In 1978, we lived in an old two story house on the edge of town. All my friends lived in the new part of town, I lived by a junkyard. Looking back on it now, my brother and I had a lot of fun in that old house. But, being just a kid, I wanted to live in a new house like my friends, be the same as them.
Since we were on the outskirts of a small town and next door to a junkyard style business, we saw a lot of stray dogs. I didn’t know people “dumped” animals. I thought all of these strays were naturally attracted to junkyards and our house. I also knew the man next door fed them until they disappeared.
It never occurred to me to even ask or wonder what happened to them.
One time, I saw a worker accidentally run over one of the dogs at the junkyard. As I watched him get out of his truck, he yelled at my brother Luke and me to go inside our house. We did as we were told, but I still can remember the thunderous sound of the the gun shot from outside. After that, my parents forbade us from going over to the junkyard for the rest of the time we lived next door.
It had to have happened in the middle of summer. It was hotter than Hades. South central Texas gets that way during late summer. He just walked right up to me, looked me straight in the eye and barked. My Mother insisted we did not need another animal, we already had three cats.
But this guy was different, we loved him at first sight. He had some kind of weird blue/grey fur with a giant long tail and a big dopey grin. All my brother and I had to do was tell my Dad when he got home from work that this poor dog was homeless. “We’ll take care of him” we begged.
Dad said as long as we could think of a name right then and there, we could keep him. “Well,” I said, “he keeps rolling around in the dirt like an elephant trying to cool off. Maybe he’s a very hot dog?” Yes, that’s it! His name will be Hotdog.
And so Hotdog became the newest member of our clan.
Good ole Hotdog never asked for much. He got all the kitchen scraps plus dog food. Everywhere we rode our bikes, Hotdog was right there with us. He never once chewed up any of our kitties or pesky squirrels, that I know of anyway. He was a good dog.
One day, Hotdog was no where to be found. After several days of my Dad driving around the neighborhood looking for him, Hotdog shows back up dragging his front leg. Our Buddy had been hit by a car. Hotdog has a brief stay at the Vet and then he is able to come home.
Before Dad gets home with our friend, my Mother warns us not to get too rowdy with him and to let the dog have time to heal. My Dad pulls up to the house, opens the backseat car door and out jumps this huge blue/grey ball of fur, hurling itself towards my brother and me. Hotdog is running full speed on three legs.
How is he holding himself up?
This is only one of many questions about Hotdog my parents had to answer that day. Our Hotdog was an old man dog, my Dad said he knew this because he had white whiskers around his mouth. But it wasn’t long after, we didn’t notice his old man whiskers or the fact that he was running around on three legs. Hotdog wasn’t the same as other dogs anymore and strangely I’m secretly glad.
The days turn into weeks to months, then all four season have come and gone again.
Hotdog started acting sick one day. When he didn’t seem to perk up, my Dad took him back to the town Vet. Bad news. Hotdog was diagnosed with heart worms. The Vet made it clear that Hotdog was suffering and recommended the worst.
I don’t remember telling him goodbye. Was I such a busy little kid that I don’t recall giving one last hug to my dying dog? Did it all happen so fast that there was no reaction time? Three days later, Jesus comes home.
I walk outside to play and guess who is just sitting there on his hunches giving me a big ole dopey grin? Hotdog’s home I start screaming. Everyone came outside to see Hotdog and celebrate. My Dad had the strangest smirk on his face.
Hotdog had beaten the death sentence the Vet had convicted him of.
Apparently there had been a mutiny of sorts at the veterinarian clinic and several death row dogs had made their escape. I’d like to think it was Hotdog that pulled off the Mission Impossible and busted out of there, taking his convict friends with him. I knew he was special, I knew he wasn’t like other dogs. But what now?
My Dad had the real story. There was a “containment breech” at the Vet’s office and they called my parents. Hotdog was found roaming around town with some of his buddies. But Dad wouldn’t take him back to the Vet’s. He brought him home and declared Hotdog could decide his own future.
After a few weeks, Hotdog disappeared for good. Despite our efforts to locate Hotdog, we never saw him again. As I reminisce about my funny, dopey grinning dog, I knew it was meant to end this way. I’m glad I’m not the same as my friends because I got to live in a giant old house on the outskirts of town, next to a junkyard with a three legged pooch named Hotdog.