Remember the song, Old Shep sung by Red Foley? When I hear it, I don’t just tear up; I bawl like a baby. The reason I cry is old Shep reminds me of my childhood dog. Here is a recording on youtube.
Rex was just a tiny ball of fur when he became a member of our family. He was the family dog, but to me, Rex was my dog. Poor Rex became a member in name only for a long time. My mother took an instant dislike to Rex and would not let him inside the house.
He was not allowed in the house even in the dead of winter! Our Step-Dad pleaded and finally got Poor Rex a place behind the stove in the worst cold nights.
We lived in one half of a big house in the little town of Dexter, Maine. The entrance to our mansion was situated in an alley between two stores. Its front faced the alley and the back of the stores. The back nearly touched the steep hill, on top of which the train traveled a couple times a day.
We used to think if you placed a penny on the track, it would derail the train, but it only flattened it quite thin. We never thought if it derailed the train, it would land on our house!
My Step-dad believed if you paid for your dog, it would be a good dog. The person giving the dog away had to accept a dollar.
Rex’s breed was, Dawg! He had Light Brown long wavy hair, big brown eyes, was tall and incredibly strong.
We begged to have him inside; we were sure he would freeze. Mom declared he had fur; and would not freeze. No amount of tears or begging by all of us moved her even a little bit! So out he stayed in the attached shed.
When Lloyd (step-dad) came home from working on the railroad and saw all our sad faces, he went to bat for us. Saying, “Now, Allie, look at their faces. Can’t we just have Rex in for a little while to warm up?” Wow! She relented and said, “He stays behind the stove; if he comes out he goes out.” So we got him in for several nights while it was below freezing. We were thrilled! If Mom had let us, we would have slept there with him.
Rex was with us for many years, and I remember so many wonderful things about him. He was so big that his back would scrape on the underside of the table on the very few times he was allowed in, probably when Mom wasn’t home.
Everyone loved him, and when we were in school, he traveled all over town. All the store merchants loved him and gave him scraps; he would come home with a bone nearly every day, which was a good thing as he only got table scraps.
He was a big friendly dog, and we never gave it a thought about him defending us. We kinda thought of him as “The Cowardly Lion like in the Wizard of Oz.” No matter, we loved him anyway. Mom would make my older brothers take me along to the swimming hole. They hated it, and I suspect me, too. There were no lifeguards or adults to watch us, and I couldn’t swim. My two brothers were not a lot older than me. They were supposed to take care of me! There were two places to go swimming, one was a beach, and the other was “the ole’ swimmin’ hole,” The boys always wanted to go to the latter, so they could dive off the rocks.
I remember the day the boys were diving in and having a great time; I was sitting on the ledge crying. They wouldn’t take me to the beach so I could swim. They finally had enough of my crying and told me, “Jump in, or we will throw you in!” They promised to save me if I couldn’t swim enough to get to the shallow place to climb out. I was getting up enough courage to jump when they pushed me in. I tread water, and dog paddled, crying for help! They yelled, “Sink or swim.” Panicked, I drank a lot of water, when out of nowhere, Rex came to my rescue, swimming to me so I could grab his tail and pull me to shore.
On the way to and from the lake, we had to go by the store that rented boats. Sometimes the mean dog would chase us all the way by his property. We were terrified, and the owner thought it was funny seeing us run for our lives. Rex usually ran ahead of us, but one day, when the dog came charging out barking and snarling, Rex growled and charged the dog. He put the dog back in his yard cowering, and he never came back out barking at us again. I swear Rex smiled and walked taller, and puffed his chest out as he marched us home.
I was 8 years old when I was admitted to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. After two boring weeks flat on my back, I was released. I missed many school days, but I had my buddy to play with and was happy. It snowed, and Mom allowed me to go out, “As long as I did not attempt to slide on my belly on a sled!” I put the sled rope in Rex’s mouth, he pulled me all around the yard for hours. He was my hero!
I remember the day Rex got hit by a car and crawled home. The Vet said there was nothing he could do for him. I wanted to be there holding him when he passed, but I was sent away; I know he knew I was close. I watched from a hiding place as the Vet gave him a shot, and Rex, my buddy, went to sleep forever.