He Was Just A Mongrel

He was just a mongrel, a cast-off, the offspring of a tramp, but he was a dog that could do--almost--anything. He never went to obedience school. He wasn't discovered by Hollywood. He didn't receive FAME in Riley's Believe It Or Not. No. The only fame Scruffy received was from his family--us, and from all the children and grownups who saw his performance.

Scruffy was born on Friday, the thirteenth of September, the last in the litter, the runt--the thirteenth. He was unwanted by his mother, and his siblings did their best to crowd him out. Scrawny and pathetic in appearance, he looked as if he wouldn't survive until his eyes were open. In fact, the owners of the mother dog had thought of drowning him. But when I saw him, I knew I wanted him, I knew he was the pup I had been looking for. To me, the nondescript, unwanted runt, was the pick of the litter. And choosing a name was easy: he was SCRUFFY. No other name would have suited him.

A mongrel Scruffy may have been, a thirteenth, a runt, but he was no moron. In the trick department he could roll over, speak, jump through a hoop, say his prayers, count on command, or do any number of other tricks, including retrieving any article I would suggest, even if I had lined up thirteen items. He never made a mistake.

Scruffy, the little brown terrier-type pup, wore his personality in his tail. His was straggly, and far too long for the rest of him. At first I had wondered about having it docked. But as the time went on I was glad I had decided to let him keep it. His tail was like a compass, or possibly a road map. He had a different tail-wag for every part of his life, from waving it uncertainly when he met a stranger, to almost wagging his whole hind end off whenever he greeted a friend, or a member of the family. And he had a special kind of tail-wag for animals of nature, especially for squirrels--for which he had some strange obsession.

Scruffy became "famous" the day one of the children asked if he could take the dog to school for "show and tell".

"Show and tell?" I asked. "Dogs can't go into school.”

But that is exactly what happened, David and I took Scruffy to school. David was in a "special" class, and the teacher thought that a dog might give some stimulation to some of the problem children in the class. (David was not one of them.) The teacher was right about giving stimulation. David proudly introduced his dog, and then sat down on the floor with the twenty other children. I put Scruffy through his paces. First, I told him to find David. David made no gestures. He sat with quiet expectation, knowing that his dog would not disappoint him. He didn't. Scruffy, as if pretending he was searching for the right little boy went around sniffing all the children, much to the delight of the class. When he came to David, he skipped over him, making sure that he sniffed all the other children first. Then with a burst of exuberance, he pounced on David. This sent the whole class into gales of laughter.

The rest of the "tricks" were like icing on the cake. The children sat enthralled as Scruffy picked out the named object from the thirteen toys lined up on the floor. (It had to be thirteen items; the children insisted on that, after I told them the story of his early beginnings.

That half hour spent in David’s classroom, decided Scruffy’s future for him. From that day on he was invited, not only to go back to David’s classroom, but to go, as well, to all our other children's classrooms for his performances.

And his fame spread further. He was invited to care homes. It was a delight to see the faces of sad elderly men and women break out into smiles when they saw Scruffy marching down the hall. He needed no leash. He had learned his manners well, and he never forgot them. He seemed to sense which of the elderly folks were timid of him, and which ones delighted in his putting his paws on their knees.

Scruffy was a born entertainer. He thrived on performing. That mongrel brought sparkle and excitement into the lives of children and elderly alike. If a dog could be an angel, Scruffy would have had wings.

~ Helen Dowd ~

[ by Helen Dowd Copyright © 2005, (hmdowd@telus.net) -- submitted by: Helen Dowd ]


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