I understand that there are many people who love their dogs who are considered part of their family. I, too, have seen Lassie on TV barking his message and leading his master to children trapped in burning barns, thus saving their lives. But no dogs in our family have ever barked such a message. Some of our dogs, however, have been surly to the mailman, refused to go outside in cold winter weather, chewed pillows, venetian blinds, and wooden furniture and run off for days in search of adventure. These behaviors have made me suspect that Lassie was a hoax designed to entice children to beg for a dog, making it more difficult for parents to refuse the request. And . . . while it may be unlikely, what if the garage caught on fire ?
One of the many troublesome experiences I’ve had with one of our dogs occurred five minutes before I was scheduled to interview a potential faculty member. At that time, my wife Mary called to tell me that Chumley had somehow “escaped.” She reminded me that this was to be a highly anticipated day off from work for her and so far it was something much less than that. Her voice sounded annoyed as she told me she had unsuccessfully spent the better part of the day looking for Chumley and had given up. Further, she added that I had her permission to start searching, if I thought it important to find this dog, whose sole purpose in life seemed to be to make our lives difficult.
For our children, who loved Chumley, I knew I would go looking. The candidate understood my situation and asked me if our dog was a brown and white Beagle. Surprised, I said, “yes.” She described how she had just returned from the Student Center where a Beagle was running around in the cafeteria, skillfully evading the janitor who was chasing him, much to the delight of those eating lunch.
My office, two miles from home, was across the street from the Student Center. The cafeteria was calm as I entered. I asked a student, who was picking up dishes, if he had seen a dog in the area. A young girl – about ten years old – overheard our conversation and told me that the dog had exited through an open door. She had seen the dog earlier when he had almost been hit by a car. “I saved him by running into the street so the driver would stop,” she said. I thanked her, but thought that perhaps her mother should give her a safety lesson. When I indicated that I was going outside to look for Chumley, she asked her mother for permission to come with me. Surprisingly, her mother said “yes.”
Once outside, the child began running up the block behind houses, climbing over fences when necessary. She told me to follow her, which I did. So here I was, a man in a suit running about 40 feet behind a young female child who looked as if she were running away from me. Not only was I out of breath, but I began to realize that anyone watching us would be apt to misinterpret the situation and call the police. As the child climbed over another fence, she shouted back to me, “keep coming.” I not only thought I’d have trouble hurdling another fence, but knew I had to change the situation. I thought quickly and said that I’d go to the front yards and she could continue searching the back yards. After two or three blocks, I came upon her holding a totally exhausted dog – Chumley!
Our Beagle was unable to muster the energy to walk, so I picked him up and began walking to the parking lot. A woman, likely another faculty member, shouted out to me, “Most people walk their dogs.” I neither laughed, smiled, nor looked at her.
Once home, I set Chumley on his bed, kissed my wife, and drove back to work. On the way if occurred to me that Chumley lived on Holmes Place and had gone to the Holmes Student Center. Further, the cafeteria was called the Pow Wow Room. Chumley just misread the sign as the Bow Wow Room. We’d underestimated our dog. He was a genius! Move over Lassie. Sure, you can bark simple messages but Chumley is a reader. He even found his way to college!
By Jim Andrews