Grandma’s Puppy Pal
One of a series of “Stories for My Great-Grandchildren”
Excerpt from “An Oklahoma Story – Growing Up on Polecat Hill”
By Ruby Beard Tuggle
Edited by Greg Bennette
Illustrated by Carol Bennette
[Fall 1931] About a year and a half after we were married, Paul came home from town, popped into the kitchen where I was working, and said, “We have our baby!” I clasped my hands over my bulging pregnant waistline and said, “What on earth are you talking about?”
He opened the door again and in bounced the friskiest pup I’d ever seen. We both laughed at once. He tilted his head at an angle which seemed to say, “Come on! Let’s have a little fun!” His name was Pal.
Grandma was a very proper lady barely five feet tall with tiny hands and feet and a slender waist. I doubt that she ever weighed much more than a hundred pounds. She was always properly groomed from the soles of her well-shod feet to the crown of her perfectly arranged hair. She used to say, “Cleanliness isn’t next to Godliness. Cleanliness is the more important!”
Paul was on Grandma’s list of favorites. That is, until she saw Pal! All the dogs and cats that Mama sometimes allowed in the house were pests to Grandma.
Mama might be working, singing happily, while a dog, a cat or two were lying under the kitchen stove. Suddenly all of them would bolt for the door. Their sharp ears had caught the click-click of Grandma’s high heels tripping down the hallway before Mama knew that Grandma was on her way to the kitchen. Mama would quickly open the door and if she and the pets were lucky the animals would be safely in the yard before Grandma got there.
Pal didn’t understand about Grandma. When she spotted him looking happily up at her, she pointed her finger at him and said, “Where did that thing come from?”
Pal thought she was reaching out to pet him. He leaped toward her outstretched arm. It wasn’t until she got the broom and started after him with it that he understood that she meant for him to head for the door.
Pal learned that it was wise to join the other dogs and cats when he heard Grandma coming toward the kitchen, but he never understood why any human who sat on the front porch would not welcome a friendly little dog for company.
If Grandma took her embroidery work outside to catch the summer breeze, Pal would join her, tail wagging, tongue lolling, and feet dancing. Grandma would slap her hands, give a kick in his direction, and expect him to leave. He didn’t get the message!
If she threw something at him he thought it was part of a game and would return the object to her. Poor Grandma could not hear our howls of laughter as we watched her futile attempts to discourage Pal. Finally, with a look of tender compassion toward Grandma, Mama would call Pal and put him in the house. Sometimes he escaped and made his way to Grandma’s chair where he curled up into a ball beneath it and kept watch without Grandma knowing he was there.
Pal could not resist rolling in any stinking thing he found on the farm. Horse manure and dead animals were his favorites. At such times, even Mama could not tolerate him and he was banished from the kitchen until someone gave him a bath. During these times, he particularly sought out Grandma’s company.
One day, Pal found an old bone almost as big if not bigger than he was. He dragged it home tugging and pulling at the stinking thing until he managed to proudly lay it at Grandma’s door.
When she saw Pal, she picked up her broom and started after him. She opened the door and saw, or smelled, the bone. Putting on an old pair of gloves she carefully picked it up and marched with it toward the barnyard.
Pal, happy that he had at last brought Grandma something that she liked, danced beside her as she tripped along in her high heeled shoes. When she reached the barnyard, she gave the bone a mighty fling, as far as she could send it.
With one bound Pal reached it, picked it up and with great gusto trotted toward the house. By the time Grandma got back to her door, there was the bone! Again, she carried it away, further this time than before.
But Pal was too quick for her and had the bone ready and waiting when she reached the porch. Paul took pity on Grandma, built a bonfire and burned the bone, much to Pal’s dismay.
When we moved, we didn’t take Pal with us. Each time we came home for a visit Grandma would ask, “When are you going to take that thing home with you? He’s your dog!”