Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another Granddog Arrives

The third granddog unexpectedly arrived last weekend while I was peddling books at my hometown bookstore in Longview. Barron’s hosts book-signing events for area authors a few times each year. Its owners, Jim and Julia Barron, have been in business since 1972. I perused the shelves of their original Golden Hour Book Store on High Street while in high school. Now located across from the mall in a strip center, in order to keep selling books they now sell all sorts of stuff — fancy china and glassware, jewelry, cool kitchen gadgets. They even run a successful café in the store that is quite popular. Jim and Julia are two of my favorite hometown folks. They work hard, love books, and are kind to writers.

I was peddling my second collection of columns alongside five other authors. Since this is my hometown, and I wrote for the paper for more than 15 years, Barron’s is one of the better venues to unload some copies before Christmas. (Note from the Shameless Commerce Division: “The Loblolly Chronicles” is available from my Web site — — on, or from Book People. Or at Barron’s, of course, if you’re in East Texas.)

After a time my Beautiful Mystery Companion and her daughter, the 13-year-old Abster, arrived for moral support. They disappeared after a little while. I would like to say I was so busy signing copies that I didn’t notice their absence, but I’m not Stephen King. Or even Rick Perry. He has better hair. Actually, they both do. Every 10 minutes or so someone would show up and buy a copy, for which I was grateful. But I had plenty of time to wonder where my peeps had gone, until they knocked on the window and motioned for me to come outside.

They were accompanied by a smiling woman and a ball of fur wrapped in Abbie’s arms. My newest granddog, a poodle-Yorkie-mix rescue puppy, had arrived from the pet store down the sidewalk. I was being pressed for approval, allegedly because of my vast experience with dogs. The smiling woman, who volunteers much of her time housing abandoned dogs until homes can be found — what my BMC rightly calls God’s work — learned I once was a dogcatcher.

“Animal control officer,” she swiftly said in correction. I knew then she was a fellow alum. I spent six months in Nacogdoches in college driving a smelly van, wearing a blue uniform with a cheap badge — no weapon — and looking for stray animals. It is a necessary job, but I hated it. My friends and relatives weren’t happy with me having the job, because I became a dognapper. By the time I landed a job at the newspaper, I owned five dogs and had foisted dogs on most of my friends. Even my mom, who said she couldn’t stand dogs, ended up with a cocker spaniel named Susie. Whatever it took to keep them from the needle.

So what to do? I was staring into the brown eyes of a an adorable fluff-ball, trembling slightly but calm in Abbie’s arms. “Go for it,” I said. “This puppy looks like a keeper.”

Of course, it was easy for me to say this, since it’s a granddog who lives five hours east of here. But someday that dog will — with luck and good fortune — be part of my household as well, along with the two-legged folks. My brother, who accompanied me on this trip back home, and I did what we could to provide dog advice before returning to Central Texas.

There have been some mishaps, being a seven-week-old puppy. The pooch, tentatively named Rosie — which allows me to call her Rosalita after the Springsteen song — is not a fan of American history. I drew that conclusion not long after we left to trek back and got a text message that the puppy had peed on Abbie’s history final study guide. Maybe science is more to Rosie’s liking, I suggested.

Expect some sleep-deprived nights, I warned. But lots of love will follow. There’s likely no purer love than a dog for a child. So I’m glad to be a dog-father once again.

Originally published in the Hill Country News (Cedar Park, Texas), December 16, 2010.

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