Major arrived in our home already bearing his name. I suppose the people who had owned and named him realized he was a Major troublemaker, a Major nuisance and a Major escape artist. I cannot tell you, all these many years later, why we chose him from the large selection at the pound but we knew immediately it was a Major mistake.
Just, for example, we asked the attendant at the pound whether this particular dog liked to ride in cars since, in those days of the mid 1970s, we still traveled weekly during the summer months to our Parksville NY kuch alein and our station wagon was always packed with four kids and their assorted accouterments, in addition to the now senior citizen mutt Gringo, who had disgraced herself by sleeping through a burglary. The attendant told us that Major loved cars. That part was entirely true. But, what he neglected to tell us, and admittedly we never asked, was that Major yearned to drive the car. And more than merely yearning, he would manage, from his perch in the part of the car where luggage was stowed, to leap over every obstacle (such as our children) onto the driver’s lap. This was, to state the obvious, downright dangerous, especially since The Major, as we liked to refer to him, was quite a big guy, and far from graceful. To prove this passing point, it was The Major who broke my husband’s ribs on not one, but two, occasions when the tired man, returning from doing business abroad, was greeted much more enthusiastically by the dog than by his wife and children.
Thus, not being the types of people who returned dogs for bad behavior, we embarked on a campaign of figuring out how to keep Major where he belonged. This was easier said than done. My husband is an engineer and he likes to build things too. Who better to create a doggy restraint than him? And so one invention melded into the next and whatever we tried didn’t work, for months on end. We finally figured out that unless we were going away for overnight Major would not join us. He would stay home alone. One of our friends suggested we give him driving lessons. That sounded funny until you embarked on a long trip with your four precious children in the car and a dog behind the wheel. And so it went until the following summer when the battles resumed.
Alas, leaving Major home alone was also not so simple. Gringo had already left us one memorable day when I was still in bed and my husband climbed the stairs and spouted the now-famous words, “I think Gringo is dead.” I bolted upright, demanding, “What do you mean, you think?” He claimed that “Rigor mortis had set in.” This was pretty conclusive and so we mourned her loss but the truth is she had 15 years of a great life and just how many of her colleagues had spent their last year on Earth traveling to Israel and back. Certainly not very many.
So we were left with one dog who proved to be a very very bad boy! He had not learned from Gringo that being left home for a few hours was not a punishment or a reward. We knew that Gringo’s worst offense was finding a bed or couch and sleeping endlessly until we returned. This was just not Major’s style. Oh no! He needed to figure out where we had gone and the only way to do that was to open the door. His paws were just not up to that. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t do it. But he was making a big mess in the attempted breakout. Wood chips all over. A door frame hopelessly damaged. He could tell we would know and we would not be happy with his leisure activities.
And yes we would know! Our first clue would be his guilty look. Whenever he did something particularly grievous he had this little shtick of snorting, picking his doggy lips up and making a very inhuman sound. When that face greeted us it was merely a matter of moments until we found the scene of the crime. From there it would be profuse apologies from Major accompanied by promises never to do the dastardly deed again. Any onlooker could figure out the contents of these discussions. The guilty look was always accompanied by a tail between the legs and slinking away in his embarrassment. Of course, these were entirely phony apologies since, as soon as we disappeared again, there would be more criminal activity. This dog just loved to make mischief, even at high risk. He didn’t always succeed but he just kept on practicing.
We started to put him in the basement when we left the house. It wasn’t a fate worse than death. He had a nice cozy quilt down there, always freshwater, and lots of space. In that way he was well protected and so was our house.
And so one day we came home and there was Major, guilty look and all. My husband and I each insisted that we were certain he was in the basement when we had left. So, how could this be? After recriminations and Major thinking, “I got them this time,” we headed towards the basement. There, in the wall, was a huge dog-sized hole. Escape route found! Dog, expecting perhaps congratulations and praise, lingered, until he quickly realized he really exceeded expectations this time. Guilty look returns as dog slinks yet again while owners try to figure out how to deal with him. Yet again!
And then there were the innumerable chase scenes. He would often figure out some ingenious way of escaping our fenced yard and depart for dates with his lady friends. Not all of our neighbors looked forward to welcoming puppies resembling Major, but, more alarming, was his total disdain and rejection of the dangers of moving vehicles. I once captured him by driving my car onto his leash. It was a major (Major) miracle that he was never injured by a car or truck.
Adventures with Major continued through the years. And when he finally joined Gringo in doggy heaven, we, as is typical, affectionately recalled his many wonderful and lovable qualities. For example, Major never growled at anyone. He loved each and every one of us as well as our friends, extended family and even the mailman. Everyone was his friend. Despite my qvetching he was lovable, adorable and never boring.
And although he never learned to drive, my husband finally learned how to restrain him in the car. We used to call him a “good puppy” and, even though he usually wasn’t, he was ours and he added excitement to our lives………maybe sometimes too much…….but he had a personality that still gives me a warm feeling almost half a century later.