I have owned several dogs over the years, and I loved them all, never finding any real behavioral faults to complain about. That was except for one, Worthless. He literally gushed over with faults, leaving no room whatsoever for any quality traits. He somehow seemed to find great satisfaction in devising ways to irritate everyone in our family. But, damn, I probably loved that mongrel more than all the other pets put together.
I was ten when he was given to me as a pup. Because he looked as though he had Labrador Retriever bloodlines I believed he would make a good hunting dog. But once he filled out to the size of his ears and feet, his bloodline took on all the characteristics of every breed of dog in the world, not to mention a couple other animals, all thrown in a food blender. He was not a handsome animal by any stretch of the imagination. And as he grew so did his faults. That was how he got his name. When he was a pup I know I gave him a name quite dignified. But somewhere along the way he was called worthless by every family member so often we somehow forgot his original name. And he seemed to take pride in his new name. He certainly would come running, if it was in his best interest to do so, when that name was used. And, of course, did his utmost to uphold the title.
Somewhere in his first months I began my valiant yet futile attempts at training him basic commands. It was not a pretty sight. His pea brain came equipped with some kind of filter that only allowed certain words in, and translated the rest to meanings more complimentary to his personality. Heel was translated as, “I’ll stay somewhat in the immediate vicinity until a cat, squirrel, chipmunk, or any other species smaller than him is sighted. Then the neighborhood immediately transformed into total chaos. Once turned loose, we were not the “neighbor of the month” in a twelve block radius. Though I’m sure Worthless took immense pride in it, this may have been the partial reason why we uprooted and moved to the country. But that is only a guess, not daring to ask at the time. And, luckily, my parents never offered the alternative. Looking back, I would like to believe they had somehow grown attached to the mongrel as much as myself. Of course, that may have been a stretch.
My main objective was to teach him the art of bird hunting. I would throw a rubber duck and yell, “Retrieve!” He did a fine job of retrieving, but then would gallop off to the other end of the yard where he tore the hapless plastic duck to shreds. Okay, check off duck hunting unless the family cares to have a dinner of Duck Hash. Next came pheasant and grouse.
With shotgun poised I would give the command, “Go get the birds!” And off he would go.
On the first hunt I became almost giddy with excitement when I saw him suddenly freeze and go to a somewhat pointing position. I raised my shotgun waiting for him to flush the bird. But then it became painfully clear he was just taking a dump.
I found he did do a fine job of flushing. But his idea of flushing was anything that happened to be in his path. If it was a pheasant or grouse, it was totally by hap-instance, not to mention the flushing being done a mile or more away. As I heard the last distant howl I always whispered the same word, “Worthless.”
Worthless took great pride in bringing road kill to our porch. He made a valiant attempt to fool us into believing he actually stalked the woods and overtook the prey. But when the door was opened, the repulsive odor would roll into the house like the plagues of Egypt. And yet there would be Worthless proudly sitting before his conquest, while the rest of us were on the ragged edge of vomiting. And on two occasions he proudly brought home the sensual evidence of his meetings with skunks. With tongue gaily flapping, he obviously took great pride in sharing those encounters with the rest of us.
Every time, and I mean every time I see a video of some dog licking its owner’s face, I think of Worthless, and, more graphically, what he had eaten. I’m sorry, it has to be said. This animal had eaten its own excrement’s, not to mention those of whose origin we didn’t remotely know. So, in turn, he had the breath that could gag a vulture. No, Worthless never, ever licked mine, or anyone’s face in our family!
Deep into the winter months when the temperature was doing a tap dance on zero, my parents, against their better judgment, would allow Worthless to come in the house. Needless to say, he was more than happy to take them up on the offer. That is not to say he also agreed to leave at the doorstep his obnoxious behaviors. As the entire family sat in the living room watching our favorite show, mom bolted to attention. “Oh my God!” she suddenly burst, her face convulsing.
Of course we all looked from the television as the stench invaded the room. “It wasn’t me!” my sister screamed. “Not me!” my other pleaded. I then looked down to Worthless. He gave me a reassuring blink. “Sniff all you want, guys. There’s plenty for everyone.” That was Worthless.
To Worthless the whole world was his personal restroom. It could be a bush, a tire, and, on embarrassing occasions, a mailman’s leg. Worthless was not a respecter of individuals. He treated all as equals. And on occasion enjoyed a good hump on someone’s leg. Because of one unexpected showing of effection, I can still remember that grandma refused to visit unless Worthless was safely locked in the back yard. And, even then, she apprehensively looked around once entering our home. Of course, in Worthless’ defense, my father sent mixed messages, in that one moment he would be scolding him, and yet the next he’d find great entertainment in watching Worthless joyously ride the leg of a door-to-door salesman as he frantically attempted to flee the premises.
When I grew into an adult and married I moved to the city. So it was decided that Worthless should remain in his country home.. Of course I visited him and my parents quite frequently. But somewhere in his eighteenth year, ole’ Worthless passed away. One good passing of gas for all to remember and he was gone.
When I was given my next dog, I found myself embarrassingly attempting to teach him Worthless’ bad traits. “I said heel! What are you doing sitting beside me!” It was futile. From then on I would have to settle for well-mannered pets. There has to be another Worthless out there somewhere!