Jim, the Mischievous King

After reading the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul book, I was inspired to write my own canine tale. I doubt Chicken Soup for the Soul will publish any more dog books, since they already have two on the market, so I’ll post my dog story here.

***

In the spring of 1977 when I was a freshman in high school, and my younger brother Andy was in fourth grade, our family decided to get a dog. We were living in Sheridan, Wyoming. Before Andy was born, when we lived in Tucson, Arizona, we had a pooch that died as a result of Valley Fever, common in that part of the country. Despite the fact that we had two cats, my parents were now ready for another dog, and Andy and I liked the idea.

Mother found an advertisement in the newspaper announcing Irish setter puppies for sale. She called the woman who placed the ad and arranged for us to visit her and see the puppies.

The little dogs were in a box, and all except one were scratching and whining. The silent pooch sat in a corner, aloof. Mother said, “Oh, let’s see this little guy.”

She lifted him out of the box, and despite my limited vision, I could tell he had the sweetest face. He was red with floppy ears, which I immediately stroked and scratched, and he didn’t seem to mind.

“Let’s take him,” I said. The rest of the family agreed, and a week later, he was ours.

We debated what to call him. Dad, liking all things Irish, suggested Shem, the Irish name for Jim. Andy liked the name Clancy. Mother and I didn’t have a preference. We settled on Shem Shenanigan Clancy Leroy. Leroy was my grandfather’s name, and in Irish, it means king.

When we brought Clancy home, he was full of mischief and ruled his kingdom. When he wasn’t napping, he was running and playing with Andy inside the house and out, chewing on anything he could find, and antagonizing the cats. He eventually came to an understanding with our feline companions. Although they were never friends, they were civil toward one another.

In the summer, Mother enrolled Clancy in an obedience class for puppies. For Clancy, this was play time. At home alone, Mother was able to teach him to come, sit, and stay, but around the other dogs in the class, it was as if she hadn’t even tried to train him.

Andy tried training him with the girl next door, but that didn’t work, either. I suppose we could have hired a trainer like some of the authors in the Chicken Soup book did for their unruly dogs, but in the 1970’s, that wasn’t something to be considered.

Andy hoped that he and Clancy would be like Timmy and Lassie, but Clancy eventually became Dad’s dog, accompanying our father everywhere, even to the shop where he sold and serviced coin-operated machines. Clancy enjoyed riding in the back of Dad’s pick-up or in the station wagon with his head stuck out the window, eating air. This was before seat belt laws were enacted.

If Dad couldn’t take Clancy, he’d say, “not you.” With sad eyes, the dog would watch, as his master strode out the door. In Dad’s absence, Clancy would often follow Mother around, thinking she was responsible for Dad’s disappearance and that if he stayed by her side, she would magically make Dad appear.

Since the high school I attended wasn’t far from our home, Dad and Clancy often walked me there, through a park and up a hill. This was in the days before leash laws became more stringent, and Clancy ran free through the park, playing in a nearby creek while we walked. During the winter months, Dad drove me to school. At the top of the hill, where there wasn’t much traffic, he stopped and opened the rear passenger door, and Clancy jumped out and ran alongside the car the rest of the way.

Like any dog, Clancy enjoyed rolling in fish heads, cow pies, and anything else that stank. Andy tried hosing him off, but naturally, because the water was too cold, Clancy didn’t like that at all. Dad gave him a shower, which was a disaster, with water everywhere in the bathroom and Mother pissed. In those days, there was no such thing as a do-it-yourself dog wash, which is similar to a car wash and mentioned in the Chicken Soup book.

Despite his antics, Clancy was a lovable addition to our family for eleven years. He died suddenly in the summer of 1988, one of the hottest on record. By that time, my parents were separated, and Dad lived in a house halfway across town. I’d just completed a music therapy internship in Fargo, North Dakota, and was staying with Mother in our family home. Andy had graduated from high school two years earlier and was off somewhere for the summer.

One hot night, Dad let Clancy out so he could do his business, and the dog wandered off. He was found dead the next day by the creek near Grandma’s house. Here’s what I think happened.

Since Dad didn’t have air conditioning, Clancy was hot and wanted to get somewhere cooler. In gest, Dad always called him a dummy, but that dog had some smarts. For years, he’d been driven, along with the rest of the family, to Grandma’s house, which was air conditioned. He knew it was cooler, and he knew how to get there.

Unfortunately, Grandma was hard of hearing by that time. Upstairs in her bedroom, perhaps with the television on full blast, she didn’t hear Clancy scratching at either the front or back doors. When he couldn’t get into Grandma’s house, Clancy knew the next coolest place was the creek, so he went there. He no doubt passed as a result of heat stroke.

Dad said Clancy could have lived longer. Several years later after he moved to another house and acquired a second Irish setter, he bought a window air conditioner. That’s another story.

