~ Bruce Wayne Sullivan ~

Mendenhall, MS

Man’s Best Friend

In 1970 my family moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Springfield, Missouri. I had just turned thirteen and I was lonely, not knowing anyone in my new home. Someone had given us a cocker poodle named Trixi just before we left Cleveland and she became my best friend.  She had long, black, curly hair that was soft to touch and she loved showering affection with her pink tongue across my face.

My parents purchased a two story home in a rural area where Trixi greeted me every day after school as if she had not seen me in years. She was a great watchdog, always barking at the sound of anyone coming close to our yard.

I was playing out in the front yard one day around dusk. My father was sitting on the front porch when Trixi announced a stranger walking slowly down the sidewalk. “Stay inside son,” my father told me, bringing me and the dog in and grabbing his pistol.  I watched through the curtain as my father hid behind the bushes, but the man didn’t return.  When my father eventually came back inside his face held an anxious look.

A few days later mother planned a movie and popcorn night for my brothers and me. It was a weekend night, so she let us stay up late. One of those Boris Karloff movies was on and we were all glued to the TV. My father was working late and my mother slouched in her chair with her .22 caliber pistol on the table next to her. Trixi dozed across my feet.

The scary movie made us all jittery, but I had tapered off to sleep when I heard the grandfather clock strike midnight. The stillness was shattered by Trixi growling and lunging from my feet and towards the kitchen door. The hinges squeaked as the door cracked open. Trixi advanced and in a moment had the intruder pinned to the door.  My mother leapt up with the gun drawn. I could see the white in the man’s eyes; a homicidal gaze. Trixi held her ground with a show of teeth as she whaled out barks.  Her claws bore down into the floor, her fur on alert.

My mother trained the pistol on the intruder as her voice propelled through the air, “Come on in mister. I’m ready for you!” Instead, he turned and ran out of the garage and through the backyard.

The next morning we awoke to a host of police cars congregated on the street adjacent to our back yard. The intruder, after having left our house, apparently broke into the couples’ house behind us and stabbed both of them to death. Trixi had saved our lives that night. She licked me with her warm pink tongue as if to say, “Why, this was nothing, it was my pleasure.”

The next year I had the opportunity to repay Trixi. She had become pregnant by one of the neighborhood dogs and one of the pups was stuck in her uterus. She crawled through the crawlspace underneath the house to die. I was not going to have it!

The crawlspace only yielded about six inches between the floor and ground. I eased in face down with just enough room to push myself. It seemed like it took over an hour to reach her. When I finally got close enough, I could see half of the dead pup hanging out by the legs.

Trixi seemed determined to die under that house. Every time I attempted to grab her leg she snapped at my hand. Finally I talked her into letting me drag her out and we made it to the veterinarian barely in time to save her life.  She had to stay a few days in the hospital.

A year later my father put in for another transfer which led us to Corinth, Mississippi. Our new house was seated on a busy street and it was difficult to keep Trixi safe from the traffic. One day while I was at school, Trixi caught sight of a cat in the yard across the street. She bolted out of our yard and was met with a speeding car that hit her head on.  

I came home to find my mother in tears at the front door. I watched through the curtain in the living room as my brother dropped Trixi’s body into the earth. I closed the curtain on her life and my world became watery again. We barely spoke of her in the years to come, but it wasn’t the spoken words, it was the unheard noise, the sounds emboldened by silence that spoke of our true love for Trixi.

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