Journals of an Insane Genius - August 2000


I've always had a strange affinity for weiner dogs (only incredibly ill bred arrivistes attempt to correct people that refer to them as weiner dogs by insisting they be called dachshunds. Census data shows that only eight such people live in the United States. Curiously five of them are named Kenneth and none of them actually own a weiner dog.) My dream is to one day own a vast ranch with a herd of over ten thousand head-o-weiner dog. They will all be named Elvis (of course) and I will refer to them collectively as the Elvii. (Oh like your dreams are any better)

While growing up, my four brothers and I had a poodle-mix named Tony. I'm not sure what he was mixed with, although I suspect it was cabbage or some other such vegetable. He wasn't a very bright dog. So while I was telling my dad about my dream ranch the other day (it comforts him to know I have such lofty ambitions), he said, "You know we had a weiner dog before we had Tony." We did? How could that be? I'm blessed/cursed with an accurate memory of the smallest details of my childhood. (I can remember being born - really. The doctor handed me to my mother and said, "It's a boy." A nurse smiled at me and made cooing noises) "Are you sure", I asked. "Of course I'm sure. He was the sweetest, most lovable dog you could ever want. The only flaw in his character was that anytime the door was opened even a crack he would dart through and run for all he was worth." I can imagine the dog thinking "Freedom! Sweet Freedom!" You'd think it too if you were trapped in a house with five maniac boys. My dad would then spend twenty minutes to an hour chasing him down, not something he looked forward to after putting in ten hours at General Motors. Apparently the dog was returned to the place where we got him. My brothers and I initiated a strategic campaign of whining and moping. Dad's eyes narrowed and his voice grew tense as he continued, "…and your mother brought home the most frightened, ill-tempered, stupid dog there ever was." That was Tony.

What is the deal with my eyes?
Christmas 1970 - Bill, Ted with Tony, and Yours Truly
(Stop laughing at our matching 'jammies')

"I don't know dad, he wasn't without his charm. Remember how he used to entertain us at the dinner table - especially when we had company?" My parents went through this strange phase where the television had to be turned off during dinner. If Tony sensed a lull in the conversation, he would put on a skit or reenact some current event. I remember once during the Winter Olympics when my grandparents were over for dinner. I think it was Mike who first noticed, crying out, "Look at Tony! He's skiing!" Sure enough, Tony was impersonating the skiers we had seen earlier in the day. He had his hind legs shoved out in front of him and he was scooting back and forth across the living room on his front legs with a wicked doggy grin on his face. My grandma pretended not to notice.

Tony was with us for around twelve years and he never lost the ability to pull off a good joke. He died quietly in the winter of 1981. I was seventeen and there was just me and my brother Bill living in the house we grew up in. Since the ground was frozen solid under two feet of snow I unceremoniously wrapped Tony's body in three garbage bags (no way did I want this to break open) and set him out at the curb. Officially Tony had always been Bill's dog, a legal claim the rest of us only agreed with whenever Tony decided to provide us with an extremely biological demonstration of the effects of insufficient walking sessions on the canine digestive system. But in this case Bill proved to be more compassionate and secretly retrieved Tony for a proper burial in the spring.

I've never owned another pet since then. My brothers and I all joined the military and scattered during the early eighties. My dad, along with my youngest brother John, got stuck with the joy of cleaning out the house when my dad finally managed to sell it. The garage was the worst. Aside from one of the few Stuart Electro-Wagons ever built (electric cars are not a new idea; they will gain acceptance one day), there were enough disassembled parts to build three other cars, along with twenty years worth of assorted clutter. The guy buying the house was in a hurry, so he helped out. Plus he enjoyed finding the occasional forgotten gem tucked away. He opened one box and found "some kind of hat". Neither my dad nor John could figure out where it came from.

The neighbor lady solved the mystery when she stopped by to see how they were doing. "Ever see a hat like that?" John asked innocently. "AAaaigghhhh!!", she shrieked, "My God it's Tony!" I guess Bill forgot. I'm sure Tony was smiling down from doggy heaven at his last prank.


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