop to come home from work. We would let her out, and about five minutes later Pop would pull into the driveway. If Puddles wanted out earlier than normal, Pop would get home earlier than usual. And if Puddles didn’t want out at five, we knew Pop would be late. It was uncanny. Puddles never went out just before Pop pulled in, which would have indicated that she could hear our new old car, the 1946 Chevy, clunking down the road quite a ways away. No, she always went out five minutes before his arrival, when Pop was at least three or four miles away.

Puddles died after Christmas in early 1961, when I was in my Freshman year at Humboldt State College. I was very sad, knowing she was gone and that I wouldn’t be able to come home and say good-bye to her until Spring Break two months later. Now forty-five years have passed, and I still miss her. And I’m still thankful for the wonderful ten years we shared.

If dogs have a Heaven
There’s one thing I know
Little Puddles has
A wonderful home.

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