Oh, Huck. Huckleberry. Huck L. Berry, Esquire. Huckabuckabucka. Hucklebeezer. Beezypeezy. Beezer. Chuckleberry. Huckleberry Finn. M’Boy.
Dear readers, if you are asking yourself what breed of dog this fine specimen is, he is a Greater Pike Hound. That’s because he’s from Pike County, Georgia and he’s kind of big (as compared to the Lesser Pike Hound). We made that up.
I adopted him from my dad’s vet clinic. The staff pounced on me while I was in a weakened state–just having held my dachshund Katie while she got “the pink shot.” Katie had been foisted on me three years earlier when Daddy called and said, “I’ve got this dachshund that some people abandoned because they didn’t want to pay the bill. She’s got all kinds of heart problems, probably won’t live more than six weeks.” I took her in as a hospice dog. That dog lived for THREE fart-filled silly years. One night, she was up under the covers in my bed (with the other two dachsies) and I said, “Dang it Katie, if I had wanted all this farting and snoring, I would have stayed married!” Katie lived a long full life and on her last day, Daddy’s assistant comes up to me and says, “Ohhhhh….you should go look at that dog we have in the kennel. Cute puppy.”
The kennel was ahowl with dogs and I made my way slowly down the row, saying hello to each guest and calling them by the names written on their kennel cards. In the next to the last run, I find a beautifully groomed collie, sitting calmly on her pallet with a welcoming expression in her golden eyes. Her card read “Free to a Good Home.” I should have stopped there and yelled, “SOLD!” but I made the mistake of looking in the last run. There sat a wiggly whitish dog, covered in red mange, skinned up nose pressed into the chain link, otter tail thumping on the concrete. His card says, “Free to a Good Home. TOWEL CHEWER.” Aw, maaaaaan.
I have a soft spot for the unadoptable ones. The hard luck cases. The scabbier, the better. I had had a good streak of dachshunds, but it was time for a big dog with a bit more bark and maybe some bite. My husband had died a year earlier and I thought I would feel safer if I had a big barking dog. My dachsies were plenty fierce, but they weren’t exactly intimidating. Daddy called them “Death from the ankles down.” So the towel chewer found a home.
It took me a while to name him. He was almost Cletus (after the Roman emperor and the guy on The Simpsons). He was almost Buster (but I decided to save that for a smaller dog, maybe a three-legged one). I wanted a literary allusion–what better choice than Huckleberry Finn, the orphan with a heart of gold and NO manners.
What day did I get him? April Fool’s Day. Of course.
After about a month, my brother-in-law said, “Huck’s starting to look like a real dog. No, what I mean is, Huck’s starting to look like somebody’s dog.” The mange was gone. He had filled out and his brittle coat was growing in thick thanks to a better diet. That was the day my nephew said, “I think Chuck likes me!” while patting him on the head and Huckleberry got his first nickname.
Huck is a big galoot of a dog and he doesn’t always fit in with the dainty pack of Yorkies, Italian Greyhounds, Schnoodles, and whippets in the rest of the family. He was like the big white eye of a hurricane of boiling dogs when I took him to my dad and stepmother’s house. He thundered through the boxwood hedges and thwacked his tail against the antiques. He was goofy, but welcome….until the day Huck killed Oprah.
It was the day before Thanksgiving and I needed to get to Atlanta for my first half-marathon. I didn’t have a key to the clinic so I went by Daddy’s house. They weren’t home, so I turned Huck out in the backyard and locked the gate. They’d be home soon and all would be fine. I didn’t know that Oprah, my stepmother’s favorite little hen, was free-ranging it that day. The next day at Thanksgiving dinner, my stepmother came up and whispered, “Huck killed Oprah.” Wahuh??? Oh. Ohhhhhhh. Errrrr. I felt so bad for poor Oprah and for my stepmother. I made a donation to Heifer International in Oprah’s memory. It was enough to buy a flock of chickens for a family in need. Huck’s never been back.
He’s a sweet boy, really, he is. He has watched over both of my babies and would give G and me the stink eye if we let them fuss for too long. He hasn’t eaten a dog bed in years. He barks whenever a car pulls up then hushes. But he’s still a dog. Given the opportunity, he will sneak food off the kitchen counter. Like Tuesday, he ate half of a homemade red velvet cake and only a small part of the cardboard box it was in. And I guess he hasn’t learned from the Oprah incident because last weekend at the park he dove into the lake and started swimming after the geese. It was the first time in seven years I’ve seen him touch the water voluntarily. When it gets rainy, he digs holes under the fence and roams the neighborhood looking for other dogs. He’s made a new friend up the street and last week he dug a hole INTO their backyard.
Life with Huck can be frustrating. Especially yesterday. We all woke up 40 minutes late because the baby had turned down the volume on my clock radio. Vivi refused to get dressed and was hiding under the coffee table. I looked around and NO HUCK in the den. No Huck on the deck. No Huck in the yard. WHAT THE HUCK. I jumped in the car, rolled the windows down and drove slowly up and down our street screaming, “HUUUUUUCK! HUCK! HUCKHUCKHUCK!!! HUUUUUUUUUCK!” It’s cathartic. But I was careful to enunciate. Very careful.
My friend’s dog is named Axel. Gotta be careful yelling that one, too.