There Once Was A Dog Named Peanuts Who Owned A Girl

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: October 30, 2019

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Submitted: October 30, 2019

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There Once Was A Dog Named Peanuts Who Owned A Girl

My parents moved a lot. By age ten, I’d been to six schools in six states. The move to Oklahoma was especially tough. I begged my folks not to move, but work for Dad demanded it. To make the transition easier, I bargained for a dog.

We arrived in Oklahoma late one night. We’d hauled three horses with us and secured them in the corral before going to bed. My dad said we’d get up early the next day and try to find hay. I said I’d be up and ready. And I was.

Early the next morning we followed homemade signs along the country roads reading “hay for sale.” Dad drove a red Ford pickup slowly along the farm lane avoiding potholes and dips in the muddy drive up to the house.

While my dad and the farmer were negotiating, I saw a small Cocker Spaniel in the yard. He was heading toward the barn and I was leaning on the pickup still drowsy from our short night. I saw him limping and figured he had a stubborn goathead thorn in his paw. Oklahoma is filled with painful goathead stickers. I was pulling them out of my tennies, off my jacket, and I’d only been in the state a few hours.

I walked over to the dog and started talking to him.

The farmer saw me out of the corner of his eye, “You’d better tell her not to pet that dog. He’s bitten three of my grandkids! My wife ordered me to get rid of him. He’s unpredictable.”

Before anyone could warn me, the dog growled and showed his teeth. I didn’t know I was supposed to be afraid. You see, I had never met a dog I didn’t like. I sat down next to him as he was growling and told him to hush. “What is wrong with you? You don’t growl at people.” I was stern, but obviously smitten by his large brown eyes and floppy golden ears.

“Lay down here and let me see what’s wrong that paw.” I looked at his paw and sure enough there was one of those goatheads buried deep inside. I gently pulled it out. Then I rubbed the injured paw.

Suddenly, he jumped up and started running spastic circles around me. He ran around and around and I’d shout to him. Eventually, he settled down, crawled his short and stocky body into my lap and we stayed like that until the men finished their business.

“That dog has taken quite a likin’ to you,” the farmer said.

“He’s beautiful. I’ve never seen a Cocker quite like him before,” I smiled up at the farmer, the dog still in my lap.

“You can have him! His name is Peanuts,” said the farmer.

I looked up at my Dad. “You said….”

And that day Peanuts went home with me.

Sadly, we found out the first night that he was not an inside dog. He threw up everywhere and cried nonstop to go out. So, I made him a little bed near the pump house.

One day I couldn’t find him. We lived on a small acreage and there were hundreds of places he could be. I searched until nightfall, but couldn’t find him anywhere.

After several days, he came home, but he was badly wounded. He’d caught his privates on barbed wire and well, “it” was hanging on by a “thread.” He wouldn’t come in the house so I made him a bed next to the wall where the fireplace was. The heat from the bricks would help him stay warm through the cold night.

At first daylight, I loaded him into the pickup and my mom drove us to the country vet. When the vet saw the injury, he grimaced—partly a male reaction. He disinfected the area, attached “it” back on and said Peanuts had to stay overnight.

In the months we’d lived in Oklahoma, I’d never been away from Peanuts. He had made the transition so much easier. I loved him unconditionally. He loved me unconditionally. He protected me. I cuddled him. I brushed him and fed him special meals on Sundays. I kissed the top of his head and scratched his favorite place behind his ears. He was mine. All mine and I hated leaving him there at the vet’s, even for one night.

The next day when we went to get him, he looked a whole lot better. He had stitches. The doctor said the most important thing was to watch for infection. He gave me a cream to put on the incision. The vet stated very clearly that Peanuts would never father pups. He was sure of that.

The next year, the aerospace industry bottomed out and my Dad lost his job. We went from living well to poorly in a moment’s time. We moved into a very small, very crowded duplex in town. Dad started working three jobs just to make ends meet. Peanuts of course came with us. But we didn’t have a fenced yard and he was accustomed to having the run of the place. He was not a city dog. Also, our duplex neighbors had a female dog named Mutsy. She fell in love with Peanuts the first time they met. Who wouldn’t? He wasn’t terribly tall, but he was really handsome. She didn’t know he was a eunuch. He didn’t act like one either. Such a ladies’ man.

One afternoon I came home from school and he wasn’t waiting on the front porch for me. I called and called and I couldn’t find him. I went looking for him all over the small town and asked everyone if they’d seen him. Nope. Nowhere to be found. Peanuts was gone for six days.

Finally, on the seventh day, we came home from church and he was waiting on the front porch. I shot out of the car and ran up to him hugging him and kissing him. He smelled terrible. I pulled back my arm from around his neck. My dress sleeve was covered in blood and dirt. Peanuts laid over onto his side and there I could see his neck had been bitten into and a large chunk of flesh was missing. The skin around the wound had started to decay. He looked at me and I could tell from his eyes that he was in great pain.

