He was primarily a small ball of fur when we first saw him. A friend of my sister was giving him away.
My brother-in-law wasn’t fond of dogs then. He has since reformed, reformed when he came upon a rattlesnake in their rural setting, and a big chow dog, unknown and unannounced, came to his rescue to warn him of the impending danger. That chow became known as Harold, and was joined later by a hound dog named Hoss.
When we arrived to claim our fur ball, he was in the basement, in a huge box, one almost big enough for a teenage kangaroo. He must have weighed less than two pounds, a small black poodle.
Smokey became our daughter’s dog. That’s not to say he didn’t like the rest of the family, especially if one of us was attentive to him, but his true allegiance remained with her.
When he matured, Christmas became his favorite season of the year. Such a liking started rather inauspiciously the first year when he was on his way to eating a ball from the tree before we discovered him. Fortunately he wasn’t injured when he chewed on the glass ball. How, we didn’t know. We did have to vacuum several pieces of glass off the carpet. We reckoned he was going through a goat stage, and that was the only thing that saved him.
Henceforth he confined his Christmas activities to more conventional practices. Our daughter would wrap treats for he and our other dog Champ, rattle them, and both of them would tear into the paper like any child at their first recognizable Christmas, work the box open with their paws and mouth, and start munching on their great find. There would be a couple of M&M’s in the box also. I would like to say they only opened them on the correct date of the twenty-fifth. They did. Our daughter kept rewrapping their presents after they had opened them probably twenty-four previous times.
Some people don’t seem to think poodles are very smart. We have a different opinion.
We lived in a home with a second floor balcony that fronted some large windows. If we wanted privacy we only had to close the curtains. The draw cord was to one side of them, and it was tied with a knot in the end.
Smokey’s spot during the day was on that balcony, where he had a good view of the street, and a determination of anyone coming up the driveway, so he could run down the stairs to greet them.
He had done this many days, and we came to accept it as normal behavior, our only concern was he would somehow edge between the bars of the railing and fall into the living room. We were right about the anxiety, but wrong about the cause.
We came home one day and there was no Smokey welcoming us at the door. Not even a bark. We started canvassing the rooms, and after two or three minutes our daughter found him upstairs on the balcony. He had caught his neck in the draw cord of the curtains, and was sitting absolutely motionless. How long he had been there, we had no idea. Somehow he had the sense to realize he might be hanged if he attempted to move.
We freed him, cut the knot off the end of the cord as an extra precaution, and placed it out of his way. He suffered no long standing fear. Later the same night he was up there again checking the outside nighttime world.
One Sunday when we were journeying down a four-lane road, Smokey was riding in our daughter’s lap, and saw some cows in a pasture. They were distant enough to seem about his size. He started barking ferociously. Even when they were out of sight, he continued, wanting to impress us with his bravery.
What happened next could only come from a movie script. It somehow found us on this afternoon. We were in the right lane going about fifty. In the rear view mirror I could see a pickup truck with sideboards cautiously starting to pass us. It seemed almost slow motion. The truck must have been traveling only slightly faster than we were.
At first Smokey didn’t notice the truck, and then from the left back side where he continued to sit in our daughter’s lap, he caught it out of the corner of his eye, and decided there might be something to bark at. What he didn’t immediately see was a cow in the bed of the pickup, and as the truck came parallel with our car, the cow was staring directly in the window at Smokey. Rigor mortis was the best description of Smokey. He didn’t move as much as an eyelash.
He discovered the creatures that appeared so small in the distant pasture, weren’t small at all, and on subsequent rides, he never barked at another cow.
When our daughter went away to college, Smokey maintained his loyalty to her. In her absence he catered more to us than he had in the past. She didn’t come home every weekend, and he could never quite reconcile her schedule. He did cherish her scattered visits and was thankful when she came home to attend a local university.
Our daughter taught Smokey how to root for the university football team. He had a jacket with the appropriate emblem, and he would stand on his back legs and hop up and down, while our daughter jumped up and down and gave a cheer for the home team.
Smokey was a rather shy dog around people. He remained that way his entire life.
He surprised us one day when he went on a “picnic” Smokey enjoyed going to a park at lunch with my wife and our daughter, and taking his peanut butter sandwich, no raisins, and water. He’d lie on the quilt while our daughter fed him. He seemed to be aware of the birds and squirrels, even though he never attempted to chase them.
One day they forgot his quilt. They sat at a table, and Smokey was relegated to the grass. He ate his sandwich and drank his water. While my wife and daughter were talking and not noticing him, he ran over to a lady who was sitting on a quilt fifty feet away, sat down, and she began to pet him.
Our daughter went over to get him and apologize, mentioned the quilt, and said that must have been the reason he came over. She laughed and petted him some more. Quite by accident Smokey had found him a new friend.
Ten is too young for a dog to die. After he was attacked by a dog late one Saturday afternoon, we rushed him to the Vet. We thought on Monday he might be getting better. We were mistaken. He left us the next day.