Note – The following is a column by my dad, Dave Owen, published in The Parkersburg Sentinel in May, 1989.
He’s looking out the window when I come home every day. He jumps with joy when I open the door. He always asks, “How was your day?” He is my dog, Spencer.One of my friends once said, “A man can have seven dogs in his lifetime.” Each of Jake’s dogs was a black Labrador, and he named them all Moxie. When Moxie III died, Jake went out to the car and drove around and around, crying like a baby. The next day he bought Moxie IV. By now he’s probably hiking with Moxie VI.
My first dog was Joe Joe, a terrier. My folks got him for me, and he was named for Joe E. Louis. We lived on a busy street and he got hit by a car. He hobbled on three legs for several years.
My next dog was Butcher Boy, a Springer Spaniel. We were living in the country that summer, and Butcher Boy and I played and hiked. When we moved back to town, Butcher Boy could not adapt to city life. We found a farmer who wanted a dog. I was sad, but happy for my dog.
Duchess was my companion through adolescence, college, the service and my first job. My mother traded Dad’s shotgun for Duchess, a registered Cocker Spaniel. Dad came home, his gun was gone and we had a dog. At first he reluctantly tolerated Duchess. Later he bathed her, brushed her and cut the mats from her ears.
Duchess ran alongside my bike, rode in the basket when she was tire, swam in the river and hiked in the park. When I came home from college and the Navy, Duchess would jump up and lick my face. She always slept at the foot of my bed. My mother said do hair made a room looked lived in.
When she was 14, Duchess was hit by a car. She was blind and deaf, and we figured she was returning home from rummaging through the neighbor’s garbage. That summer, I met Frieda. She says I never did propose to her. Instead, I asked, “Do you like dogs?”
Squeal, our first dog, was a Beagle and a roamer. Once he dug under the pen I built in the backyard and was picked up on the other side of town where he left his paw prints in the fresh concrete of someone’s driveway. Another time, we invited neighbors to a backyard party. One of the guests saw Squeal and screamed, “That’s the dog that ate our steaks.” Overweight and arthritic, Squeal died when he was eight.
A month later we got Ruff and Reddy, Cocker Spaniels, from the same litter. Training twin dogs means tow of everything – collars, leashes, dog dishes and puddles. They quickly discovered we didn’t know which one made the mistake. Ruff was Mary’s dog and Reddy was Ky’s dog. They promised to take care of them, but I was the one who brushed them and cut the mats from their ears.
One summer Ruff had surgery and to keep him from chewing the incision, Frieda made a cardboard collar. Reddy saw Ruff’s new collar and staged a canine tantrum until Frieda made a collar for him. Reddy died when he was 15. Ky was at Michigan State, and Frieda had to tell him. I couldn’t handle it. Two years later, we had to put Ruff down. Like my friend Jake, I cried all the way home.
We decided to wait until summer to get another dog. Two weeks later, we were looking at a litter of pups. As Frieda picked up on of the puppies, a bundle of black and white fur climbed out of the box and ran top me. As we stood, each petting a loving puppy, Frieda said, “You pick. Only one!”
We named him Spencer, my dad’s middle name. My sister said, “Dad always hoped we’d give the name to a grandson, but he never dreamed it would be a dog.”
When Ky came home for Christmas, we took Spencer to the airport. “When did you get him?” he asked, taking the puppy in his arms, tears of joy streaming down his face.
Ky taught Spencer two things he does well, to sit and to beg for treats. At breakfast Spencer waits for the last of my cereal. When I leave for work. I give him three Milk-Bones. When Frieda leaves for work, she gives him three Milk-Bones.
Spencer is also Frieda’s dog. She walks him every morning. She lets him sleep on the sofa and the bed. She says dog hair makes a room look lived in.
Dog hair. What would a home be without it? They’ve all left their traces. Seven dogs – Joe Joe, Butcher Boy, Duchess, Squeal, Ruff and Reddy, and now, Spencer
Spencer died in 1998. In his column, “Saying Goodbye to Spencer,” Dave wrote, “If there’s a dog heaven, and I believe there is, Spencer is sounding a celestial ‘all dog alert.’”