That's My Story...And I'm Sticking with it...
Dog Ate my Christmas Present
Sniffer was the only dog we ever owned and for good reason. In his short life, Sniffer, a full blooded beagle was the cause of more trouble and havoc than any dog has a right to in the short three years he lived with us. While Carole was not a big fan of animals living among humans, her father, Harold hated pets due to the hygienic factor, mostly the shedding. Dad, on the other hand, had grown up around animals and dogs. While serving in Korea during the war, he adopted a cocker spaniel named Buddy who in his later years became my babysitter.
If one were to consider owning a Beagle, then one should consider that these dogs are among the most prized and cherished hunting dogs worldwide, but we weren’t really looking for a hunting dog when we brought Sniffer home. We wanted a family pet, but what we got was far more than any of us could imagine.
We lived in the suburbs of East Syracuse in a newly developed parcel of farmland turned housing development known as Franklin Park. We lived on Greentree Dr. in a three bedroom, one story ranch house within eyesight of a shopping center. Our quarter acre lot had a fenced in backyard with four foot chain link fence. As a puppy, Sniffer was not at all challenged by the height of the fence and promptly went over it. Three hours later he came back home freshly skunked. Carole called the veterinarian office to find out how to get rid of the awful smell short of putting him in an animal shelter and we were told to wash him off in tomato juice. We had a sink in the basement near the washer and dryer, so I put him in the sink while mom dumped the tomato juice on Sniffer. As soon as he was doused, he shook off and the basement turned into what looked like a murder scene. Eventually we painted to the walls later that year to cover the red stains left behind by the juice.
Sniffer got his name for his strange way of following a scent. Beagles have the second best nose in the business to a bloodhound, but for Sniffer, the trail was everything. He would sniff a trail and then yip every so often to let you know how excited he was to be on to something. We also had to get a leash to put him on since four feet was not much of a challenge for him to get over and nobody wanted to go through another skunking.
Mom began to voice doubts about the wisdom of having a dog. Dad just laughed and shook his head. When he invested in a six foot chain link fence, our problems were solved. No, it just made the climb up the fence a little bit longer. Trying to get him after one of his escapes was nearly impossible. I would find him a mile or so away and call him. He would run the other way and there is no human alive who can outrun a Beagle. He would run so fast that when he finally came back on his own accord, there were grass stains on his belly.
Sniffer also preferred human food to his own and he learned his only real trick of sitting up on his hind quarters and begging. It was so cute to see him there with his front paws folded over each other and that sad look on his face that he knew he was a natural. He got so good at this, he would sit up whenever he wanted anything even if it was a dog in another yard. He’d be out there in the yard “sitting pretty” as we would call it.
We tried the leash, but for a smaller dog, his pull was very strong and I was still growing, walking him was really running with him after a while. He would find a good trail, he’d pull your arm out of its socket as he yipped along. If anyone happened to see us, they would not believe their eyes as this small dog dragging me as he yipped.
All in all, mom was not impressed with him as he did not know how to behave in the house. He loved to chew and after trashing several shoes, we realized he would have to be supervised at all times. As it turned out, Sniffer loved grandpa Harold, so when he came over we would have to put him on a leash or put him in the kennel. He would whine and cry as he wanted to be near his best buddy, grandpa. Grandma did not seem to mind him as much, but she quickly learned about his behavior. One time she was over without grandpa and she put him outside on his leash. It was a cold fall day and when she looked she saw he was shivering. She felt sorry for him, but then one of us called her and she went to check on us. When she came back he was no longer shivering, but once he saw her standing there, he began the shivering all over again. She was no longer fooled by him.
There was a time when he was on a leash in the backyard and when we went to check on him he was gone. His collar still attached to the leash was dangling from the top of the fence. Mom wanted to call him Houdini after that.
The store down the road was an Acme store where we bought most of our groceries. In 1969, I began collecting baseball cards followed by my two brothers Steve and Tom, but the fighting over these became a constant source of irritant for mom. A year later, Acme, in honor of President’s Day began to sell six inch tall plastic figurines of each of the then 39 presidents. They would sell you one each time you spent so much at the store. I planned and plotted until I had all 39 from George Washington to Richard M. Nixon. They were painted to appear life-like or at least life like enough for me. Only problem was they had no home so they were in my room cluttering. In November they began selling the Styrofoam stand for these figurines and I wanted one badly. Having this snazzy display would make my presidents look very nice.
Now Christmas was a special time in our house and for the most part Santa was very good to the Frost boys. I know grandma and grandpa helped as they were the ones to bring me my first bicycle or as I called it “Easy Rider.” I got army guys which were some of my favorite things under the tree. I got clothes for school which I hung up and forgot about as quickly as I could. I got sports stuff which I had to wait until spring to even use. But when I look back, I realize how lucky I was when Santa came a-calling.
This would be the one exception to all of the good Christmases I had. Mom and dad set out all the Christmas presents under the tree. Sniffer presented a problem they had to solve before calling it a night. First they put up the gate in the kitchen and knowing his ability to get over fences, he was tied to a leash that was attached to the leg of the kitchen table. Dog secure and out of the way.
During the night there arose quite a clatter, but no one got out of bed to see what was the matter. As it turned out, Sniffer not only scaled the three foot high barrier, he managed to drag the kitchen table several feet to where he could get to my presidential podium and chew it to bits as it was just Styrofoam. Then pulling a few more inches, snatched my stocking full of candy off the wall and feasting on that until we woke up in the morning to a mess that could not be described. I am thankful no one took a Polaroid of the carnage.
I remember my younger brothers got up before I did and Steve came in with mom as she made the sorrowful announcement that “The dog ate my Christmas Present.” From eating all the candy, Sniffer earned himself a day outdoors since his diarrhea was non-stop for the rest of the day.
Despite this grievous crime, I loved him nonetheless and when he started having epeleptic seizures, mom had him put down. In case you are not aware, epilepsy is common with Beagles and the seizures only get worse as time goes on.
Mom did her best to show me some empathy at the loss of my beloved dog, but saying, “well at least you won’t have to worry about your dog chewing up your Christmas presents” really wasn’t a good consolation to the whole thing. Even though he was a challenging dog, the fact of the matter was he readily belonged in our odd family. I loved him despite eating one of my Christmases.
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