Tuffy the Terrible
By Margie Bailey Rose
Lucky children have a special dog in their lives and ours was Tuffy. In spite of the name she was female, but in all other respects the name fit. She had more lives than a cat.
I constantly remind everyone within earshot that I don't like animals. I especially don't like dogs and cats because they are so foolish from centuries of domestication. Maybe the owners are foolish and the dogs and cats are the smart ones. Whatever the case, Tuffy had everyone's heart but #1's and mine.
She arrived at our house on my birthday– a gift from my current boyfriend. (That shows how well he didn't know me.) She was a tiny ball of silky-white fur with a tickly pink tongue. She constantly wiggled and licked hands and faces to the children's delight. Tuffy's mixed parentage probably included Samoyed, poodle, and cocker spaniel, and she hated being white. She tore up bags of barbecue briquettes and rolled in the black dust, she lay in oil spots under cars, and regularly swam in the swamp to stay filthy and stink like rotten eggs. I bathed her, the kids bathed her, and my– then boyfriend, soon-to-be husband– bathed her, but it was a lost cause.
There are so many Tuffy stories I don't know where to begin. She was hit by a truck (some say mail, some say milk) in front of our house and lay unmoving in the road. I thought, "Aha, she is dead." But I had to show sympathy in front of the children, so I said to them, "She is just knocked out. We'll make her a bed with an old blanket, and she will be fine by morning." I fully expected that she would be stiff as a board when morning came. I went out early to remove the body, and to my shock she was jumping around like nothing had happened and nudging her food dish to show that it needed filling. The kids said it was a miracle, and I was divine for knowing she would recover.
We had an ongoing battle over who (husband who acquired the dog, or me who reluctantly accepted the gift) should take the dog to be spayed. In the mean time there were several sets of puppies to be placed in new homes. Momma dog showed no sign of pregnancy until babies began arriving each time. These deliveries provided helpful education for the children and practice in stress-management for the adults. With outward calm I directed children to bring old towels and speak in low voices. Tuffy used giving birth as an opportunity for extra attention, and her calm gaze made fun of me for making a fuss over the births of my own children.
During one surprise puppy arrival I was not at home and the two older boys rose to the occasion. After one baby arrived and no others, they decided to give Tuffy a bath– since she was in her usual filthy state. They thought she should be clean to feed her baby, and as you probably guessed – babies two and three arrived in the tub. The boys saved the pups and got Tuffy out of the water. They tried to dry her as more and more babies arrived. When I got home from shopping there were eight new babies, and Tuffy was still half wet with soap on her back. I congratulated my children on their efforts at dog-midwifery and waited until they were asleep to properly wash and dry momma dog. Tuffy endured the second bath with patience and good humor– no doubt dreaming of a swim in the swamp.
Years went by and Tuffy developed arthritis in her back– probably from being hit by cars. The kids remind me that I backed over her once myself. She enjoyed making me get out of the car and yell, "Get out of the way!" every time I left the driveway. Tuffy always recovered to annoy me for another year. She ran in the canyons around our house in San Diego with #3, in spite of her stiffness, and one afternoon she didn't come home. My son felt terrible and looked for her day after day. I thought she finally met a rattlesnake she couldn't outsmart.
I was glad Tuffy was finally out of my life, but the children were very sad. One evening as I was reading our neighborhood paper, the thought came to me that it provided free space for lost and found pets. I quickly folded the paper and threw it in the bin by the fireplace. Tuffy had been missing for two weeks, and there was no reason to believe she was alive. I went about my evening chores with the folded paper nagging my conscience. By nine o'clock my will collapsed, and I dug the paper out of the bin. I turned to the back section and this ad jumped out at me:
Found: Older female white cocker/poodle mix. Very friendly. Found in Sierra Mesa area. We love her but can't keep her. Please call
My family was watching television in the library and I forced myself to open the door and give them the news. My husband was on the phone in a flash. The kids threw coats on over their pajamas and out the door they went. In a few minutes they were back carrying a fluffy, clean Tuffy with pink bows in her hair. She bounced in circles and even seemed glad to see me.
Maybe I was glad to see her too. I needed someone to yell at that didn't yell back.