You Never Forget Your First One

They were an unlikely pair: a stoic, giantess Harelquin Great Dane named Flicka (she was eight) and Nathan, an eager-beaver, four month old Brittany Spaniel pup. Nathan wasn’t my dog. He belonged to my roommate, Ginny. Like a lot of what she brought home, Nathan just showed up with her one day.

He came with a wire crate, food bowls and a bag of nondescript puppy food. Everything went into the kitchen, including Nathan. The food bag was taller than the crate, and the crate itself? Brand new and shiny, it could have doubled as the kitchen table. Some nights it did just that.

Nathan spent a lot of time in that crate because Ginny and I both worked fulltime.

I was an English teacher. Ginny worked for Xerox in their marketing department. Which, she said, gave her permission to drive her pick up truck to work, parking it in the employee lot next to the Honda sedans drivin by middle management employees jostling for the next corner office.

“We get away with it because we’re creative,” Ginny said.

Despite the fact that Nathan wasn’t my dog, I spent the most time with him. I was the first person out the door every morning, climbing into  my car as the sun cleared the roof tops, so that I could get to school by 6:30AM. I was the first one home, pulling into the driveway before 3:30PM.

By that time, Nathan was having a hissy fit in his crate. He was a bundle of white curly hair with orange patches, a come hither look in his soft brown eyes, and a puppy’s unbridled energy. His job, as he made painfully clear, was to get out of that crate. Ginny was determined that he stay in it until she got home from work around 6:00PM. Nathan wasn’t buying it. After twenty minutes of listening to his protests, I wasn’t either.

Grabbing a leash and a bag of treats, I’d stash Nathan into the passenger seat of my car, and head for one of the parks just outside the village where my grandparents lived. We’d stay out long enough for Nathan to exhaust himself running the canal path alongside me,  his nose vacuuming the ground, deliriously tracking scents.

We had entire days to ourselves during the summer because I wasn’t teaching.  By this time,  Flicka had joined us.  She was a big girl, heavily boned, easily tipping the scales at 175 pounds. Her white undercoat was splattered with irregularly shaped black swatches of color. How she went from growing up on a farm to living in the city with Clark, an indifferent dog owner who lived in the downstairs apartment, would remain an untold mystery …

… to be continued.  [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]


  1. Polly says

    My/our first dog (outside of childhood) was Diamond, our first BBD – black lab “runt” from a litter my sister’s Cleo had in Alabama. She topped out at 70 pounds – no runt! She was a charmer, well behaved, easy to walk, and loved to spend time watching the squirrels and birds outside our windows. We called her “General Puppy” when she would go into alert at one of the windows – ears high, attention totally riveted on a squirrel getting too close. No barking, no restlessness, just on alert.

    BUT she was a champion at lurking in the evening shadows near the door as we came and went with errands – she could slip out of the smallest crack before you even knew she was there. Enticing her back was impossible – she was impervious to treats. But if you could locate her in the dark (gleam of her eyes was all one could possibly hope for) you could get her to go on a car ride with her. And it had better be a good car ride – when we tried making it just a drive back to the house, one her next escape she was more hesitant about coming to the car.

    For being treat- resistant, she was very food oriented otherwise, to the point of eating totally inappropriate things. She was twice in surgery for bowel obstruction, the first time being a rock (we think it looked like a potato) and the second time for a corn cob she grabbed from the compost pile on one of her escapes.

    Unfortunately we never had the opportunity to see what else she might think worthy of ingestion, as she died of bloat within the week after coming home from her last surgery. She was only four years old.

    I have a lovely picture of Diamond doing her General Puppy thing, drawn by my youngest son Michael, at the time seven years old, after her death. It has a black border around it, just like a funeral picture, and it still resides on my fridge, even though it was almost 25 years ago.

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