***

Why don’t you tell me about a pet you had when you were growing up? If you have a blog, you can post your story there and a link to it in the comment field here. If not, you can just share your memories. I look forward to hearing from you.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Advertisements

Classic Writer Tries to Find This Country

Abbie-1

Travels with Charley in Search of America

by John Steinbeck

Copyright 1960

 

From the author of The Grapes of Wrath and The Red Pony comes an account of his travels cross-country to see what America was like. He describes driving from his home state of New York a full circle around the country with Charley, his French poodle, in a pick-up truck outfitted with a camper he had specially designed for the trip. He talks about people he met along the way and sites he saw, discusses visiting the place in California where he grew up and how it changed over the years, and reflects on hunting, being alone, and other topics. He describes a rally in New Orleans to protest black students attending white schools and how it affected him.

I believe John Steinbeck was in his fifties when he took this trip, about the same age as me, but this isn’t something I want to do, maybe when I was younger but not now. In fact, I hate traveling, especially by plane. I only do it out of necessity when I want to visit my brother in Florida or attend a writers’ conference. However, this book is a great way to go back in time and across the country without leaving the comfort of one’s arm chair and paying an arm and leg for gas.

***

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Review: The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season

Abbie-1The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Copyright 2016.

 

This collection of short fiction, poetry, and essays spans from Thanksgiving through New Year’s and beyond. In “The Thanksgiving Phone,” a blind woman finds a cell phone belonging to another woman whose son is in the military, serving overseas. In the title piece, a widow gets her long-awaited Christmas wish and more.

In “The Puppies of New Year’s Eve,” a dog breeder and a woman who buys two of his puppies discover they have a lot in common on a stormy New Year’s Eve. The author’s essays and poetry explore her holiday experiences while growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, adventures with her guide dog, and other topics. Instructions for playing a Thanksgiving poetry game and making Christmas cards are included.

I met Alice several years ago when she joined Behind Our Eyes, a writers’ group to which I belong. She’s a delightful lady who has inspired my own writing and helped and supported me and other writers.

Most of the material in her book has appeared on her blog over the years, but I enjoyed reading it again. For a second time, I was indignant after reading accounts of people in Catholic churches refusing to shake hands with homeless men during Mass and of one woman who told a homeless man he didn’t belong there. Again, I was moved almost to tears when a soldier serving overseas was reunited with his family at Thanksgiving. Many pieces in this book are appropriate for all ages, so I suggest families make it an annual tradition to read at least one of the stories together during this time of the year.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Review: Upwelling

Abbie-1

 

 

 

My Profile Picture

Upwelling: Poems

By Ann Chiappetta

Copyright 2016.

 

The poems and essay in this collection cover a wide range of topics. In “Line by Line,” the author reflects on the process of writing poetry. In “The Marriage Pot,” she compares an ordinary pan to her relationship with her husband. In “Verona,” she takes us through the labyrinth of emotions she feels when meeting her guide dog for the first time. Other topics include death, eroticism, and a disturbing dream.

I could relate to the material in this book. It was all straightforward, down to earth, surprising, and heartwarming. I met Ann through Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities. In the dedication at the beginning of the book, she acknowledges our organization, calling us the “Blue Grass Pals” which is actually the name of our email list server.

Ann isn’t the only one who writes poetry based on her life experiences. The poems at the end of each chapter in My Ideal Partner were inspired by my six years of caring for my late husband Bill after two strokes paralyzed his left side. I think you’ll find it just as much of a good read as Ann’s book.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Four Ways a Dog Looks at Life (Poetry)

1.

 

I’m too outspoken

so I must wear a special collar

during the day while no one’s home.

When I alert the empty house, the collar

vibrates against my throat, feels weird. Sometimes, it’s uncomfortable,

causes me to whine when I speak my mind.

Life is “ruff.”

 

2.

 

“Turkey muffin, turkey muffin,” you squeak,

as my leash clicks into place.

What’s a turkey muffin, anyway?

It doesn’t sound nearly as appealing

as that rotten fish head in the alley.

Now, that’s what I want.

 

3.

 

Oh, you’re hungry.

You don’t live here

so you don’t know where anything is.

You can’t see very well, huh?

Well, how about some potato chips?

I know where they are, in the pantry.

Open this door–they’re right here on the floor.

Now, here’s one for you, five for me,

one for you, ten for me, one for you, twenty for me,

one for you, forty for me. Oh, the bag’s empty.

Just throw it away.

They’ll think you ate all the chips–ha ha.

 

4.

 

What’s that on the other side of the fence?

A white stick it is, rolling along the pavement.

A human pushes it.

I want to chase it

so I bark and bark and bark,

leap in the air many times,

try to fly over the fence.

I’m ignored–human and stick

walk and roll away.

***

I decided to write the above poem when I read Francesco Marciuliano’s book, I Could Chew on This: and Other Poems by Dogs. It was also inspired by my recent visit to Florida, where my brother has two dogs, and my experiences with other canine friends over the years. I wrote four poems but then combined them into one. Click this link to hear me read it.

***

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon