Sunday 04 Dec 2016

Puppy Summer
AJ Robinson

“Anyone who hates children and animals can’t be all bad,” said the great comedian W.C. Fields. There’s some dispute as to whether he said it first or not. Some say that another speaker said it about Fields at a fancy, swanky dinner and then he used it. For myself, I’ve always rather enjoyed children, and as for animals, well, they’re something very special. Most special of them all is one particular animal: puppies.

Back when I was a kid, I lucked out. My brother Greg and his wife Anne had two dogs: a female German shepherd, named Lady, and a St. Bernard, named, I’m serious, Bernard! Now is that original or what? Anyway, the point is, one summer, Lady ended up having a litter of puppies, about a dozen of them. By the time I was on the island, Martha’s Vineyard, that is, the pups were several weeks old and Greg had set up a nice little pen area for them.

That was one summer I most definitely looked forward to visiting my brother! Not only did I have my nieces and nephews to play with, but I now had a gaggle of pups too. Oh, what fun they were. All I had to do was lie down on the ground and they would “wash” over me, smothering me in a tidal wave of puppies. Please forgive the water imagery. Given the amount of licking they gave me, I sometimes felt as if I was at the beach, suffering a drenching by a huge wave.

Never had I experienced such fun, such love and devotion, from a gang of creatures who simply seemed to want to play with me. Puppies were clearly very fun animals! Fortunately, Lady was okay with people being around her babies. She’d sit off to the side, watch for a while and then sort of waddle off; she had quite the milk sacs. Bernard didn’t seem to care one way or the other. He was a rather absentee dad, I guess.

Among the pups was one very special one: he was pure white, with six toes on his back paws. My brother and his wife decided that he was worth keeping. They named him Chappy, short for Chappaquiddick, an infamous island off the Vineyard. No matter how you tried to call this dog, it was quite the mouthful. It’s the island right next to Martha’s Vineyard and it gained “fame” as the place where Ted Kennedy had his car accident that cost the life of Mary Jo Kopechne.

As for the other pups, well, there was no way they could keep all of them. My brother and sister-in-law set about finding homes for them. In this case, they really lucked out: the West Tisbury Agricultural Fair was coming up. The fair ran three days and was or is your classic old fashion fair: games, dunking tank, rides, food and so on. They just loaded up the pups in the back of their pickup truck, went to the fair and put out a sign: Free Puppies.

By the end of the fair, they’d found homes for all of Chappy’s brothers and sisters. I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. Life was a lot of fun playing with those pups!

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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