The biggest character in our family... and that's saying a lot.
Some years ago, somebody wrote a book about the worst dog in the world. The book was about the criminal exploits of his Golden Retriever. Assuming the author wasn’t embellishing the facts - which writers never do - he was right that he had drawn a short straw when he acquired that beast.
But, he was wrong when he dubbed him the worst dog in the world.
Let me introduce you to Thumper. He was without question the worst dog in the world.
A senior leader in a firm I worked for very early in my career (John) popped into my office one day for a chat. He was very active in what are called field trials, competitions for Labrador Retrievers who are trained to accompany their owners into fields and marshes where they retrieve ducks, pheasants and other foul that drop from the sky after a successful shotgun round. These dogs go into all kinds of areas to retrieve birds and return them unmarked to prepare for dinner. Their owners are serious hunters, who frequently work in concert with a trainer to bring their Labs up to championship level. Much like horse people, they travel with their animals from competition to competition.
I have a nice surprise for you - one of my Lab puppies is for you. There was some technical reason this young Black Lab could not be AKC-registered, so he didn’t make the championship cut. Without asking a single question, I picked the puppy up that very afternoon. Obviously, my next promotion was now in the bag. Driving home, it occurred to me it might have been a good thing if I checked with Karen… but I didn’t. Let’s chalk that up to youthful stupidity and leave it at that.
To protect myself from what I realized might be a marital onslaught, I stopped at the house of close friends and asked them to precede me home, which they did. Our friends pulled into the driveway to find Karen, Tracy and Denny sitting on the front stoop waiting for Daddy to get home. I was about two minutes behind these marriage-savers. Tracy, 5, and Denny, 2, came running over to the car. They looked in and turned toward their mother saying, Mommy, there’s a puppy in Daddy’s car. And, so, with supportive words from our dog loving friends, the adorable little guy became a member of our family.
The puppy immediately discovered the coffee table in our living room. He had a very active tail that wagged constantly as he would sweep everything on the coffee table to the floor. Thump, thump, thump it went as he cleared the deck. Within days, his name became Thumper.
Little did I know we had just brought a criminal into our house. If he wanted something, he just took it. He was a big fan of cereal and soon became a cereal thief. Later, he would evolve into a serious serial thief as he unburdened hard-working neighbors of the food from their very table.
He was also a lothario. Thumper had a brief fling with a dog named Queenie, who lived a few houses away. I was always afraid of a canine paternity suit and denied his involvement. Now, years later, it’s time to admit he fathered a large litter of Queenie’s puppies who looked just like him. I’ll bet there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Thumper look-alikes out there somewhere. Fortunately, the statute of limitations has expired on his fatherhood.
Queenie was just a casual relationship, though - maybe even a one-nighter. Around the corner and two streets up lived the real love of his life, a statuesque Dalmation named “Princess” (name changed to protect the innocent and because I truly cannot remember it). Whenever Thumper got loose - a very regular occurrence - he would head straight over for a visit. We would get the call, drive over and pick him up. One Sunday morning the phone rang and, sure enough, he was over there. These nice folks put him in their house so he would be there when we came to get him.
We went to pick him up and were greeted by the news that, while in the house waiting for us, Thumper had consumed the entire brunch they planned to serve the eight guests sitting in their backyard. (A classic example of his ability to mix his two pleasures - the ladies and other people’s food.) I’m not proud of this anecdote, but it’s 100% true. His mother should have trained him better.
That was no isolated instance. One evening our next door neighbor came over to announce that Thumper had just taken five chicken breasts off his grill. Bad, bad Thumper. But the tail always wagged. He had no conscience.
On those rare occasions when he was actually in our house, Thumper knew he wasn't allowed on the furniture. We had serious discussions before we would go out, but as we pulled in the driveway, there he would be on the couch looking out the window at the car. Then he would race to the door to greet us. Who, me, on the furniture? I would NEVER do that! And thump, thump, thump would go that tail as he gave us a warm welcome home.
Finally in his 14th year and just before Thanksgiving, he wandered down the driveway and into the mist. We had police from five jurisdictions aid in the search. The general consensus was that he had gone off to Shaker Lakes for a final swim and that he had died doing that.
I do not accept that view. There is no proof. In our country, one is innocent until proven guilty. With me, you’re alive until proven dead. Where is the proof for Thumper? If you go on the internet, you will see that the oldest Black Lab on record lived to an astonishing 29.
Everyone we asked said they had not seen him. I think there is still a very good chance he may be out there somewhere. He would be about 54-years-old by now.
He’s probably not as active as he once was, but I’ll bet he is still capable of being Thumper. This summer holiday season, batten down the hatches on your grill and close your kitchen. I think Thumper may be coming to a cookout near you.
If you see Thumper, please give me a call.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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