Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Dog Named Dollar

Why I was home alone that day I can't remember, but I had gone into the orange grove across the road from our house to get an orange or two. They were Temple oranges and pretty good sized ones at that, so I only picked one. I peeled and ate it right there beside the tree it came from, then headed back across the road and started trudging toward the house through that old sand pit we called a driveway.

 The truck must have been doing sixty or more down that old dirt road which wasn't meant for more than maybe thirty five or so. It was an old pick-up with most of the paint faded or scraped off. I had seen it many times flying by our house with a big cloud of dust boiling out from under the  back bumper. Usually it just went on by without my giving it a second thought, but this time the driver suddenly slammed on the brakes and the horn at about the same time. Of course I jerked my head around to see what was going on....And watched in shock as a yellow dog that I had never seen before tumbled wildly under the truck. The driver yelled out his window at me,"That'll teach ya to keep your damned dog outta the road kid."  Then he slammed on the gas again and disappeared on down the road in that big cloud of dust.

 I thought the dog was surely dead after seeing it tumble under that truck for what seemed to my twelve year old eyes like a hundred times or more. But when I got out to the middle of the road I could see that it was alive but was having trouble trying to get up.

 Knowing how dangerous an injured animal could be, I moved  slowly toward it. It was a male golden retriever, a beautiful dog, maybe about one year old. I expected him to growl or snap at me, but as I reached the back of my hand toward him, he stayed calm and started licking my hand.

 I wanted to get him out of the road as quick as I could, so I took off my shirt and spread it out beside him, then gently rolled him over onto it and dragged him into our driveway.

 I couldn't pick him up and carry him to the house like I wanted to, so I went and got him some water and stole a couple of chicken legs from Mom's refrigerator, then sat there with him and fed him water and pieces of chicken till my brother James came walking down the road on the way home from the school bus stop a mile away, just past the end of the dirt road where the road was paved.

 "Whatcha got there Phill?" he called before he was close enough to really see the dog.

 "It's a dog that got run over by a truck" I said "He's hurt and can't get up."

 When James got close enough, he kneeled down and put one hand on my shoulder and started to reach toward the dog with the other, but it started growling and snapped at him. James jerked his hand away just in time and said "That dog's got rabies or somethin, damn thing's crazy!"

 "No he don't," I said "I been pettin him an everything for a long time an he ain't tried to bite me yet."

 "Try it again," I told him, "just go real slow an I bet he'll be ok this time." So James put his hand on my shoulder again and the dog tried to jump and grab him again, even before he got a chance to reach his other hand out.

 "That dog ain't worried bout me touchin him, he don't like it when I put my hand on you," James said. Then he reached out to the dog without touching me and the dog was just as calm as could be. He let James pet him just like I had been doing.

 "Think you can you carry him to the house now?" I asked.

 "If he don't try to bite me," he said, so I backed away from the dog a little and James eased in and gently picked up the dog in both arms and started toward the house.

 "Where we gonna put him?" James asked.

 "Round the back," I told him, "in that big ol' cardboard box."

 The box was plenty big enough for the dog, so I sat down by it and turned it on it's side so that the open end was like a door.

 When we got the dog in the box, he crawled right back out again and laid on the ground with his head on my knee. We tried several times but he refused to stay in the box. So, finally we got him a pan of water and just left him lying there on the sparse little tufts of grass that seemed never to make  much of a lawn.

 I kept going out to check on him every little while that night till I had to go to bed and he seemed to be alright, but when I went out the next morning, he was nowhere to be seen. I figured he must not have been hurt as bad as it had seemed the day before.

 After school when I came trudging up the driveway, the dog came around the corner of the house carrying something in his mouth and when I reached out toward him, he dropped it in my hand. I unrolled it and found out that it was three one dollar bills. "Good boy." I said, rubbing him on the head.

 He stayed around after that and we fed him table scraps and kept a big pan of water out back by the well for him. He seemed to like wandering around the woods and orange groves with us kids, and never failed to tag along with us on our fishing and exploring trips. And every once in a while he'd come up to one of us and drop something in our hand.

 Sometimes it would just be pieces of paper, like a store receipt or a hand written note somebody had dropped or thrown away, but most of the time it would be money. Lots of people worked in these old orange groves during picking time, and we figured he must be finding things that the pickers had lost out of their pockets climbing up and down the ladders through the tree branches.

 My dad didn't seem to like that dog very much. I think it was because it would growl at him whenever he'd yell at me or one of the other kids for something we did or maybe something we didn't do when we should have. But other than that the dog got along fine with everybody.

 About a month or so after he brought me the three dollars, he brought home twenty two dollars. Dad got it this time. It was  all rolled together and looking pretty much the worse for wear, but it was still money, and I think Dad began to like the dog a little better.  "Looks like we oughta name this mutt Money, what do you think about that?" He asked me. "I think we oughta call him Dollar, Dad. He brings home dollars a lot."

 "Well, he's your dog, so that's his name then, Dollar." Dad said as he put the money in his pocket. Then he bent down and gave Dollar a couple of pats on his head.

 Dollar stayed with us for about four years, always wandering around on his own when we were at school, bringing something home, usually money, all twisted and wet from his mouth.

 He never tried to get into the chicken coop or chase the hog or her pigs the way a lot of other dogs that we'd had around there did. Then one day he was gone...We never saw Dollar again. I have forgotten, (if I ever knew) how many times old Dollar dropped scraps of paper or a few dollar bills into my hand. But I'm sure I will never forget that golden retriever who really earned his name....