“Everyone thinks they have the best dog. And none of them are wrong.” W. R. Purche
Tonto was part Sheltie and part Collie, even though Shelties, which come from the Shetland Islands in Scotland, used to be Shetland Collies. What happened was breeders didn’t like mixing the breed names, so Shelties became Shetland Sheepdogs. Collies stayed Collies. Tonto brought the breeds back together.
She was the smartest dog I ever had. She knew go for a walk, go for ride, go do your business, go get a cookie, go get a hamburger, go to the kitchen. She could probably have done our taxes and gotten away with the deductions.
My brother and his family loved Tonto. Whenever they visited me in Lorain, when I was the mayor’s fiancée, before I wasn’t his fiancée anymore, they would say, “Tonto, we’re going to the kitchen to get a snack.”
Tonto would get up and head for the kitchen.
If they didn’t get up from wherever they were sitting he would stop and look back.
“Didn’t you say we were going to get a snack?”
They would sing the drive-in song to her.
“Yum, yum, it’s time for a tasty and refreshing snack, let’s all go to the snack bar.”
Whenever they sang that song it was, whoop! let’s go get a snack, and Tonto would get on the move. I would say “What do you want, Tonto?” and she would tap whatever box of crackers or cookies she wanted.
If I said “Do you have to do your business?” she would get up, which meant, yeah, she had to go. Sometimes though, she would give me the yes sign, but at the same time say it’s wet outside, so let’s wait a while.
She didn’t like to get wet.
Everyone loved her. They would always ask if my dog could sleep over at their house. I let her go when she was younger, but as she got older, no, I wanted as much time with her as possible.
Everybody loved her, except the woman with the wiffle bat.
Tonto was in her own front yard one day, minding her own business, doing her own dog thing, when the woman walked by.
Tonto hadn’t left the yard, but the woman came onto my front yard, on my grass, and whacked Tonto with her wiffle bat.
I was sitting in the window eating cereal. I dropped the bowl and went crashing through my front door. I ran right up to the woman.
“What the hell are you doing?” I was so incredibly mad.
“Your dog, your dog…”
“Yeah, my dog, you fucking nitwit, why are you hitting my dog?”
“It’s vicious,” she said.
She carried her wiffle bat whenever she went walking, to hit dogs with, in case they attacked her.
I looked at Tonto. She ran up to me. “Why?” she asked. I gave her a pat on the head.
“My dog is vicious? Do you really think I’m that stupid? Do you really think I would let a vicious dog outside to just bite anyone passing by? I could lose my house over something like that.”
“You should keep your dog tied up,” she said.
“You should stay off my street,” I said. “Because if I ever catch you on my street again I will back over you with my car 97 times and tell everyone it was an accident.”
I never saw her on my street again.
The mayor heard about what happened.
“You can’t threaten to run over people accidentally,” he said.
What about my dog? I thought.
I already hated people enough. The woman had no right to hit my dog. We need a new plague, to thin the herd, I thought.
Tonto was so smart she never needed to be told twice not to do something. Whenever she did anything I didn’t like, I would tell her it was bad, and she would never do it again. My other dog, on the other hand, Niagara, a Newfie, had to be told 40 times about everything. . I was always making her sit on the stairs or next to the vacuum cleaner for a time out or punishment.
Niagara hated sitting on the stairs and was afraid of the vacuum cleaner.
My poor Niagara wasn’t a dumb dog, and she was loved and spoiled by me, but next to Tonto she looked like an idiot.
Sometimes I would test Tonto to see how smart she was.
“Do you want this cracker or that one?”
I would show her two boxes, Cheez-It and Tricuits. She would usually point to the Cheez-It box. She loved cheesy treats. Everyone loved how smart she was. They would give her treats as a reward.
That’s probably why she eventually grew a big butt.
Her smartness got her fat. She was very sensitive about her keister, though. If you talked about it, she knew you were talking about it.
One night we had a few people come over to our house, and when they came in the door they all crowded in the hallway, saying hello and taking off their coats. Tonto was there, trying to get through everybody congregating there. She was trying to get to me. I was her human among all those other humans.
She couldn’t get to me fast enough, so she thought, “I’ll just sneak underneath this side table.” She got low and got between the legs of the table, but then her butt got stuck between the legs, and when she kept going, the table went with her. She got nervous when she realized what she thought was happening, She thought the table was following her.
I told her, “Oh, Tonto, your butt is stuck!” She was so embarrassed She put her paw out. She looked up at me. She knew we were all talking about her big fat heinie.
“Oh, it’s OK,” I told her.
Sometimes she was OK with it. Sometimes she didn’t care. Sometimes she would even shake her milkshake machine.
That butt was awesome.
Click here to see more writing between fiction and non-fiction by Ed Staskus.