DIXIE DAWG Copyright 2004, Michael LaRocca
I met Lisa when I was 21 years old. She was 15. Her father took us to their house. Meeting family cats may not sound like a big deal to you, but it was to Lisa's family. One cat was Siamese. Her name was Dusty.
Here's what I knew about Dusty.
When Lisa was a baby, crying in her crib, Dusty tried to shut her up by biting her. This was an ancient family pet, full of pride and dignity, greatly loved by all.
Here's what I didn't know about Dusty.
She hated people. Lisa's mother was her best friend in world. Lisa and her father were tolerated. Lisa's older brother and sister were glared at from a distance. All others were attacked on sight.
I walked into house and sat on sofa. Dusty entered room and breaths were held. She crept toward me, eyeing me suspiciously. She stealthily approached like a leopard stalking an impala. She sniffed my leg. She pounced upon my lap and then she...
She lay on my leg and purred. I rubbed her head. The spectators' fears gave way to total shock. Then they told me how hateful Dusty was.
I saw Dusty approach many visitors after that day. Without exception, she viciously attacked them. And yet, she didn't attack me. She loved me.
"Animals are excellent judges of character," I explained.
Dusty died several years after Lisa and I married and moved to Watha, North Carolina. Dusty was well over 20 years old.
We hadn't been in our new house for very long before Lisa visited local Humane Society. She saw a female Siamese cat who was spitting image of a young Dusty, and we all know how this story ends. Lisa named new cat Witchie.
Witchie had two rather nasty scabs wrapped around her neck, courtesy of a dog. Guess what waited for Witchie at her new home? My new puppy, Spooky. As in, he who spooks at everything. He was such a harmless little wimp, but Witchie still lived atop highest cupboards for about a week before warming up to little mutt. Then, well, he died. Breaking my heart and setting stage for real story here.
"Free puppies, Dalmatian mix." That's what I saw in newspaper. I went to house and saw six positively adorable black puppies, all fat and energetic, wrestling vigorously beneath a heat lamp in a garage.
"We had to take them from their mom because she kept trying to bite everyone who wanted one. She's on porch. Her name's Molly."
I looked to fenced-in porch, where barking had been non-stop since my arrival. I saw a healthy, gorgeous, angry Dalmatian.
I wanted a girl. In theory, less likely to wander out onto highway. The biggest puppy in litter leaped at my face and bit my nose. I checked, and she was a she. I took her home and named her Dixie.
As a pudgy little puppy, Dixie burrowed to bottom of any bowl of canned food without stopping for air, then raised her head and sent food flying. Then she emptied bowl, cleaned floor, and licked food from her face.
Dixie slept with me on every day except one, which comes later. When alarm clock rang on that first morning, Dixie growled at it. I hit snooze button. When it rang again, she growled again. She did this every time it rang, every day of her life. How can you not love a dog like that?
Witchie descended from top of kitchen cabinets to beat pure crap out of that pudgy puppy. Well, she tried to. When Dixie got larger, Witchie returned to kitchen cabinets for a month or so. As I watched how fast this puppy grew, finally losing her fat belly to sheer length and muscularity, I wondered when she'd stop. I'd unknowingly brought home a monster.
As an adult, Dixie weighed seventy pounds. She was built like a Rottweiler. I tried to put my shirts on her, which she did enjoy, but I could never button them around her massive neck. Her chest stretched my T-shirts more than mine did.
I thought of her as a Dalmatian wearing a tuxedo. All four paws were white. A long strip of white began on her muzzle, ran down her chin and neck, spread out across her massive chest, and ran all way down her stomach. All her white fur was freckled with black like a Dalmatian. The rest of her was a deep, dark black.
I've never seen such a happy dog. She was utterly full of life and energy at all times except early morning. Her favorite game was to run up behind me and slam her shoulders into back of my knees, then laugh when I landed on my butt.
And yes, a dog can laugh. No sound, but I challenge you to look at that face and tell me it's not a laugh.
One morning, I saw her walking toward my coffee cup. I thought that would be only too perfect, a dog who growls at alarm clock and drinks coffee in morning. So I let her do it.
The coffee was black with two Sweet'N'Lows, and hot. Dixie took a big lap of it, then made funniest spitting noise I've ever heard. Then she looked at me and laughed, as if to say, "Okay, Daddy, you got me that time."
Dixie never walked anywhere. She ran outside, she ran around yard, and she ran back inside and chased Witchie full steam ahead. She ran up and down stairs to be with her daddy, or to eat, or to bark at whatever was making noises outside.
She was a fantastic guard dog, with a deep mean bark and body to back up every word. Deliverymen always parked in driveway and honked horn. Baptist ministers gave up on converting us. Once Dixie slipped outside, and a woman promptly leaped onto hood of her car. Dixie wasn't just a dog. She was a DAWG.
When Dixie saw strange dog in her yard, a large boxer, she was not content to simply chase him away. She slammed her shoulders into his chest, then backed away and let him get up. When he ran again, she knocked him down again, four or five times. He never came back after that. I think she missed him.
I remember when I bought my first chainsaw. I had lots of dead pine trees in yard, which often broke in heavy storms. I was cutting down a few, and I wasn't very good at it. Dixie watched in shock as a tall pine tree fell slowly toward her plastic kennel, which was shaped like an igloo. We both knew where it would land. The igloo exploded, and she looked at me with such a pitiful, betrayed expression.
"Daddy, how could you?"
The next day, I brought home a new plastic igloo.
I remember weekend that my cousin Clint and I moved a huge pile of dirt from back yard to front, with two shovels and a wheelbarrow. It solved problem of yard flooding, but it was hard work. His only payment was some steak and Budweiser, which I helped him eat and drink. He even cooked steaks.