I sat down next to him, my little protector, my little tough guy. He was so thin and he looked so weak. I stroked his head. I cried and cried. And I prayed, “God, please don’t let him die. Please save him. Please.” But in my heart, I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

After about an hour, my dad came out to the small porch. He looked at the dog. Peanuts was struggling to breathe.

“Teri…” my dad started.

“Don’t say it. I don’t want you to say it! We can take him to the vet and he’ll fix him. He did last time. We can take him right now. I’ll carry him…” I was sobbing. I wasn’t going to give up on him. He was all I had. He was my one constant in an ever-chaotic life.

“We can’t afford the vet Teri. But even if we could, you see how the skin is gone? There’s so much infection and he’s suffered for quite a while. You know what is best for him is.” My dad waited for me to answer.

“I can’t. I can’t Dad. I can’t put him down. I love him.”

“If you really love him, you’ll want to do what’s best for him,” he said.

It was the hardest decision I’d ever made in my twelve years of life. I shook my head yes, but in silence. Tears were streaming down my face. My hands trembled as I stroked his blood-matted, dull coat.

“How will we do it?” I asked.

“Just leave it to me,” Dad said.

My dad went inside the duplex. He came out with his jacket on and headed to the truck with a green, small army-issue shovel and an old blanket. He threw them into the back of the truck and came back for Peanuts.

“Wait. I’m going with you. Let me change my clothes.”

Clothes changed, I climbed into the pickup and sat next to Peanuts. He laid his head on my leg. I whispered his name.

“It’s gonna get chilly back there. Are you sure that’s where you want to ride?” Dad asked.

Yes. I was sure. Peanuts wasn’t going to take this ride alone. I rode with him in this very truck the day we brought him home from the hay farm. I’d take this last ride with him as well.

We drove way out into the country where we used to live. It was where Peanuts had been happiest. Dad pulled off the road. He left the truck lights on. I had a sick aching in my stomach; I felt nauseous. But I knew I had to be strong for Peanuts. He could sense fear and I wanted his passing to be a peaceful one. He’d come home for me to fix the situation. He’d come home for help. I got out of the truck and Dad lifted Peanuts listless body. The poor dog looked awful. His was so thin and his once-beautiful coat was dull and tangled and matted and bloody and filled with dirt.

My dad took him into the woods and told me, over his shoulder, to stay by the truck. I put my hands over my ears knowing what was coming. It hurt to swallow as I choked back the sobs. I wanted to run as fast as I could to get as far away from there as possible. But I didn’t run and I heard the shot and my heart broke.

My dad came out of the woods and said, “Teri, you’ve got to come see this!”

I thought, “Is he crazy? Is he sick? What kind of father wants his daughter to see her dog dead?!?”

“Really Teri, trust me. You’ve got to see him!” and he held out his hand.

My dad took me by the hand and walked me over to where the truck’s headlights were shining. There laying on the ground was Peanuts. Clean and fat and shiny golden and beautiful just like the day I got him.

“It’s like a miracle,” my dad said in disbelief. “I shot him. Then I looked at him and he looked beautiful. Teri, look at him. Remember him this way; not like we found him. He just looks like he’s sleeping.”

My dad took the blanket and wrapped Peanuts carefully. Then he dug the small grave and respectfully, gently placed my little dog in it. We stood there after Dad had covered him with the fresh dirt and I said a prayer.

Dad and I walked silently back to the truck. We got in and headed home. On the way my dad said, “I know just how you feel. I had a dog once. His name was…uh…Peanuts. Yeah. Peanuts. And when I was about your age, he got into uh…a fight with another dog and well we had to put him down and it was really hard and so I know how you feel.”

“You had a dog named Peanuts?” I looked at my dad kinda sideways.

“Yup. Sure did.”

CS Lewis believed that dogs with names go to heaven. That when a dog is loved by a human being, then that dog is in heaven waiting for its owner to come home. I like to believe that Peanuts is there waiting for me on the front porch.

Summer came and in the backyard I waited eagerly for Mutsy to give birth to puppies. Mutsy was a white terrier mix of some kind. I sat with her the whole day as one after the other, all six were born. Each one golden, short-legged, and about as Cocker looking as could be. Each one the spitting image of their dad, Peanuts. If that old vet could only see what his handiwork had done.

It’s hard to explain the cycles of life. God gave me Peanuts at a time when I, as a little girl, needed him desperately. But, through a very difficult and painful experience, I got to see my dad in a whole new light. It’s oddly one of the best memories I have of him and I still get a bit choked up when I think of his story, “I had a dog named Peanuts too…” Not original. But it was a loving effort. 


© Copyright 2020 Teri McCarthy. All rights reserved.

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