Talking Pets: Lessons from a dog named Bo Diddley

July 19, 2013 

When I was 7 or 8 years old, we had a dog named Bo Diddley.

He was a Florida Brown Dog, but I always thought he was part hound. He had that hound face.

I don't remember much about him, because we didn't have him very long. A few weeks, maybe a month, tops.

Bo was the only dog we had when I was a kid that was so wild my mom -- a woman who loved dogs and had always had dogs in her life -- could not handle him.

This was a woman who used to tell me sto

ries about dogs, years and years after they had passed on.

This was a woman who would let me take a puppy along with us Christmas shopping at Monkey Ward's, riding in my pocket.

This was a woman who used to cook chicken legs just for dogs, and who would share her tuna sandwich with them.

But Bo Diddley -- all maybe 25 pounds of him -- got the better of her.

He would swing on the clothes on the clothesline. He would rifle through the garbage and scatter it in the back yard. He would dig holes. Big ones.

He could also run like a greyhound. One time he went streaking through the house and ran under an end table that had a bottom shelf. And when he came charging out the other side he streaked off with a basket full of silk flowers around his neck.

I thought it was hilarious ... but my mom did not. So she said he had to go, and just like that, he was gone.

I thought about Bo Diddley recently because I have a dog that reminds me of him.

Arlo is a Florida Brown Dog, but I'm pretty sure he's part hound. He has that hound face.

He can run like a greyhound, and leap a 6-foot fence to boot. He's not much of a chewer, but what he lacks in chewing ability he more than makes up for in the squirrel-chasing department.

I think I've mentioned before that he's an absolute brat at the vet's office. And we had to go again last week. So it was time to come up with a plan.

The day before the appointment, I went to PetSmart and got him a muzzle. I figured that would control his barking -- at least I was hoping it would.

I got the size for his weight and breed (a 25- to 35-pound hound) and confidently took it home and tried it on him.

It didn't fit. Rats.

That meant I would have to go by PetSmart on the way to the vet's, and that Arlo would have to go in with me. I will not leave dogs in a car, even for five minutes, and besides, I needed to try the darn thing on him to make sure it fit.

I was hoping he would behave himself, seeing as we were going to a totally new place, but noooooo.

He was a brat. He barked, he whined, he "spun his wheels" on the vinyl floor.

I was just glad the muzzles were close to the front of the store.

We got to the aisle and I quickly grabbed the next size muzzle to try on him. He was still barking and spinning when a woman with a Yorkie came around the corner.

Even though Arlo was not looking the least bit friendly, she let out the leash and let the little furball come toward us!

I secured my wild child and said to her: "Uh ... just so you know ... he doesn't like small dogs." Right then he started growling at what surely he thought was some kind of weird squirrel, and the woman reeled in her furball and scurried off.

We exchanged the muzzle and set off for the car, barking and spinning. Once I got him in the back seat, I got in beside him and outfitted him in his dandy new muzzle.

He looked pretty pathetic, but was being so quiet, I gave him a hug and told him, "Thank you for not peeing on the floor in the store."

The vet visit went a little better, but not much. Arlo didn't bark, but he could still whine, so now he was whining and spinning and I took him outside to walk around.

When we got into the exam room, we had to wait some more. Waiting, whining and spinning. Everything seems to take longer when you're whining and spinning.

The "pill pockets" the vet tech gave me to placate him helped some, but nothing lasts forever, you know.

To make a long story short, I was a mess by the time we got out of there. And to top it all off, Arlo had managed to scratch my arm and it was a bloody mess, too.

On the way home, the memory of Bo Diddley popped into my head, and I found myself talking to my mom.

"I understand now," I said through the tears. "I can see why you said Bo Diddley had to go."

But then I looked in the rear-view mirror at Arlo, happy to be unmuzzled and grinning like a goofy pit bull.

I got him home, and Ella was so happy so see him she smothered him with kisses.

We all laid down for a much-needed rest, and he snuggled up next to me and put his head on my shoulder.

It's mighty hard to stay mad at such a love bug, so I banished Bo Diddley to the past.

My mom may have let a dog get the better of her, but I'm not about to. That was then and this is now, when we have more options and resources to help us keep our pets.

So I told Arlo: "I love you and I'm going to help you be a better dog. I'm going to check into training classes and together we're going to work on some things, OK?"

He let out a big sigh.

And so did I.

M.K. Means, Herald copy editor, can be reached at 941-745-7054 or on Twitter @BradentonPets.

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