Whenever the subject of dogs comes up I am always returned to a morning in 1960. I was nine years old and my treasured dog White Sox, named for my favorite baseball team, had been run over by a milk truck. Yes, in 1960 there were still milk trucks. Dogs routinely chased them. And as the old joke goes, I suspect not a single one of them knew what they would do if they caught one.
My parents insisted on White Sox being chained to the railing in our carport during the night. This was a low-income, blue collar, hard working neighborhood without fences. No one could afford fences. That idea wasn’t working for me, because during the summer days White Sox and I went everywhere together and I felt that the nightly chaining was somewhat akin to being put in jail without Sox having committed a crime one.
Each evening Rick the Jailer went to the carport to chain Sox to the railing. My father knew that every evening after he had gone to sleep I would go out and remove the handcuffs for my buddy. Sox knew the routine too.
I could go on some here about my father, but to keep it short you need to understand that he tolerated my independence of outside control with a gentle hand. He did so because of his own fierce streak of independence.
My buddy White Sox did catch a milk truck one morning; or maybe it is more appropriate to say the truck caught him.
This created for me a deep sense of regret and guilt. I was the one that unchained Sox, setting him free, and in my mind causing his death. My father, true to his style, never uttered a word of blame. He preferred that the lessons of life carry the message intended for me, untainted by his opinion.
For many years I carried that guilt with me. I’ve owned several dogs since; very little of my life has been spent sans dogs.
All of this brings me to a point of comparison about dogs and humans. I think the thing that makes dogs so attractive to humans is that they never judge us.
If you have dogs then you know what I mean. They just keep being your best friend no matter what happens. Never judging and always happy to see you.
Having learned this I have set my guilt free. I’m looking forward to seeing old White Sox again as a matter of fact.
I’ve got a feeling we will share something about that morning in 1960. Maybe we will share a joke or two about what you do with a milk truck after it’s been caught. I know he won’t blame me or judge me. If he did, well then he would lose his dogness; and he just wouldn’t do that. He would also remind me of all of those wonderful nights of running free.
Now if we humans could just learn that important quality.
And in the end, my dad got it right again. To blame me would have produced a far more complex scar. Maybe he was just picking up on something he had learned from White Sox. Whatever the case, he had a rare wisdom, and I thank him for it.