Monday, June 13, 2011


We took our dogs, Ranger and Jack, to “Poochapalooza” on the 21st. Ranger, the Sheltie, was voted the second prettiest dog. Jack refused to be outdone. When the votes were tallied and verified Jack was certified as the ugliest dog in Emporia.

At first blush the title seems inappropriate, especially in these times of political correctness. But, Jack wanted me to reassure the good people of Emporia that he’s not in the least offended by the title. In fact, he wears it like a badge of honor. His ego isn’t bruised, nor has he developed the overblown sense of importance that contest winners often develop. Jack will continue to be just plain old Jack, begging for treats and keeping my leather chair warm for me. And, most important of all he wanted me to convey his thanks for the assorted treats he brought home. I haven’t tasted them, but he has, and they appear to be quite tasty.

As we left the fairgrounds we had quite a few people stop and congratulate Jack. They’d bend down to pat his head and say, “So this is the famous Jack” or “Atta’ boy, Jack.” In response, he’d wag his tail and snort a bit.

It’s been quite a journey. A short while ago Jack was on death’s doorstep. But, thanks to the loving care of Floyd Dorsey and his staff he made an amazing recovery. And, when an attempt was mounted to run him out of town, the good doc fired off a letter to the editor in his defense. With that and some vigorous support from the Gazette’s “notorious” bloggers he regained his dignity and his rightful place as just one of the boys here in town. Not bad for a guy who was inches away from the old bone yard.

For me, mornings have become a labor of love. Fixing breakfast for my buddy Jack takes a good fifteen or twenty minutes. There are pills to be cut and sprinkled and a couple of scoops of some kind of concoction to be mixed in with his food. Jack watches patiently while I go through the routine, knowing that at the end of the process he’ll be getting his second favorite thing in life – food. When everything is ready he follows me out to the back porch to wolf it down. He seems to delight in dining al fresco, which is about the only thing that gives a hint of refinement in his bones.

I say food is his second favorite because I’ve learned that Jack loves affection even more than he loves food. Food only comes a couple of times a day, but Jack thrives on endless love, affection, and kind words.

If Jack were a person he’d be a loveable blue collar curmudgeon. The exterior would be rough, but the interior would be pure gold. I think of him as a four-legged symbol for Emporia’s “everyman.” He’d work a forty hour week at minimum wage. On weekends you’d often find him occupying his favorite seat at the poker table, a cigar or a bone clenched in his teeth and his right paw wrapped around a stack of chips. He’d be the master of the bluff and the “All in.” For those trying to read his intentions, Jack would clench harder and growl, “You wanna’ see the hole card? Put your money in, Pal.”

When he wasn’t at the poker table, he’d be seen at the watering holes swapping tales of the old days at Fallujah, Khe Sanh, the high price of rocks, cost over-runs, exorbitant taxes, low paying jobs, and patriotic duty with the riff-raff. If he could, he’d be puffing on a cigar, but since decent folks have put the kibosh on that he’d have to find some way to content himself with not being able to enjoy one of a working man’s guilty pleasures. He’d grumble a bit and slap his pals on the back, snort “I love you guys,” and that would be it.

One thing’s certain. You’d never see Jack in the trendy places around town or glad handing politicians. Not only would he feel out of place weaving his way around the high and mighty, he’d find it down right depressing. If he ever got caught playing in that kind of traffic he’d sound more like John the Baptist than a social butterfly. He’d let folks know where he stood. When asked about what he thought he’d probably say, “You snakes…you vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

I don’t think that Jack is very worried about the call for tar and feathers that will almost certainly follow this essay. When you’ve won the brass ring at “Poochapalooza” you’ve reached the top. There’s nothing your detractors can say that will hurt you.

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