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Thoughts on life by Teri McCarthy

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There Once Was A Dog Named Peanuts Who Owned A Girl

Posted by admin in March 30th, 2010
Published in Uncategorized

A girl never forgets her first love. For me it was a golden Cocker Spaniel by the name of Peanuts. He was lovely with golden curls, glamorous floppy ears and a stump for a tail. I loved him. He was absolutely beautiful and he was my best friend. He was my first love.

My parents moved a lot. By the time I was ten years old I’d been to six different schools in six different states. The move from Georgia to Oklahoma was an especially tough one because I loved my school. I had a great teacher and so many friends from school and church. I begged my folks not to move again, but work for my Dad demanded we go. To make the transition a little easier I bargained a dog out of the deal.

“Okay, but once we’re in Oklahoma I get to have a dog!” They agreed. And this was all I could think about riding in the high-off-the-ground moving truck those 800 plus miles across the southern United States. What would it be? Would it be a girl or a boy? What kind should I choose? How will I know if he or she is the right one? Yes. I was obsessed with getting a dog. It gave me something to focus on rather than the move.

We arrived in Choctaw, Oklahoma, late in the night. We unloaded as much as we could under the security floodlight on the property. We were out in the country. Way out. We had hauled three horses with us from Georgia and secured them in the corral before going to bed. My Dad said he and I needed to get up early the next day and try to find feed and hay for the horses. I said I’d be up and ready to go. And I was.

Early the next morning we followed homemade signs along the country roads reading “hay for sale” to a small farm about six miles from our new home. My Dad drove a red Ford pickup truck and we drove slowly up the long farm lane avoiding potholes and dips in the muddy gravel drive.

We pulled up to the farmhouse and the nice farmer came out to greet us. He and Dad shook hands. Even though it was 1969, we hadn’t called ahead. Business in rural Oklahoma was still being done the old-fashioned way. Ya just showed up.

While my Dad and the farmer were negotiating hay and feed prices, I saw a small Cocker Spaniel limping around the yard near the house. He was heading toward the barn and I was leaning on the pickup still a little drowsy from our short night’s sleep. I saw him limping and realized he probably had one of those stubborn goathead thorns in his paw. Oklahoma is filled with these stubborn, painful goathead stickers. I was pulling them out of my tennies, off my jacket and I’d only been in the state a few hours.

I walked over to the dog and started talking to him.

The farmer caught me out of the corner of his eye and told my Dad, “You’d bedder tell her not t’ pet that daug. Hez bitten three a my grandkids already ‘n my wife has ordered me to ged rid of ‘im! He’z unpredictable, ‘at one.”

Before anyone could warn me the dog growled at me and showed his teeth. Oh the ignorance of childhood. I didn’t know I was supposed to be afraid. You see, I had never met a dog I didn’t like. I knelt down next to him as he was growling and I told him to hush. “What is wrong with you? You don’t growl at people.” I was stern, but obviously smitten by his beautiful coat, large brown eyes and those gorgeous ears.

“Now lay down here and let me see what’s wrong with your paw.” (Why did an ancient joke cross through my mind just now?). Anyway, I looked at his paw and sure enough there was one of those horrible goathead thorns buried deep inside his foot between his two toe pads. I dug in gently and pulled it out. Then I rubbed the injured paw and told him he’d be alright.

Well, then something weird happened. He jumped up and started running these spastic circles around me. He ran around and around and I would shout to him, “What are you doing? Are you a spazz dog? Come here.” He was playing. He felt better and he was playing with me.

Finally he settled down, crawled his short and stocky body into my lap and we stayed like that until my Dad and the farmer finished their business, got the truck loaded and my Dad was ready to head out.

“That dog’z taken quite a likin’ to ya,” the farmer said.

“He’s beautiful. I’ve never seen a Cocker quite like him before,” I smiled up at the old man the dog still in my lap.

“Ya kun hav ‘em if ya want. Hiz name iz Peanuts,” said the farmer.

I looked up at my Dad. “You said….”

And that day Peanuts went home with me.

