Sunday, December 18, 2011

Poker Folds, Smokey Fuels the Fire: Excerpt from Follow the Dog Home

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

“The woman grabbed her son by the ear and started hitting him
on the back of the head with her purse,” Boots remembers
with a laugh. “She was whacking him all the way down
the street.”

That boy didn’t dare tease Dicky again. Recently my
son Kevin, ever the reporter, put the squeeze on me for
more information. “So who was the kid that Uncle Dick

“I’m not telling,” I told him.

In addition to feeding Poker, I also tried to take on
his grooming requirements too. Cutting a Cocker’s coat
is no easy task. I tried and tried and tried. I’m not sure
how handsome he looked when I was done with him, but
his hair was definitely shorter. I don’t think he was into
appearances anyway.

As blessed as we were to have Poker, he was not blessed
with longevity. He lived to be just six years old. He fell ill
one day in 1953, and Dad took him away. About a
hour later we heard Dad’s car pull into the driveway. I
walked over to the dining room window and looked
outside. Dad was sitting in front of the steering wheel
cupping his forehead with his hand. He sat there for a
few minutes, squeezing his thumb and fingers together
as if to rub out a headache. I just stared out the window
wondering what was taking him so long to get out.

“What’s your father doing?” my mom asked, seeing me
from across the room.

“I don’t know,” I told her.

Almost as soon as I said that I saw my dad reaching
for something in the front passenger seat. I thought he
was reaching for Poker, but the back of the front seat was
too high to see down to the seat itself. When he got out of
the car, he had Poker’s leash and collar in his right hand,
but no dog. He walked up the steps slowly, opened the
door, and came inside.

He took his long overcoat off even slower, while still
holding the dog’s leash and collar. He got stuck in the sleeves,
but eventually wiggled his way out. There was a growing sense
of unease that we all felt.
In a tossing motion, Dad’s keys landed on a small table
by the kitchen with a thud and a jingle. We could hear his
footsteps on the hardwood as he walked toward the front
room where we had all gathered.

When he got to the front room, he looked at us kids and my mother
and then down at his hands, which held the dog’s essentials. He looked
so sad. Finally he looked up and simply said, “Poker died.”

Nobody said a word. It was clear Dad was upset and
any questions would only make him feel worse.

“I think Dad took Poker’s death especially hard because it was the
first dog that was truly his,” my sister remembers.

I just remember feeling really sad too. I was sad for my
dad and sad for me. Little did I know a few years later
that Dad and I would share another loss and connect on a
deeper level. History would repeat itself thirty-four years
later, only this time with me as a father and my son Kevin.

Oh yeah, one other thing about Poker. Not even an
hour or so after Poker’s death, Smokey the Cat made a
visit to our house. He sat on a table in our backyard with
the confidence of a cock in a henhouse. He knew Poker
was dead and had the audacity to rub it in. I never did like
that cat.

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