A Dog Named Paranoid

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My family was known for adopting stray dogs and stray people. My mother was a very kind woman and couldn’t turn anyone away. Her three daughters bringing everyone and everything home didn’t help. My oldest sister had the same soft touch as my mother.

My sister was attending college in a nearby state and came home unexpectedly. She and her boyfriend had found a pitiful stray puppy. Of course, she brought him home. At least, she brought him home after she was nearly kicked out of college for keeping him in the dorm.

The puppy was in a pitiable state. He was losing his hair, he had huge sad brown eyes, and long black ears. Ann had named him Paranoid because he was afraid of everything. She was taking a course in psychology at the time and the name stuck.

Paranoid wasn’t in the house long until Mama was feeding him canned Alpo from a cup and he was sitting in her lap. Our Boston Terriers had always been spoiled rotten and this pitiful, cringing pup had landed in paradise. His sad, cringing demeanor made us want to help him all the more.

I must admit my daddy only tolerated Paranoid. Daddy put on a show of gruffness even with our Boston Terriers. This sad excuse for a canine didn’t impress him at all. However, Daddy also knew that with Mama and three dog-loving daughters, he was stuck.

When Monday came around, Mama took Paranoid to the vet. Our vet had treated our terriers over the years—handsome and healthy dogs—he just shook his head. “The kindest thing you could do for this puppy, Ma’am, is to put him to sleep. He’s got mange at the very least.”

“If I put him to sleep, I’ll have to put my oldest daughter to sleep, too! What can we do for him?” Mama responded.

Well, it turned out that Paranoid’s mange was treatable. My other sister and I bathed him every other day with special shampoo. He hated baths. We didn’t enjoy bathing him much either. He was a mixture of beagle and who knows what else, so he wasn’t tiny. If he grew into his feet, he would be a fair-sized dog.

Paranoid thrived with good food and attention. He still lived up to his name and was very timid. As he grew he looked better, but he was, as my daddy described, “a Heinz 57.” His coat was brown and black. He still had the sad brown eyes and long black ears. His chest was white and his paws were spotted. Plus, he had a long heavy black tail.

In his puppy stage, Par (pronounced pear), managed to chew up a Bible, a dictionary and my daddy’s dress shoes. Fortunately, we had back up books. Daddy kept his new dress shoes in his car.

Paranoid was quickly house-broken. He squatted to urinate on the floor when Mama was on the phone. She threw the phone-book at him and accidentally hit him. Par never had an accident in the house again.

He was a quick student and knew that Daddy’s teasing him when we were eating meant a treat. If he “talked back” to Daddy, as in barked on cue, he was given a treat. Daddy never admitted he liked Paranoid, but that wasn’t expected.

Par liked to ride in the back seat of the car when Mama went to town. He would sit up proudly in the backseat, as he had no idea that he was a mongrel, unlike the Boston Terrier beside him. Daddy called him “the Deacon” for his proud attitude.

He didn’t have the usual bark. He bayed like a hunting dog. Someone visiting once remarked that Paranoid would have made a good raccoon dog. Raccoons are hunted at night and the dog bays when he has the raccoon treed. The fellow didn’t understand Par’s continued timidity. He would have made a terrible hunting dog.

The funny thing was that Paranoid was a lot smarter than Winston, our remaining Boston Terrier. Boston Terriers are part bulldog and they love to fight. Once when Winston started a fight with a neighbor’s dogs, I could almost see Paranoid’s thought processes. He had no desire to fight, but he had to support Winston, so he waded in.

The interesting thing about Paranoid’s personality was that he was more like a cat in personality in some ways than a dog. His fearful personality from puppyhood wasn’t as apparent as an adult, but he was only friendly to family. He was never a fawning, licking sort of dog.

If you petted him, it was more like he was doing you a favor. Afterwards, he would shake himself and walk off like “I didn’t do that.” However, as he became more confident, he did have a sense of mischief. He was allowed to sleep on the den sofa which was tweed. It was dog-proof and child-proof.

However, he was not allowed to sleep on the living room couch. In a spirit of optimism, Mama bought a white couch with blue flowers for the living room. Neither children, nor dogs were supposed to go near it.

If I heard Daddy bellowing in the middle of the night, I knew that Paranoid had been caught on the living room couch. Usually, Daddy was calling Par things that I wasn’t allowed to repeat. The next night, the den door would be closed with Par inside and all was peaceful.

Paranoid lived a long, full life. He outlived my parents and lived with my grandmother. He quickly discovered that not eating dog food would cause Maw-Maw to feed him ground meat. He rode in Maw-Maw’s backseat quite as proudly as he had ridden in ours.

My sister and I had taken an apartment across town after my parents’ house was sold. We were afraid to keep Paranoid there because it was on a highway. Also, Maw-Maw’s house was only three blocks from my folks’ old house. This meant the area was familiar territory for Par.

Maw-Maw brought Paranoid to “visit” us in the apartment. He romped with us like he was young again he was so glad to see us. Later that week I heard a distinctive bay at the back door. After one visit, Paranoid had crossed town and found his way to us! He wasn’t young and we were so grateful he was o.k.

After that, we visited Paranoid and Maw-Maw frequently to prevent his taking the chance of visiting us again. I came home from college on the weekend to bathe Par. He wouldn’t let anybody but one of us bathe him. When my VW pulled up he would go running up the drive baying a welcome.

Paranoid lived to be over fifteen years old. I was away in college out-of-state when he died. However, Maw-Maw had accepted another one of our mongrels, Terri. Paranoid and Terri were fast companions. He ruled Maw-Maw until the end of his days and dined on ground meat more often than not. Not bad for a dog that began life as a stray puppy with mange.


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