In all my life I’d never had a dog that was all mine. Completely mine. But Peanuts was that dog. He growled if people came up to me too quickly. He growled if my Dad yelled at me. He growled at strangers. He went with me everywhere I’d go. When I rode my horse, he never left my side. He kept up with us running or jumping or whatever we’d do. Short-legged Peanuts always kept up.

Sadly, we found out the first night he lived with us that he was not an inside dog. He threw up everywhere and cried nonstop to go outside. So, I made him a little bed near the pump house and my Dad and I constructed a leanto shelter for him in case of rain or snow. He liked it there. He hated the indoors.

One day I couldn’t find him. We lived on a small piece of property way out in the country and there were hundreds of places he could be. I looked and looked until night and I couldn’t find him anywhere. I cried and prayed and begged God to bring him home. He came home, but he was badly wounded. It seemed he had caught his privates (ouch) on barbed wire and well, let’s just say “it” was hanging on by a “thread.” He wouldn’t come in the house so I made him a bed right next to the wall where the fireplace was. The heat from the bricks would help him stay warm through the cold January night. My parents couldn’t come near him because he’d growl and show his teeth. But he let me doctor his wound as best I could and I bundled up against the weather and waited with him outside until morning.

First thing when daylight came I loaded him into my Dad’s pickup truck and my Mom drove me to the country vet’s office. We had called ahead and they were waiting for us. When the vet saw the injury he grimaced—partly a male reaction, but he was also a very sympathetic vet. He disinfected the area, attached “it” back on as best he could and said he needed to keep Peanuts overnight.

In the months that we had lived in Oklahoma, I’d never been away from Peanuts. He had made the transition so much easier. I loved him unconditionally. He loved me unconditionally. He protected me. He went everywhere I went. I cuddled him and brushed him and fed him special meals of canned dog food on Sundays. I kissed the top of his head and scratched his favorite place behind his ears. He was mine. All mine and I hated leaving him there at the vet’s, even for one night.

I was late to school that day and my fifth grade teacher, mean Mrs. Wilkerson, wouldn’t excuse the tardiness even though my Mom brought me in to explain. I was filthy from riding in the back of the truck with Peanuts. I couldn’t concentrate on school work. Finally, the school bell rang and I rode the bus home anxiously wanting to call the vet’s office. I was barely in the door when I telephoned the vet. He assured me that Peanuts was resting fine and that I could get him the next day. Thank goodness it was a Saturday. My folks took me to get him. He looked a whole lot better. He had stitches. My Dad and the vet made a few jokes I didn’t quite get. The doctor said the most important thing to watch for was infection. He gave me a cream to put on the incision. He also said, with a grin, it’d be a miracle if Peanuts ever, well, urinated again. The vet stated very clearly that Peanuts would never father pups. He was sure of that.

The next year my folks moved into town. The aerospace industry had a bump in the road and my Dad lost his job. We went from living well to poorly in a moment’s time. We went from a lovely four bedroom home out in the country to a two bedroom, one bath, very crowded duplex in town. My Dad started working three jobs just to make ends meet. Peanuts of course came with us. But we didn’t have a fenced in yard in town and he was so accustomed to having the run of the place. On the acreage he’d run all over the country chasing rabbits, sniffing stuff, following me on my long afternoon rides. He was not a city dog. Also, our duplex neighbors had a female dog named Mutsy. She fell in love with Peanuts the first time they met. Who wouldn’t? He wasn’t terribly tall, but he was really handsome. She didn’t know he was a eunuch. He didn’t act like one either. Such a ladies’ man.

One afternoon I came home from school and he wasn’t waiting on the front porch for me. I called and called and I couldn’t find him. I went looking for him all over the small town and asked everyone if they’d seen him. I described him with great precision. Nope. Nowhere to be found. Peanuts was gone for six days.

Finally, on the seventh day, after Sunday evening service, we came home and he was waiting for me on the front porch. I shot out of the car and ran up to him hugging him and kissing him. He smelled terrible. And I pulled back my arm from around his neck. My dress sleeve was covered in blood and dirt. Peanuts laid over onto his side and there I could see his neck had been bitten into and a large chunk of flesh was missing. The skin around the wound had started to decay. He looked at me and I could tell from his eyes that he was in great pain. I got him some water and I could literally see his throat as the fluid passed through. It looked to me like he’d been in a dog fight. He never understood that he was not a big dog! He had never listened to me when I told him to leave other dogs alone. And he was so protective of the girl dog next door. The neighbor had told me she thought she’d heard a dog fight and that’s what it looked like happened.

