Excerpt from Follow the Dog Home Book
as told by Bob Walsh:
Summer came and Dick and I were sent to Durham,
New Hampshire, for an extended stay with my Uncle
John and Aunt Vera Neville at the University of New
Hampshire. My mother and older siblings spent the
summer in Little Creek, Virginia, where my father had
been transferred to be the first Executive Officer of the
new Amphibious Training Station.
Dick (left) with Bob
When summer was over, minus Dad, the family
reunited. We lived for a year in a rented home in
Edgewood, Rhode Island, before moving on to a house
mom bought on Cornell Avenue in the Gaspee Plateau
section of Warwick, Rhode Island.
It’s hard to keep track of it all. Were it not for my older
sister Boots, I probably couldn’t tell you much about the
early life we lived. By any measure, it was a vagabond life.
We were moving all the time.
By the time the summer of 1943 rolled in, we were badly
in need of a vacation. As much as the war was pulling us
apart, it actually helped pull us together for the course of
a couple of months. We unwound from the stress of life
with a summer-long family vacation to Cape Cod. Mom
called the Cape “heaven,” and with an opportunity that
really did seem heaven-sent, we lucked into a house rental
in charming Falmouth Heights.
We stayed at the Bristol family compound. The Bristols
were wealthy people who built a handful of homes for
their adult children on a compound. One of the families
had a father away at war and chose not to spend the
summer at the compound. That made the home available
to us. A summer on the Cape in one of the Bristol homes:
it really didn’t get much better than that.
Our home for the summer was a classic wood shake
Cape Cod–style home with four bedrooms. My mom had
her own room. So did Boots, and my older brother, Al.
I shared a room with Dick. That’s how it always was. As
twins, we shared everything. There was a green screened in
porch that sat a couple of feet above the ground. Dee
Dee spent a lot of time under that porch and would later
The Bristols were lovely people who made us feel very
welcome. They treated us like family and told us to use the
property however we wished. There was a tennis court.
My brother Al was an excellent player, but my sister
suggests he may have been more interested in who was
hanging around the court than in serve and volley. Betsy
Bristol was an attractive gal who caught Al’s attention.
We were not sure what became of it, and even if we were,
we probably wouldn’t tell.
When Al wasn’t flirting with Betsy, he and Boots were
diving off Falmouth Heights Pier and swimming a grand
distance over to the main beach. Dick and I would catch
up with them later on the sand. Mom just sat in her chair,
watching us and relaxing in the warm sun. Back at the
compound Dee Dee was romping in a salt marsh, raising
more hell digging for the crabs and clams than a heron
ever could. Unfortunately, she found another place to dig.
Underneath the porch, Dee Dee found the home of a
burrowing animal. Determined to get a better look at what
was living in the underground den, Dee Dee made it her
mission to dig the existing hole deeper and wider. After a
furious spurt of energy that sprayed a rooster tail of dirt, a
tail of another kind lifted and sprayed something else.
“OOOOwwwwwwwwwwww!” came the awful sound
of Dee Dee’s dog voice.
It was more of a cry than a bark, and it was clear she
was in trouble. We heard her cries for help and rushed
to the door. Dee Dee came trudging up the steps of the
porch with her ears peeled back, her head down, and her
tail between her legs. She had yellowish spots all about her
face, in the corners of her eyes, and extending down her
back. Her eyes were watering and her nose was running.
And the smell, THE SMELL, was unmistakably the
pungent smell of skunk musk.
“Oh, I remember it well,” Boots says, “poor Dee Dee
was so embarrassed. How bad did it smell? You know
how bad it is when you smell a skunk that’s been hit by a
car? I would say it’s easily five times as bad.”
If your dog has never been sprayed by a skunk, consider
yourself among the fortunate. The cleanup is among the
dirtiest jobs you could ever have. The smell goes without
saying. But it’s more than that. The vapors from the musk
irritate your eyes and throat too.
Mom acted fast. She got in the car, drove to the country
store and bought out the store’s supply of tomato juice.
She came back and filled up a tin washtub. She lifted Dee
Dee into the tub, trying to stay calm so the dog would too.
Dee Dee totally submitted. With a towel, Mom dabbed at
the oily dots of musk sitting on top of the dog’s fur. She
was careful not to press too hard and move her hand in a
windshield wiper motion, as that would only press the oil
deeper into the coat and make the smell last longer. One
cleaning wasn’t enough. Neither was a second. After the
third scrubbing, we thought we had the smell wiped out.
Feeling better about ourselves and Dee Dee, we dumped
what was left in the washtub down by the marsh. Dee Dee
followed us down for a look. When we came back to the
house and bounded back up the steps and into the house,
Dee Dee stopped dead in her tracks at the door.
“Come on, Dee Dee. Come on in,” my mom called as
we went back into the house.
Dee Dee wouldn’t budge. We didn’t understand. Dee
Dee always wanted to be with us and would go to great
lengths to do it. Then we figured it out. Our imperfect
human noses couldn’t smell what she did. She still smelled
herself and was too embarrassed to come inside. We tried
to drag her in by the collar, but she dug her claws into
the wood floor. She would stay outside on the porch for a
week. And then on the eighth day, she came walking right
in as if nothing happened. It took that long for the most
sensitive of noses to know the stench was gone.
*Dee Dee's nose would lead to even more danger. Read about it in the next excerpt of Follow the Dog Home.