TIPPY AND THE POP FACTORY

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He is really a kind of dorky looking dog, I guess.

A mongrel with a pink spot on his nose and a silly freckle smack dab in the middle of the pink.

 We call him Tippy because he has a white tip on his tail.

 Ah, but he is a grand little fellow – devoted to the family but particularly to me.

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He hangs with my cat – a white long-hair with blue eyes named Betsy. The cat is a floppy little girl who loves to be carted around in my arms or a doll carriage – either one.

 Truth be told, Tippy might have had one or two moments of jealousy.

 He watches as I groom the cat and place a broad, red ribbon around her neck.

 Her white fur sets off the ribbon. She preens.

 Before long, she is prancing along the back field, holding her head high.

 Tippy waits in the tall grass.

 Tail in full wag, he approaches her and gently grasps the red ribbon.

 Casting a glance back in my direction, the little mutt gently leads her to the nearest mud puddle. He helps her bathe by dragging her floppy little body back and forth through the puddle.

 Might be a bit passive/aggressive.

 But there are none more loyal.

THE MOVE

When we move from Cap Le Moine to Sydney, the Scot takes Tippy and two of my older sisters to our new home ahead of the rest of us. They constitute the advance party.

 It’s a distance of about 150 kms.

 We follow just days later in my brother’s car.

 Before we get there, though, Tippy escapes our new home.

 “Where’s Tippy,” I ask, the minute we arrive.

 “He’s out somewhere,” says the Scot.

 In the sixties, people didn’t keep close tabs on their dogs like we do now. Like it or not, especially in the country, they came and went as they pleased and no one paid too much attention.

 Unbeknownst to me, however, the Scot was in full blown panic over Tippy’s whereabouts. He’d already been gone three days and the Scot is worried.

 “Damn dog.”

 “Don’t worry, he’ll be home soon.”

 Well, he is not there the next day. Or the next.

 I frantically set out to search this new neighbourhood for my best buddy.

 A little girl with startlingly blond hair stands just across the street.

 For a moment, I forget my lost dog and sigh with jealousy over her long, blond hair. It is a glossy waterfall of gold, rippling to her waist. My mousy strings weigh heavy on my shoulders.

 She looks at me and smiles.

 “Have you seen a mostly black dog with a pink spot on his nose and a freckle?”

 “No, but I’ll help you find him.”

 We search high and low, talk excitedly about the upcoming school year and bond over a bottle of Double Cola. Two straws, of course.

 Barbara lives directly across from me in a large two-story house.

 By the time the steel plant whistle blows (signalling curfew for every kid in the small city), I still can’t find my dog.

 Nothing to do but whine to the Acadian, who is still trying to unpack from the move.

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 “He doesn’t know this city – how is he going to find his way back?”

 Tears.

 The Acadian is about to answer but the phone rings.

 I trudge up to my bedroom, head hanging low.

 Before I close the bedroom door, there is excited yelling.

 They saw him! He was in Cap Le Moine!.”

 I rush back down the stairs.

 Turns out, when the Scot brought him to the city, Tippy figured he needed to go back and bring the rest of us.

 Neighbours saw the little dog sitting in our old yard.

 “He sat in the yard for hours and when I looked out the window after a while, he was gone,” our former neighbour said.

 We wonder how this little dog could travel that far.

 “He would have to travel over Seal Island Bridge – it’s about a hundred miles to LeMoine – it would take him days.” The Scot is impressed.

 He looks at me, knowing full well I am itching to jump in the car and track down my buddy. But it was late at night.

 “We’ll get up early and we’ll find him – he’s probably headed back this way.”

 There is little sleep for me that night. I wake at the crack of dawn, run down the stairs and scream for my father.

 “Let’s go – let’s go – he’s probably hungry and thirsty – let’s go now!”

 The Scot was standing at the front door, Tippy by his side.

 The little dog’s ribs stand out on his shiny sides and his poor feet are bloodied and sore. His tail wags.

 “Oh, Tippy.”

NEW WORLD

Life for a city dog sucks.

 The Scot ties a rope on to Tippy’s new collar, giving him lots of room to run in the grass off the back porch.

 “He’s not going to like that – he can’t even go running in the tall grass.” I pat my little dog on his shiny head.

 He’s in fine health, considering his misadventure of a few weeks before. A well-behaved patient, he devoured every bit of food that passed in front of his happy face. We clean and bandage his paws and he heals quickly.

 “It’s the law – he can’t run free like he did down home – he’ll just have to get used to it.”

 He is adamant.

 Tippy put up with it.

 It was a dramatically different life for him, though.

 Whereas when we lived in LeMoine, he’d walk with me to the mailbox at the end of our driveway; in the city, the mailman puts the mail in the box attached to the side of the house.

 One day, Tippy hears the Acadian’s voice in the doorway and pads down the hallway to check it out. The mailman is handing her a letter.

 For Tippy, a friendly, easy-going little dog, this presented a threat to the wonderful woman who fed him.

 He bit the mailman. Hard.

 A few days later, the Scot sits me down for a talk.

 “He can’t live here anymore – you have to understand – it’s the law.”

 The Scot’s blue eyes are moist.

 “We’ve arranged for him to be a guard dog at the pop factory – he’ll get a bottle of pop every day.”

 Now, as an 8-year-old, there is not much my parents tell me that I don’t take as gospel truth. Still, he is my little dog and best friend.

 “Stupid mailman – it’s his fault.”

 They took him. I will not relate the dramatic details. It was a hard day.

 Years later, the Acadian visits me in Calgary, where many Cape Bretoners traditionally spend a few purgatorial years before hurrying back.

 I mention my Tippy and wonder aloud how long he served as guard dog at the pop factory.

 She looks at me. Her mouth hangs open.

 “You’re not seriously saying you still believe that story,” she asks.

 I smile.

 “Well, I don’t believe they gave him pop every day!”

My flippant response does nothing to lessen her shock.

 “But you’re a grown woman!”

 I won’t say I accepted it well even as a grown woman and I still choose to believe he lived out his days as a guard dog at a pop factory.

 Loyal little dog.

 
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