Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's not Poison, It's Polio: Excerpt from Follow the Dog Home

Excerpt from Follow the Dog Home book as told by Bob Walsh:

Yes we moved again, but this time it was a move that
brought us all together once more. In early 1945, Dad
came home from Hawaii. He had been gone a total of
almost three years. Housing was available to us on base in
Portsmouth, Virginia, at the Naval Shipyard.
The mood on base was cautiously optimistic. By late
July and early August the war was coming to a head. For
six months the United States had made use of intense
strategic fire-bombing of sixty-seven Japanese cities. Plenty
of people wondered whether the war might soon

While military wives had those conversations over
coffee, Dick and I focused on what mattered most to us—
getting ourselves into that big swimming pool on base as
often as we could.

Dick (left) and Bob Walsh

Suddenly, Dick fell ill. He had what in today’s world
we’d generally classify as flu-like symptoms—fever,
abdominal pain, joint inflammation, and a stiff neck. At
first doctors thought it was Cat Scratch Fever, but polio
was prevalent at the time and it was impossible not to
think about who and where it might strike next.
Shortly after the atomic bombs were dropped on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese surrendered on
August 15, 1945. Victory over Japan Day, or V-J Day,
sparked instant parties all around us. But we didn’t feel
like celebrating. That same day, five-year-old Dick was
diagnosed with a severe case of polio. The news was

Soon after Dick’s diagnosis, the family split up again.
In the fall of 1945, my parents took Dick to the Roosevelt
Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation in Georgia
where he would be treated for a year with hundreds of other children.

My brother Al and sister Boots went back to Providence to live with Momma
and Poppa Mac on Benefit Street. I went to live with my
father’s folks in Jamaica Plain, not far from the Forest
Hills T-stop.
People ask me the typical twin questions about whether
I felt a part of me was lost, or guilty that my twin was ill
instead of me. I honestly can’t say I did to either question,
or I just wasn’t old enough to understand those feelings.
But I do know this, I missed my brother. He was my
best friend. I never had to look for someone to play with
because Dick was always there and ready to play too.
Polio took all that and him away.

It was my second big loss
in a relatively short amount of time. First Dee Dee, and
now Dick was undergoing treatment for a long stretch.

*In the next excerpt, meet the new family dog who could read
and matched Dee Dee's appetite for exploration.

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