I've often told the Tale of Topsy but I've never written much about her brother Pokey. He was born here on the farm, one of Tru's second littler (that's pronounced True, btw) I had never intended to have 3 dogs but I had promised LD he could have his very own pick of the litter and he chose Topsy. Pokey, though, chose me. Whenever we had to corral the dogs Pokey would hide between my legs. A trip to the vets and he wouldn't leave my side. 8 weeks of this much devotion will tie the bonds of possession around anybody's heart. Before they had passed, Pokey was Not For Sale.
When Grandma came to live with us he developed such bad habits. At the dinner table she'd look at him, say "Hello, Black-O." and then every so slowly she'd pick up her dinner plate and set it down on the floor. You don't have to do that too often for a dog to figure out the routine. From then on she ate most of her meals with a dog head on each knee - for Topsy was quick to follow Pokey's lead.
But the best story about Pokey is a Thanksgiving story that took place in 1998. That year we knew he had cancer and wasn't going to be with us much longer. But he was still having fun, eating, taking walks. The big difference about him now was how clinging he was. Especially to me. He wanted to be near me, touching me, at my side, lying with his head on my feet - all the time. It was a tender time for Pokey and me.
That fall, LD was commissioned into the Navy down in Pensacola and we went to the ceremonies. The trip was in November and we left immediately after voting, on election day. It was a long drive through the southern Appalachian Mts. and on into the Florida panhandle. We took our time, proudly watched our suddenly all grown up son in all his military activities, and caravaned back to Virginia with him by way of Charleston, his next home port. We were gone about 10 days and got home just a day or two before Thanksgiving, to which we had invited Grandparents, Cousins and dear friends.
On the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving I baked pumpkin pies and as I was walking through the house I noticed a bad smell. I couldn't find it - it was faint - elusive - and gone quickly so I just shrugged my shoulders. Now, you must remember, I live on a farm, and in early November, the soy beans get harvested. All around the countryside hundreds of acres of little mouse homes get torn up by huge thrashing machines and millions of little mice are in the mouse real estate market. I always have to buy new mouse traps in November. I can remind you of this now, but I had totally forgotten about it then.
On Thanksgiving day, at 7 a.m., when the turkey went into the oven, that dreadful smell came back. Downstairs I didn't smell it but about 8 o'clock, LD came downstairs complaining that there was an awful odor upstairs. I went upstairs and oh god. I knew that scent and it was the smell of dead and rotten mouse. And that was a mystery too since I'd just given the house a tremendous great clean. We hunted high and low for the source of the stench and eventually decided it was coming from the kitchen and even worse! from the stove. Yet when we opened the oven there was nothing but the delicious scent of turkey roasting. I checked the oven again. and again, and once again but I couldn't find anything that resembled ... buzzard fare. Finally, sniffing hard all around the stove, I lifted the lid from the stovetop and there was our evidence. Insulation had been pulled out of the side of the stove, between the oven box and the outside wall. Something had crawled down into that fiberglass nest and died. And now it was getting baked.
And I had 9 guests coming for dinner.
Now - these were the right kind of guests. These were people who would love to hear a story like this. Maybe not as they were eating the food that had just been cooked in that oven - but they would think it was funny. I mean - it was my mom for goodness sake. She would love me under any circumstances. Not just love but approve. And BH, my beloved cousin? I knew she wouldn't care. She grew up in the country.
It was balmy weather. I threw open all the windows and doors and even turned the ceiling fan on in the kitchen and went on cooking dinner. Everyone got there by 1 or so and visited while all the last minute preparations were finalized. As typical in country settings, all the guys were outdoors and all the women were in the kitchen, along with clinging, needy Pokey, who couldn't be parted from his mama. At one point I stumbled over him in the kitchen and as these special women looked on l said "Oh Pokey - if you weren't dying I'd make you go outside with the boys."
And BH replied "Yeah, you can really smell him, can't you?"
And that was the last great act of love Pokey committed for me. He took the blame for the rotten mouse smell in my house that Thanksgiving of 1998. I didn't tell my guests the truth till a few months later - when, as I'd predicted, every one of them hooted and howled with laughter. We bid Pokey goodbye that Christmas on a sleeting December afternoon. He's buried in Pokey's Place, right by the front walk and I sense his memory often, when I walk in and out of the house. This Thanksgiving - I'm remembering him and sending thanks out into the universe for a world that has such good dogs.
|Pokey and Topsy with LD Thanksgiving 1998|