by Robert Adcox
Most people love adventure, and they love dogs. That’s going to come in handy in about a hundred words or so from now. I say that because when I was a teen I had a Boxer. This wonderful breed is typified by an overwhelming sense of adventure and is driven by impulses best understood by kids. Anyone who has ever had a Boxer or known one understands this all too well. My dog and I shared an overwhelming desire to experience life at its fullest. Sometimes this manifested in a good wrestle. Other times it involved his tunneling out from under the fence surrounding his dog run and terrorizing the neighborhood, judging from Mrs. Kusack’s phone call regarding her once-proud azaleas now strewn across her back yard or multiple trash cans tipped over along the curbs of Charring Cross Drive.
Mind you, one can’t forget shirts pulled gleefully off of clotheslines -decorated with highly suspicious pawprints- and redeposited by the Jennings’s back door. Duke’s character (his name is changed to protect his identity) was one of “live for today and live it well.” Rarely a day went by that he didn’t do something unique due to his hilarious personality. (He learned to nibble the lowest-lying apples on the tree in the back yard and leave the cores still hanging!) The dog, by the way, was a natural-born offensive lineman. Twice in one night he managed to chop-block dad while galloping full speed through the house.
Other adventures were a little more destructive. Not chewing, but actually eating, all four corners of the coffee table when no one was home was a prime example. Not one speck of sawdust was left behind or within all of those chew marks. He experienced limitless bouts of daring. Many of those those came every afternoon when I let him out into the back yard. Specifically, the dog and I would race down the stairs, make a sharp one-hundred eighty degree turn at the bottom, and then charge all-out to the sliding glass door, skidding at the last second past grandma’s old piano. In the spirit of competition, neither of us gave an inch when we raced or wrestled. Never.
This was a longstanding ritual, nay tradition, between me and my buddy.
Alas, traditions are too often broken. One afternoon, while my mom was busy grading English papers and enjoying a relaxing glass of wine, Duke and I grew restless and decided to engage in our sibling rivalry. He needed to go outside to his dog run and, as was the custom, we began our daily foot race downstairs. Neither of us wanted to be the first to slow down. At the very last second, I realized I was going to have to try to stop him before it was too late. Throwing what must have been a near NFL-caliber tackle, I missed him by inches. “CRASH!” was the all-consuming sound for what seemed like an hour as the dog put his face down and bulled his way through, followed by me as I bounced off of the threshold chest first, ending up halfway inside the house and halfway out on the patio. While the dog sustained a small cut on his cheek, I was spared any injury except for some very painful ribs. “Rob? Are you all right?” and “How’s the dog?” were immediately followed by mom’s consumption of valium and a trip to the vet. The dog, thank the Lord, made a full recovery. Following that episode, dad replaced the glass in the door with plexiglass.
That worked out great; Duke and I were then able to learn the finer points of hockey-style checking. Thankfully, neither of us were ever sent to the penalty box.
My parents were better refs than I gave them credit for.