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  • Writer's pictureerikaraskin

Ancillary Dogs

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

Trixie Dougan Bijou Bellman was my mom's dachshound when she was growing up. Though extremely short, Trixie had a rich and independent life. She walked around their neighborhood in Minneapolis, giving wide berth to the front yard of Mrs. Sinclair whose mean reputation as a witch had been conveyed cross-species.


The abbreviated pet traveled an impressive circuit that included a stop at my great aunt and uncle's place for some type of biscuit. This was apparently surprising in that, according to my grandfather, my uncle was notoriously tight. (Grandpa swore his brother-in-law bought one top shelf bottle of scotch ever and then would pour low budge stuff in to offer to guests.) Later I would suggest to my mother's father that perhaps he was the only one who got the jive liquor -- everyone else received Johnnie Walker Black. Grandpa just stared at me. We had a funny relationship.


Anyway Trixie would next head over to the butcher's shop and wait on the sidewalk for the besmocked counterman to open the door and pitch scraps to her. Sated, she'd finally waddle home where (according to my mom) her nails would click across the kitchen floor, going silent over the scattered rug where she'd curl up for a well-deserved nap.


Which is all prelude to the fact that my then-tween aged mother entered a radio contest that had as its grand prize a blonde cocker spaniel puppy. Mom, whose parents had no idea she'd mailed off a persuasive, heartfelt piece of fiction about how nothing would make her happier than for the Bellmans to finally have a dog of their very own, of course won. (She would later go on to become a best selling novelist). When the deejays showed up to present her with the puppy, no one was more confused than poor Trixie Dougan Bijou Bellman.


I'm not sure why the station allowed the prevaricating pre-adolescent to keep the prize but it may have had something to do with the fact that sweet looking Candy-the Cocker-Spaniel turned out to be a committed biter and it was a no-take-backs situation. It wasn't long before Trixie went back to being an only dog.


Another canine who figures big in family lore was not an actual pet but one who belonged to our next door neighbor. Elvis G. (we had Elvis L., a non-shedding poodle) was a boxer who used to camp out on our deck, watching our daily goings on through the glass door. (We couldn't let him in because of our daughter's allergies -- but that didn't seem to bother the voyeur.) Day in and day out he took his seat and stared as we went about our business. Sometimes because of glare we'd pull down the shade and the thigh-high, big-shouldered silhouette would still remain; reminding me of the shadows of New Orleans strippers, their faceless shapes projected through tight white screens as come-ons.


It was a little creepy at first but like people on reality TV shows who 'forget the cameras are there' we acclimated to our audience. I mean we'd nod hello every morning but we'd been asked by his parents not to feed him. So (for the most part) we didn't, we just went about our business providing live entertainment.


A couple years went by and then his family announced an impending move. Which was sad. (Change always unsettles me). Shortly thereafter I was upstairs writing in the office-slash-guest-room with Elvis L. laying at my feet. An un-dog who never barked, he suddenly began howling like a madman. My heart did one of those choking things as I slowly rotated the office chair, expecting Jack the Ripper in the doorway. Instead it was Elvis G. who


just

couldn't

take

it

anymore.


He'd broken in. He had to. Once before it was too late.


Another boxer who orbited the fam was Ursa who lived in the space that my mother converted into an "English Garden"


(basement)


apartment in her DC row house. When Ursa's parents would leave for work, Mom would open the connecting door and the dog would spend the day upstairs. I don't know why she never told her tenants about the relationship (they probably would've been grateful knowing the old girl had company) but it remained a long-lasting illicit secret.


More recently we've had PJ as an an ancillary pet. He is a scruffy terrier of sorts who lives about a third of a mile down the dirt road from us. An escape artist he shows up every couple of weeks scratching at the door until we let him in. (Our allergic daughter long in her own abode). PJ shares a meal with our Ridley and while he's eating I text his parents to let them know where he's landed and then they will either pick him up or I'll drive him home. This is such a regular occurence we have become his emergency contact when his family goes out of town.


The funniest PJ story happened last Thanksgiving when we had 30 people and 10 dogs for the holiday meal. We were having the usual annual generalized family chaos that I love (and derive long-lasting energy from) when PJ showed up. He hung up his coat and joined the fray. Eventually as all the food had reached the intersecting point of cooled and heated, I popped Peej in the car and chauffeured him home. I chatted with his mom for a few minutes, then drove back to our house --where he was already waiting for me in the kitchen.






Dogs knock me out.


ps. here is Ridley with some of his other pals.







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Ute Martin
Ute Martin
Jul 04, 2023

What a wonderful and delightful dog story. Thank you!

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