I sat down next to him, my little protector, my little tough guy. He was so thin and he looked so weak. I stroked his head. I cried and cried. And I prayed, “Jesus, please don’t let him die. Please save him. Please.” But in my heart I knew it was not going to happen.

After about an hour or so my Dad came out to the porch. He looked at the dog. Peanuts was struggling to breathe.

“Teri…” my Dad started.

“Don’t say it. I don’t want you to say it! We can take him to the vet and he’ll fix him. He did last time. We can take him right now. I’ll carry him…” I was sobbing. I wasn’t going to give up on him. He was all I had. He was my one constant in an ever chaotic life.

“We can’t afford the vet Teri. But even if we could, you see how the skin is gone? There’s so much infection and he’s suffered for quite a while. The doctor couldn’t patch him up, there’s nothing to work with. You know what the best thing to do for him is.” My Dad waited for me to answer.

“I can’t. I can’t Dad. I can’t put him down. I love him.”

“If you really love him you’ll want to do what’s best for him,” he said.

It was the hardest decision I’d ever made in my twelve years of life. I shook my head yes, but in silence. Tears streaming down my face. My hands trembled as I stroked his blood-matted, dull coat.

“How will we do it?” I asked.

“Just leave it to me,” my Dad said.

My Dad went inside the duplex and came back out with a handgun. He’d put on a jacket and headed to the truck where he pulled out a green, small army-issue shovel and an old blanket. He threw them into the bed of the truck and was coming back for Peanuts.

“Wait. I’m going with you. Let me change my clothes.”

I ran into the house. My Mom was standing in the kitchen with my sister just watching me. I changed. Ran back outside and Dad had loaded Peanuts into the back. He had laid him carefully on the blanket. It was starting to get dark outside. I climbed into the back of the truck and sat next to Peanuts. He laid his head on my leg. I whispered his name.

“It’s gonna get chilly back there. Are you sure that’s where you want to ride?” he asked.

Yes. I was sure. Peanuts wasn’t going to take this ride alone. I rode with him in this very truck the day we brought him home from the hay farm. I’d take this last ride with him as well.

We drove way out into the country where we’d used to live. It was where Peanuts ran and played and chased things; it was where he’d been free and the place he was happiest. We drove down the country road near our old house and after we’d gone quite a ways, Dad pulled off the side of the road. He left the truck’s lights on. I had a sick aching pit in my stomach. I felt nauseous. But I knew I had to be strong for Peanuts. He could sense fear and I wanted his passing to be as peaceful as possible. He’d come home for me to fix the situation. He’d come home for help. I got out of the truck bed and my Dad lifted Peanuts listless body out of the truck. The poor dog looked awful. His body was so thin and his once-beautiful coat was dull and tangled and matted and bloody and filled with dirt. I hated to see him looking like this.

My Dad took him into the woods and told me, over his shoulder, to stay by the truck. I put my hands over my ears knowing what was coming. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I wanted to run as fast as I could to get as far away from the situation as I possibly could. But I didn’t run and I heard the shot and my heart broke.

My Dad came out of the woods and instead of a deep grief or sorrow he said, “Teri, you’ve got to come see this. Here, let me pull the truck around so the light will shine on him. You’ve got to see this!”

I thought to myself, “He’s so sick. What kind of father wants his daughter to see her dog dead?!? What kind of human being would be so deranged?”

“Really Teri, trust me. You’ve got to see him!”

My Dad took me by the hand and walked me over to where the truck’s headlights were shining. There laying on the ground was Peanuts. Clean and fat and shiny golden and beautiful just like the day I got him.

“It’s like some kind of miracle,” my Dad was still in disbelief. “ I shot him. Then I looked at him and he looks beautiful. Teri. Look at him. Remember him this way; not like we found him on the porch. He just looks like he’s sleeping.”

