Kids can be so mean. When I was a little girl my feet turned inwards when I walked – like my big toes were trying to point at each other. To add to it I had almost no arch. So I had special shoes I had to wear every day and a bar at night that turned my feet/legs outward. Because no one thought as much about kids then as they do now, there was zero shoe styles to select from. They looked like white ankle booties.
I was the only child until I was almost 6 years old. I remember bringing all my best toys outside and sitting on the front porch- to entice other kids to play with me. Some would stop, but the first thing they’d do is laugh and say I wore baby shoes. If they didn’t care for my toy selection they’d deem me a baby and move on.
Around this time, my parent’s beloved chihuahua, Pedro, passed away. He got in a fight with a Doberman over a female dog he couldn’t have mated with even if he’d won. One well-calculated bite from that Doberman and it was adiós for Pedro.
On that day my Daddy made a decision he didn’t share with my mom for whatever reason. It was he’d never have a dog that could be picked on again (knowing chihuahuas, Pedro probably started it but tomatO/tomaHto, right?!).
Some time later, and unbeknownst to my mother, he set his plan in motion. Then had a few beers and brought home my mom’s “surprise”. A surprise she never asked for – and wouldn’t have in a million years. He walked in with an 8 week old Great Dane that, at 8 weeks, could already fill a grownup’s lap. She was less than thrilled. Way less. That didn’t make him any less ours. He was named Smokey Joe, or Smoke for short.
You remember I said we lived in a neighborhood, right? I’ll tie that story up there back in- just hang with me.
Great Danes grow so fast you have to give them special vitamins for their bones. Smoke was no exception. Not unless you consider growing to become the largest Great Dane in the state of Alabama at that time – weighing in at 175 pounds an exception. If you do, then I guess he was. Our little suburban backyard housed a dog the size of a small horse who could pick up a basketball with his mouth. A BASKETBALL. In 16 short weeks he went from the 8 week puppy size – about 20-25 lbs to being his full height- with weight at about 100-110 lbs. He’d reach 175 within the full first year.
Now picture suburbia…where we were connected to neighbors on 3 sides – just a chain link fence between us. Now imagine you’re our neighbors. If not dealt with daily, do you know what a gentle breeze means? It was as if we had a full grown man crapping in our yard. To keep the neighbors at bay it meant DAD had yard duty. Oh yes, cleanup on aisle 5 done daily by a man with a very weak stomach. But he did it.
Of course Mom fell in love with Smoke, which was awesome because Smoke turned out to be my very best friend. She used to have to spank Smoke first BEFORE she could get to me when I was being a little goblin. *Yes, now we’re circling back to the beginning of the story.
A dog can make things better. Even things that you, or in this case my Dad, didn’t realize needed improving. One, no more loving a dog only to have it die in a fight (Dad’s intentions); two, if Dad went out of town, no worries. We had the biggest, most protective and ferocious [looking] guard dog EVER. But those are NOT the most important problems he solved…I had a big guardian friend until the day he left this earth 10 years later.
Although initially Smoke ran me over to the point of laying me flat on my back in his excitement when I’d come outside, I loved him. Despite being 4 and about the height of his [long hard] tail that would slap me in the face when he was excited, I loved him. Even better, I didn’t have to drag my best toys out anymore. Smoke drew the kids in because they always wanted to get a good look at him. Plus, *I* got to choose who could come into the fence and play with him. BEST OF ALL? I never again heard those first words “You wear baby shoes!”. All I heard from that day forward was “Hey, I like your dog.”
Dogs make everything better.
This is us on his first night, then 6-8 weeks later. A much happier girl although still wearing “baby shoes”… LIFE. WAS. GOOD.