SCRUFFY

A Dog I Have Known

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The little black and white terrier scrambles for attention from the bottom of a wire pen stuffed with eight-week-old puppies.

He is the smallest, with the scraggiest fur, but he still has an attitude.

The other puppies – an assortment of beagles and dogs of unknown variety – are bigger and tougher. Seems to me they are a lot meaner, too.

As I watch, he good-naturedly puts up with being tumbled around by the bigger dogs.

He wants to play but the other dogs only want to throw him around the pen and rough him up.

One pees on him.

I turn to my nephew, Jody, a sturdy five-year-old who is enchanted by all the puppies.

“That little dog needs saving.”

“He needs something,” he says, smiling up at me.

The owner of the shop is surprised when I express an interest in this particular dog.

“Well, the local farmers around here bring puppies they don’t want and we put them in the pen to maybe sell them – someone said they’d probably take that one last week but they never came back,” he explained.

“How much?”

“Oh, you can just have him – we don’t even know his breed,” he says.

Have him? Have him for free?

I race back to the pen before the shopkeeper changes his mind.

“He says I can have him,” I tell Jody.

I’m so excited. But there is no door on the pen!

“I’m going to lift you into the pen and you hand me that little dog.”

Jody can’t understand my attraction to this particular dog.

“Oh, look at this one – he has up ears,” he says. He points to some other dog who doesn’t compare.

“No – that little black and white guy,” I say, squealing with excitement.

“But he’s all peed on and he’s foolish,” Jody says.

The little dog is jumping on Jody’s leg.

“Him – him – I want him.”

There are wet spots on his brillo-pad fur but that’s nothing a blanket won’t fix for the drive home and a good bath when he gets there.

TROUBLE 

Scruffy surpasses my expectations. He’s a brilliant little guy who never met a person or a dog he didn’t like.

Oh, he’s probably a little over excited at times but that just makes him more lovable. At least, that’s what I believe. Some believe otherwise.

“That’s an unruly dog,” says the Acadian.

Scruffy ignores her and goes back to ripping a strip of drywall from the corner of the staircase.

I take him away from the wall and pull a piece from his mouth.

“How in the name of God did he even do that,” she asks, studying the pieces taken out of the wall.

“I think there was a little piece of the drywall paper that had lifted,” I say, trying to restrain the dog I’d taken to calling wildebeest.

“Well, there’s a big piece now,” she says.

“Take him out for a walk.”

Best get out of the house for a while.

As usual, Scruffy greets everyone he meets on our walk with overblown enthusiasm. He believes they are just as excited to meet him.

But he saves his most enthusiastic greeting for children.

“He’s so cute – look at his tail,” says one little girl.

The dog’s tail rotates in a perfect circle, like a hairy helicopter blade.

As he grows, his enthusiasm doesn’t diminish. Not even a little.

AND WE’RE NOT TAKING SCRUFFY

The phrase most often heard as friends and I plan our weekend adventures is: “And we’re not taking Scruffy.”

It never seems fair to me.

“But he’ll be good – he’s getting a lot better now,” I say weakly.

Steve pulls his lips into a thin, straight line.

“The last time we took that dog with us, he chased two ducks into the water and swam so far out a man had to use his Zodiac to go get him,” he says, folding his arms.

“And, that dog was actually trying to go around the Zodiac so he could keep going after the ducks.”

I get huffy.

“Those ducks were trying to lead him to his death,” I say.

“And as soon as that dog put one foot back on dry land, it saw a bird and chased it for another hour,” Steve fumes.

Another friend muffles a laugh.

“It’s not funny – that dog is a scourge.”

I tackle the question from another angle.

“He was really good when we took him to Whale Cove – he had a great time at the bonfire and just sat by my feet,” I say.

Bonnie looks at me in shock.

“Yeah and then you went to bed early,” she recalls.

“When I went to go to bed he almost bit me,” she says.

“He’s just over-protective – he thought you might hurt me,” I say.

Despite his reputation among my friends, he did manage to travel with us a fair bit and never caused too much trouble.

He lazed about and watched us drink rum. He listened in on the conversations, flicking his ears with disdain while we talked endlessly of journalism and love affairs and other stupid people things.

He was by my side and that’s all that mattered. To him and to me.