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Posted: November 13, 2016 4:00 a.m.

How a little derpy dog stole my heart

In all truthfulness, I've never really been a dog person. In fact — and I can already hear the Covington Peanut Gallery snickering — I suppose I've always been more of a cat kind of guy.

I think it has something to do with the fact that I grew up with cats. As a young boy, a lot of my memories center on the two Siamese cats we had, named Ho and Ming. Interesting names no doubt but it had something to do with my father serving in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Anyway, those were really great cats! Ho in particular was just the best. He was pretty much one of my best friends. He would always wait for me to get home from the bus. We played hide and seek and, always to my Grandmother's amusement, Ho would act like he couldn't find me for a while. But then he would always make a beeline right towards me. Once I cut off his whiskers with a pair of scissors but only on one side. Alas, I digress, this is a story about a dog...

Later on, my folks would bring a couple of dogs into the fold — Toby and Tinker. They were both okay, nothing special really. But then one day Tinker had a boy pup. His name was Otis and things would forever be changed in the McCart household. At least a few of you reading probably remember Otis. The conventional wisdom was Otis supplanted my brother and myself as the favorite child; I think he was actually put into Dad's will at one point. We all loved that dog to pieces — myself included — and I was finally starting to get this whole dog thing.

Years later after Ann and I got together, I became a parent to her two dogs — Hobo and Ruby. They were both just truly outstanding dogs, especially Miss Ruby Tuesday, the "Evil Beagle," as we called her, and who was just as spoiled to her rotten little core as she could be. And I tell ya' what - it was a sad day in North Covington when Ruby broke her earthly chains and went home to Glory to take her reward in Doggie Heaven. We'd already lost Hobo about a year before. So for the first time since we'd been a family, we found ourselves dog-less.

Within a month or two, it had become a regular topic of conversation around the house — especially with my daughter — as to when we would be getting another dog. And not just any dog. No sir, this dog had to be a puppy. Well, I kind of hemmed and hawed, tried to avoid the situation for a while; but finally, we reached critical mass on the thing and had to do something about this dog situation!

I put out some feelers and made a few calls. This was back at the first of this year and we were actively on the market as "dog seekers". There were one or two near misses but then we were made aware of on old lady in Conyers who ran a foster home of sorts for dogs and cats. They had a couple of beagle-mixed puppies. We were shown a picture of the little girl puppy by Gail at my Dad's vet clinic. Well, it was all just a matter of formality at that point. I think we all knew that Betty would soon be ours.

So that Sunday we went and got her. We added our own name to her existing name and we found ourselves as the proud new owners of Betty Lou McCart.

~ I said hello, Betty Lou, goodbye heart ~

She seemed so normal at the lady's house. We started to get an inclination that the dog might have some issues when we were driving home. She just kept whining and whimpering. She's just scared at all this newness and is missing her brothers and the nice lady who'd been taking care of her, we surmised. No big deal. Well, as the next few days went on we discovered more and more of her quirks, neuroses, and — as I call it — her derpyness; or derptitude; or, just plain "Derp!"

The dog was just nuts! She was a constant licker and scratcher. We went through all the motions — bath, flea treatment, more baths. But still, there was constant scratching. We tried getting her on allergy medicine. Then a Gluten-free diet. Then an oatmeal bath shampoo. But nothing worked. After that came the destruction phase — destruction of the furniture, our shoes, our clothes, our daughter's toys, buckets, boxes and anything else in the house.

The licking was the big thing. She'll lick anything —your feet, legs and arms, your face and mouth too, if she can, the kitchen floor, our cat, the furniture. She’ll lick anything and everything. I'm just constantly thinking to myself, "Where has this tongue been?"

We finally just kind of got acclimated to all of it. The kicker was this: I was the one who really wasn't crazy about the dog, that was more Ann and Laney, but who did the dog just get completely enthralled with? Yep, you guessed it, Yours Truly. I started calling her "shadow." Where I went, she was sure to follow. Even as I write this, the dog is sitting right under my office chair just staring at me, occasionally licking things.

I started going into this whole thing with her where she'd want to get right up in my face when I was sitting down. I'd start petting her and then sweet-talking to her but saying things like, "Oh, you're just such a dumb derpy dog. Oh yes, you are! Oh yes, you are! You're just a real dumb derpy derp, ain't ya' gal? Ain't ya'?"

I figured she'd grow out of it; we've had her about 10 months now. No such luck. And her infatuation with me has only grown. Every time I go outside, there she goes. I go to the front room where my office is — she's got to be there. When I won't give her attention, she'll just plop down next to me — like she is right now — and just stare at me.

But... me and Betty Lou had a moment not too long ago. I've had some issues with my left knee for quite some time now — getting old and all — and one day when I was walking down our back stairs my knee just gave out on me when I stepped onto the yard and my leg kind of buckled and I fell to the ground. It hurt and, as Ann can attest to, I'm a bit of a baby when it comes to pain so I gave out a little yelp. Naturally, Betty Lou was right there with me, and folks, you would have thought the world was coming to an end. She came right up to me as I was lying on the ground, just whimpering and carrying on. The dog was worried about me, you see? She was real worried. It was touching. I started rubbing on her face and head and told her, "Hey girl, it's alright. I'm fine." She finally started to settle down a bit. And it hit me all at once. Wow, this dog really does just love me unconditionally. I get it now. Man's best friend and all that. It was pretty special.

After I assured her that everything was alright, she started licking me in the face. Then she started licking her side. And then she started chewing on her tail. Then she stuck her tongue out of the side of her mouth and proceeded to start running around in a circle while scratching and licking incessantly. Basically, full-on derp mode, as she's prone to do quite rather often.

After I picked myself up and dusted off, I just watched her go through the motions and thought to myself: well, she's a neurotic, spastic, derpy mess, but she's our neurotic, spastic, derpy mess! I guess we'll keep her...

Marshall McCart aspires to one day be able to fully and truly articulate that peculiar essence of what The Esoteric South is all about. He can be reached at marshall.mccart@gmail.com.

 

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