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Wednesday, 01 December 2010

Dogs Back in the Good Old Days

By Terry Hamburg of boomer to you

I begged and begged and begged some more. My first choice, a Collie that looked like Lassie — the greatest dog star in history — was a no. Too big and sheds too much.


Second choice, a German Shepherd that looked like Rin Tin Tin, was also nixed —same reasons plus he might bite.

President Eisenhower had this strange-looking dog few had ever heard of called a Weimaraner. Dad called it a wisenheimer. I liked pit bulls. They were a popular choice for baby boomer kids and didn’t have a bad reputation then.

“How about a cute little Cocker Spaniel?” mom suggested. I didn’t want cute and they weren’t starring in any TV shows.

I ended up with Frisky, a blond cocker. Typical of her breed, she was sweet but high-strung meaning that a growl or snap could come out of nowhere. Frisky was a popular dog name at the time. There are about as many Friskys today as girls named Hazel.

Life was simpler back then. There were no boutique dogs. If a Labrador and Poodle got amorous, they had a mutt, not a $1200 pedigree Labradoodle.

My pet had an odd habit. After we accepted a stranger into the house, an agitated Frisky calmed down. But when the guest got up to go she grew hostile again, standing in front of the door and snarling her disapproval that someone might leave.

One day she took a good nip at a departing lady and broke her skin. Mom apologized profusely and assured her that Frisky was up to date on shots.

Oops. Her renewal was overdue and I was responsible. Frisky tested positive for the dreaded rabies. My doctor dad offered to give our victim free treatment and throw in a complementary tonsillitis for her son.

Once rabies symptoms actually appear, it could be time for your last will and testament. Immediate post-exposure treatment is effective. Now it consists of six simple shots in the arm over a one-month period. Then, the regimen was a scream-out-loud, long-needle injection stabbed into the abdomen daily for up to three weeks. Side effects included nausea and insomnia.

Dad wanted to put Frisky to sleep. “It’s either her or you,” he announced, “take your pick.”

I managed to save us both by promising to walk the bad girl twice a day and always pick up her surprisingly prodigious poop.

It was 40 years before I got another dog, a rescue Poodle. To rescue an animal in the 1950s meant you pulled it out of a raging river.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 12:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I love this story, and I share your sensibilities. I've had dogs for the last 35 years, and it's a little bemusing to see them become trendy.

But how could she--Frisky, that is--have tested positive for rabies? Don't they, still, have to kill the animal and examine its brain? Maybe your Mom and Dad wanted to teach you a lesson!

Wow! In my neighborhood Frisky would have been "put down" if she was rabid and pronto, too! Such was the fear of rabies in my day. That's funny about the Labradoodle. Interesting story! Thanks for sharing it.

Is this a true story? I agree with Mary. Back in those days the test to determine whether or not a dog or cat had rabies included having to kill them first!

From the author: Yes, my parents conspired to teach me a lesson. What did I know? And my dad was a doctor. I was telling the story from a kid's point of view.

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