In the Dog House . . . Indeed.

He keeps looking at me. I can read his every thought as I approach him. Will it be a kiss on the snout, or a conversation about the benefits of wearing a mask? I am greeted by the cutting of the eyes and the look of disdain. He is over this quarantine and praying to the Purina Gods for life to return to normal. This pandemic has placed a strain on our relationship. I now publicly state that Bauer is tired of me and ready for his life to return to normal.

Growing up in Gainesville, we always had dogs on our street. They roamed freely like the gangs in “The Warriors” movie. The packs had their hierarchy of the strongest dog, the smartest dog, and the talker. Quite naturally, we usually had the greeter, the talker or the comedian for the neighborhood dog. I was talking with a client recently and he reminisced that growing up, he recalled that we had two West Highland Terriers who were named Frito and Dorito. The names for this father and son originated from their extreme love of a bottom drawer in our kitchen that housed our potato chip stash.

Perhaps naming dogs was not our strength. Animals were a major part of our upbringing, and I can fondly share that we had quail, pet deer, a horse, flying squirrels, cats, rabbits, gerbils (one of which went on The Great Escape in our house for about three weeks), but most of all, dogs. You remember families on your street by their dogs. Nancy Pool had a great Labrador retriever named BO who was the street maître de; David Carmon had the character actor daschund named Frankie; and the teachers Grayson and Nellie Hill had a small terrier named Sandy who reminded me of Lady in Lady and The Tramp. Of all our many dogs though, several in addition to the aforementioned snack food dogs stand out the most in my memory. At the top of the list . . . a rat terrier named Obe.

My father had a rat terrier growing up named Rags so he thought it was a life’s necessity that we also had one. We always joked that Obe was a natural Carter, because he had skinny legs like several of us in the family. Obe was sneaky though, and he was a master of hiding in the house at night to try and sleep with one of us. This was in the days where most dogs were “outside” dogs and there were no such things as leash laws. Obe, though, always thought that if his head was hidden, he in fact was hidden. His body would have been halfway out from a pillow but in his mind, he was pulling a great Houdini illusion on us due to the hidden head ploy. His other great trick was that in wintertime, he knew that if he was outside shaking from the cold, we would welcome him in. Starting every July, he would come to the kitchen window and proceed to start his little legs shaking profusely from the terrible July cold. His comedic improvisation always worked. His frostbitten body would be given a visit to the potato chip drawer in order to help him recuperate.

Another one of our memorable dogs was brought home by my father one night using a rope for a leash. It was a St. Bernard we named Fred. Fred was a kind, loving, but large dog. He loved the children in the neighborhood, but his rather affectionate nature resulted in him trapping kids, including me, against cars, trees or any other structures. His misunderstood love eventually led Fred to the farm . . . And No! Not that farm which there is no return.

Fred was moved to a farm my father had in Hiawassee. He became the dog of the farm caretaker, but this is where the history of Fred took an unusual turn. Unfortunately, he was hit by a car, and he lost one of his front legs. In spite of this handicap, Fred roamed the fields and mountains of the farm with a fair amount of ease and Julie Andrews’ grace. His best friends on the farm were a horse named Banjo and one of the pet deer we had raised at our house and then released to the wild. I still have many visions of seeing a three-legged St. Bernard, a horse, and a deer with a bell around its neck marching through the pasture together. It looked like some sort of distorted Disney “Incredible Journey” movie playing out.

Now back to our current dog….an Australian Shepherd named Bauer. He was named after the Jack Bauer character from “24”. Perhaps we should have called him 24 because he can sleep 24 hours a day if needed. I have spent a lot of time over the last few months with BAUER and our quaranTIME together has reaffirmed many things I had already known about him. He is smart . . . very smart. It only took him a few days to definitely determine that I am the weakest link. I cannot resist those eyes when there is a morsel of food available. He knows this and capitalizes on my weakness. Secondly, he understands everything we say. He loves to ride with me and he knows if I pull out my cell phone and utter the words, “I would like to place a pick up order”, then game on to the garage door and the takeout joy ride. We actually find ourselves spelling out certain words like go, car, snacks, and dinner. Bauer is passionate about people, but his excitement in seeing me is somewhat lessened now that we have had so much quality time. My arrival home now barely elicits more that a head raise when I walk in the door. But if I mention the word treat when I walk in . . . well then, game on.

Thank goodness for the pets in our lives. Yes, this does include cats. They comfort us, have very few expectations, they don’t talk politics, they are happy to see us (with the exception of quarantine fatigue), and they are our children. They bring out the best in us, and they break our hearts when we lose them. Those of us with pets are very thankful for their company these last few months. I have to believe that someday, I will reunite with OBE, FRED, FRITO and DORITO, and so many other special pets in my life . . . except that one damn gerbil that haunted our house for a month.

So here is the deal. Now is the time to share your best pet quarantine photo. Our judges from the last contest are reassembled (Tina Carlson, Nairika Cornett, Tracy Troutman, Amanda Shelnutt, and Sandy Carter), and they will pick the very best photos. The winners will receive a gift certificate which we have purchased from some of our wonderful local businesses like The Collegiate, The Iron Rose, The Quinlan Art Center, Scott’s, Green’s Grocery, or The Inn Between. If you are one of our out-of-town contestants and you win, we will find something local in your city. Let’s all remember to support local businesses in this recovery!