Now that Tuffy had arrived, I was all over my Schnauzer bias. In fact, I was now a Beagle boy all the way. I couldn't get enough of them or Tuffy. The fact that the New York Mets mascot was also a Beagle named Homer just made me feel even more special. To me, there was no other dog to own.
During her first months in our house, Tuffy and I were inseparable. Except for school hours, we were together constantly. In retrospect, she really became the sibling I never had. And one I didn't have to share the television set with.
The after-school walk around the neighborhood was my favorite time of day. Up 15th Avenue, down 14th Avenue, over across First Street, up Vista Place, and then down 15th Avenue to home. We'd stop to talk to any of my friends that were out and about. Tuffy would pause occasionally to sniff and do her other outside business. Everybody knew her name. She was our neighborhood's version of the Cheers bar. And nobody was prouder than me. This was my dog. A constant companion.
...my mother uttered those words that I didn't comprehend.
"Tuffy's going to have THE operation."
Huh? The mere mention of this sent shivers up my spine. You see, in those days of my youth, I was convinced that any surgery was a death sentence. Ever since my uncle, my father's brother, had gone in for some routine procedure and ended up dying a couple of weeks later, I was sure that a scalpel on any part of your body was an immediate call to the grim reaper. In my mind, nobody survived the operating table. Now, my dog was headed there. Why?
"The doctor needs to do something so she doesn't have babies."
Huh? I think I was still buying into that "God puts a seed on your plate and then you have a baby" nonsense. I needed more information. And, besides, don't we want a lot of cute little puppies? A houseful of Beagles?
"We're not made of money."
Oh, that, again. How many times are you going to trot out that chestnut?
My mother explained to me as best she could the process of spaying a dog, although, at no time, did a male dog in heat enter into the story. Still, this was probably the first ever explanation of sex that even remotely entered my mind. Frankly, I didn't give a shit about the logistics. Tuffy was going under what may be the sharpest knife ever known to man. And it would be done in a doctor's office. And she would have to spend the night there.
I cried non-stop for three days.
As the day of reckoning approached, I spent more and more time with my dog. I figured this was it. The end. She'd be on the table. There would be the usual complications. Nurses would be frenzied, running in and out. The vet would come out to me and say, "Sorry, there was nothing we could do." I became more and more attached to Tuffy in what I figured were her final days.
To make matters worse, I wasn't even going to be part of the entourage taking her into the doctor. That would be my mother and her girlfriend. For me, it would be a "regular" day. In school, listening to somebody drone on about long division. Sitting in class, I hit on a scheme that would disrupt the plans. If I were sick, my mother couldn't take Tuffy to the vet because she would have to come and get me from school.
I doubled up in pain and began to wail. I needed to go to the nurse's office.
Off I went to Mrs. Gueft and her office full of Band Aids and tongue depressors. Unbeknowst to me, the entire Grimes School had read into my charade. You see, my mother had told my teacher, Mrs. Popper, about Tuffy's surgery. And Mrs. Popper had told Mrs. Gueft. And I am guessing Mrs. Gueft had even alerted the Daily Argus, the city newspaper. So, my grimacing and dramatic clutching of my abdomen would all be for naught. They all knew what was behind my hysterics.
"Mrs. Gueft, don't you want to call my mother to come get me?"
Negative response. I would be fine. Just lay down and relax.
I reclined on the cot in her office. This was not working out the way I planned. And, worse, my dog was going to be dying at the hands of some butcher. Probably within the next hour.
Shhhhh. Just relax. She promised I would feel better.
The only problem now was that my stomach was really starting to hurt. In earnest. But, the boy who wanted to cry "Beagle" was now perceived as the boy who was crying "Wolf." And, as far as the school nurse was concerned, I was barking up the wrong tree.
"Shhhhhh, lay still."
Eventually, the pains subsided. After a few hours, I was allowed back to class. And then went home to a Tuffy-less house. I was delighted to hear that Tuffy had lived, but I was pissed nonetheless. To demonstrate my anger, I refused to speak to my mother. But, downstairs, my grandmother was no help.
"Tuffy's going to be fine. I had the same operation."
Oh, wow, that was way too much information!
My dog came home the next afternoon and was really out of commission for the next week or so. She simply slept in her box. Lying on her back, I could see the doctor's handiwork. A two inch wire stuck out of her stomach. I started to cry again. Would she ever been the same again?
She was. And delighted us all for the next eighteen years.
Dinner last night: Sirloin burger at Wolfgang Puck's Grill in LA Live prior to seeing Sandy Koufax and Joe Torre at the Nokia Theater.