And he did. Golden and soft and healthy. He’d fallen in a way that his wounds were hidden. His hair was shiny, his face was as if he was just asleep.

My Dad took the blanket from the truck and wrapped Peanuts carefully in it. Then he dug the small grave and respectfully, gently placed my little dog in it. We stood there after Dad had covered him with the fresh dirt and I said a prayer. “Lord thank you for my dog Peanuts. Thank you for letting me have such a wonderful friend. Please take care of him in heaven. Amen.”

My Dad and I walked silently back to the truck. We got in and headed home. On the way my Dad said, “I know just how you feel. I had a dog once. His name was…uh…his name was…Peanuts. Yeah. Peanuts. And when I was about your age he got into uh…a fight with another dog and the other dog bit his neck and well we had to put him down and it was really hard and so I know how you feel.”

“You had a dog named Peanuts?” I looked at my Dad kinda sideways.

“Yup. Sure did.”

“Why haven’t you ever told me about him before?” I asked.

“Uh…didn’t see the need to before. But I did. I had a dog named Peanuts.”

CS Lewis believed that dogs with names go to heaven. That when a dog is loved by a human being, then that dog is in heaven waiting for its owner to come home. I like to believe that. I believe all the dogs I’ve loved are in heaven waiting for me with tails wagging and tongues licking and happy faces. But Peanuts was the one I loved first and because of that he’s the one I loved the most. And I believe with my whole heart that Peanuts is there waiting for me on the front porch.

Summer came and in the backyard I waited eagerly for the girl dog next door to have her puppies. Mutsy was a white terrier mix of some kind. Finally her pups came and I sat with her the whole day as one after the other, all six were born. Each one golden, short-legged and about as Cocker looking as could be. Each one the spitting image of their father, Peanuts. If that old vet could only see what his handiwork had done.

We moved that summer to a small apartment across town in Bethany. Peanuts could never have lived in an apartment complex. The next year it was Houston. More city. More apartment living. It’s hard to explain the cycles of life that God has designed into our fallen and broken world. God gave me Peanuts at a time when I, as a little girl, needed him desperately. But, through a very difficult and painful experience, God also taught me that life goes on, that He is able to comfort us in our mourning and He allowed me the opportunity to see my Dad in a whole new light. It’s oddly one of the best memories I have of my Dad and I still get a chuckle when I think of his story, “I had a dog named Peanuts too…” Not original. But it was an effort. Peace.

8 users Responded In This Post

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368. cuzzin j'lynn said,
March 30th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Okay, I don’t normally read long stories, but everytime I start reading yours I can’t stop! That’s a good one. Thanks!

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369. Cheri Hysell said,
March 30th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I love this read!

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370. pam said,
March 30th, 2010 at 12:50 pm

GLORY…this one just about sucked the life out of me. We had to put down our 15 year old Snuffie in November. I knew it for a week because my hubby was out of town and I KNEW I couldn’t take her to the vet….it was one of the worst weeks of my life. I’m in awe of you that you went…but how cool that you got the last image to burn into your memory as well. I like to think that C.S. Lewis is right…

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371. anna jane said,
March 30th, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Wow! This story really touches me, Aunt Teri! Thank you for this reminder that God’s love comes in many forms – including furry four-legged packages. It’s amazing how even a pet can be used to remind us of God’s compassion and care for us.

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372. Jim Alling said,
March 31st, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Great real life drama and lessons. Like you, Terri, I moved a lot when a kid. Dogs (and Cats) became very important friends to me. I thank God for parents who allowed me to have them. Indeed, it is tough to have to give pets up. Thank you for your reminder of the faithfuless and unconditional love we learn from and with them.

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373. Rebekah said,
March 31st, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Why do you tug at my heart strings so? Geez, not something I should read right before I go to bed. My hubby has a lot of work to do now to calm me down.

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374. Texas sister said,
April 1st, 2010 at 10:36 am

Lump in my throat, you know the painful kind you get when you need to just bawl…

I don’t think it could really be heaven without our friends with paws there.

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375. deb said,
April 6th, 2010 at 1:38 pm

what a wonderful story.

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