I am compiling a manuscript of family stories. Madness is one of them. Let me know what you think of it.
It was summer and the hot August sun beat down on the fields and pastures surrounding our white frame farmhouse in southwest Georgia. My sister Gay and I played with our dolls on the covered front porch while Fluffy, a black curly dog near the front screen-door, slept. She had been given to us when she was a puppy, and we loved her. I often buried my face in her soft fur and squeezed her in a tight hug. She licked my face to show me she loved me as well. Wherever Gay and I played, under the huge oak tree beside the house or on the porch, Fluffy was always close by as if she had appointed herself babysitter.
Our playtime was interrupted when Mother rushed out on the porch, grabbed each of us by the arm and hurried us inside. We were forced to leave our dolls and Fluffy behind.
Being grabbed so quickly and seeing my usually calm mother in such a dither, I cried, “Mother, what’s wrong?”
“There’s a strange dog in the yard. He looks dangerous. Stay inside until he’s gone," she said.
It was then we saw through the screen door, the large brown dog coming from behind the house. Mother had noticed him from the kitchen window, his muzzle white with foam, slobber dripping down in long streams. He seemed intent on a mission, looking for a victim.
Mother called to Fluffy, "Come here, come inside, Fluffy."
But Fluffy would not come. Mother did not believe in having pets in the house. Fluffy had never been inside. She ran down the steps heading for the place where she felt secure, her bed under the porch. It was the only refuge she knew.
The strange dog saw her and followed. In minutes we heard Fluffy’s pitiful yelps. I wanted to go to her. I pushed on the screen door, but Mother would not let me open it. I stood safely inside and called Fluffy until she finally came up on the porch. I let out a sigh of relief. I saw no blood. She looked fine to me. I wanted to run out to her and give her a big hug. There was no sign of another dog in the yard.
“He didn’t hurt her, Mother,” I said. “She’s not bleeding or anything.”
Still, Mother insisted we stay inside away from Fluffy who was back on the porch, licking her fur, cleaning herself of the terrible ordeal she had experienced.
My father and brothers came home for the noonday meal, and Daddy examined our friendly pet. He found bite wounds we had not seen. The rabid dog had done the damage. Daddy locked Fluffy in a cage beside the barn. She would be fed and given fresh water as he watched for signs of illness. She was quarantined, a word my sister and I did not know.
Her sad brown eyes begged for our pats and hugs, and when we approached she wagged her bushy tail. But we could only talk to her from a distance and tell her how sorry we were that she had to stay in the cage. We missed her and every day we asked, “How much longer does she have to stay shut up?”
One day Gay and I went out to visit Fluffy and found the cage shut tight, but our beloved dog was not there.
“Mother, Fluffy’s gone. What happened to her?” I ran inside to the person who always made things right. Tears ran down my cheeks. Somehow I knew she couldn't fix this problem. She seemed as sad as I was, but I couldn't help my anger toward her. If only Fluffy had been an inside pet.
We were little girls and no one wanted to tell us Fluffy had to be euthanized. Daddy said she must have gotten out of the cage somehow. He evidently wanted us to believe she escaped and wondered away. Even today my older brother tells me he doesn't know what happened to our pet.
I knew Fluffy would never have left us. No matter what we were told, Gay and I believed she had been destroyed. I vowed then and there, at the age of six, that when I was grown up and had my own house, I’d have my own dog, and he would sleep in the house and even sleep in my bed so that I could protect him.
We had other dogs as I grew up. They were family pets. Brit was an English Shepherd that was killed when she was run over in our yard by a neighbor kid. Turbo, a purebred Cocker Spaniel, was given to us by an Air Force officer who was going overseas. That was a big mistake. That fine animal deserved a home where he was groomed daily and fed treats, curled up by the fireplace. Instead he ran out and collected sand-spurs and burrs in his lush coat. He went to the field with my brothers and my father. Turbo rode in the pickup and acted like a hound dog. He disappeared one day, and we never saw him again. I always hoped he had found a better place to live.
One week after my wedding day, I was finally able to fulfill the promise I had made to myself. My husband Barry, who also loved dogs, gave me a puppy, a miniature black poodle, that we named Brandy. This lovable little animal quickly owned our house and both of us. In many ways he looked like Fluffy with his dark curly coat, his deep expressive eyes that could read my mind. For nineteen years I kept him safe in spite of his mischievous ways, his daredevil personality, and his stubbornness. But one afternoon, his old body gave out as he slept in our bedroom. It was raining. Barry was out of town. Alone, I buried him under the trees behind our back yard.
Since that time I've opened my heart to other dogs – Nicki and Kodi, the Samoyeds, so pristine white, always smiling and loving – Rocky, the rescued mix, who was Barry’s dog, but won my heart even as I grieved for Kodi. We protected them well, loved them and they loved us. Each one had his own personality, his peculiar traits just the way humans do. They all lived long and good lives except for Nicki who died at the age of two from a mysterious malady no one understood. All of them lived in our house and Brandy slept in our bed. The bigger dogs had their own beds or slept wherever they wanted.
Rabies is a terrible disease, and found in wild animals in our area even today. I am grateful that my mother was vigilant enough to protect my sister and me, even if she couldn't save sweet Fluffy.