Thursday, April 30, 2009

Another Story From Long Ago

Today has been a very busy day for me. I have been running to and fro and doing a whole bunch of things. I haven't had time to write the way I normal do, so I have reached into the "vault" and pulled out a story I wrote a long time ago. This is the story of my first dog Tara. She was my friend and companion for many years. Of all the dogs I have had she lived the longs 14 years and 2 months. (Bailey is starting to approach this mark - he will be 13 years old in 2 weeks!) Anyway - without further ado - here is the story of my puppy Tara. In June of 1970 we got a dog. She was an Irish Setter that we named Tara Queen O’Shea. Of course we called her by her first name only – Tara.

(Tara in our front yard near our driveway in the early 1970's.)

I remember when we went to get Tara. I think we got her from a family in Smithton. The people’s house was at the bottom of an embankment. On the side yard of the house they had a fenced in area with a doghouse in the middle. There wasn’t any grass left in the fenced area and there were holes dug underneath the doghouse and everywhere else. I remember seeing what to me seem to be a countless number of puppies running throughout that puppy pen. In reality there was only the one litter of 8 or 10 puppies in the pen. But to a 4 year-old they seemed to be everywhere. And they were so cute. Even to this day – thirty plus years later, that scene of the puppies running throughout that pen sticks in my head. Somehow, someway we ended up picking Tara out of that rolly polly bunch of frolicking puppies. I don’t know if we took her home that day or not. I do remember the first day we got her home. Being the youngest in the family I got to take her for her first walk around our front yard. Of course Tara wanted to go one way and I wanted to go another way. So my first walk of Tara didn’t last too long. I don’t remember how we worked with her to get her house broken. I am guessing we probably kept her in the basement for the first couple of weeks. (I vaguely remember her sleeping in the basement nearly the laundry machines. I think for the first couple of nights we put a warm water bottle in the pen/box with her.)

(Tara and I hanging out on the kitchen floor.)

In those days we had a desk in our kitchen. We made Tara’s home a large TV box under the desk. A front “door” was carved into the side of the box so Tara would have some way to get in and out of the box. We put some old blankets and newspaper in the box for Tara to lie on. She loved it. Before and after breakfast, I would crawl into the box with Tara. I would play in the box with her for a long time. I remember crawling half way out of the box and telling my mom “She thinks I am her brother”. This was the beginning of a long friendship with my first dog. As Tara grew to be a full-grown dog, she turned into a wonderful, beautiful dog. Since she was an Irish Setter, she had these long tail and leg “feathers”. By feathers I mean long hair that extended down from her body. Additionally, Tara was born before the “white spot” was bred out of the breed. The “white spot” was a white area of hair right on the front of an Irish Setter’s chest. (I personally liked the white spot and thought it made the Irish Setter a more distinguished looking dog.) Anyway, Tara had a nice white spot right in the middle of her chest. She was a gorgeous looking dog. As she was growing up and a young adult, Tara occasionally made a few breaks for freedom. I remember at least one or two times in which she ran off and was gone for a day or a number of days. One time I remember she took off and then we got a call a couple of days later. I remember going with my Dad and maybe my sister to pick her up. She was running in a field hear a gas station below Hurst high school. We went to pick up in the car and she came running up to the car and jumped in the back seat. Tara was a great warm pup with which to sleep. Now back in those days my parents didn’t let Tara sleep on any of the beds in the house. But that didn’t stop me from curling up on the floor with her. In the evenings, particularly in the winter I would curl up with Tara on the floor. Sometimes I would even fall asleep for the evening lying on the floor next to her with my arm sprawled over her cuddling her like a stuffed animal. There was only one piece of furniture in the entire house that Tara could lay on. It was an old couch in our “game room”. This became Tara’s de-facto piece of property. The game room had a fireplace and TV in it, so the entire family spent a lot of time in that room. But you couldn’t expect to sit in the middle of that one couch. That place was Tara’s. She would crawl up on that couch and curl up a tight as a ball. She would spend the entire evening on that couch while the entire family spent the evening watching TV, playing games, etc. We sometimes made life difficult for Tara. We would leave her out at night to go to the bathroom etc. Given that our yard was not fenced in or anything she could go where she wanted. Every once in blue moon, we would forget that we left her out before we went to bed, and Tara would spend the entire night outside the house. We would find her sitting at the kitchen door scratching the door in the morning. Needless to say she did not like when this happened. Then there were the skunk episodes. Living where we did in the country there were skunks just about everywhere. Of course Tara was ever curious about other animals and she didn’t realize that skunks could make her smell really, really bad. As a result, there were numerous occasions when Tara would come in at night smelling of that nasty skunk smell. That led to baths in tomato juice and other foul smelling concoctions. In the end these baths really didn’t do too much to kill the smell. So poor old Tara was left to spend several days out in her pen alone until the smell died down. As Tara and I both got older and my brothers and sisters went off to high school and college, we became constant companions. I would take walks almost every day throughout the woods behind our house. Tara was always with me. We would walk for miles and play throughout the woods. Tara died when I was eighteen. Unfortunately I don’t remember the exact date. All I know was that it was in July of 1984. Like the stupid idiot I was at the time, I was away from home working (and messing around a lot) at Boy Scout camp. I didn’t even get to see my old friend one more time before she died. Nor did I make it home to see her before she was buried. I was really stupid back then. To this day however, when I go back to Norvelt I always go and visit her grave in my parents yard. She was and always will be my puppy and my friend. I hope everyone has had a great Thursday. Tomorrow is Friday and the start the weekend - yippee! Not sure what kind of adventure we will have this weekend, but I am sure we will have a lot of fun doing something. As always - thanks and peace to all! - J.

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