One day T-Bone and I were sitting together eating Oreos and just enjoying the day (I “unscrewed” the cookies and somehow he always chose the part with the creamy frosting…go figure). Anyway, I asked him, “You know the only difference between you and me? No, beside the fact that you have hair and I don’t.” He didn’t know so I told him, “My Thumb!” I went on to explain, “Just think what you could do if you had a thumb. You could master the doorknob principle, you could escape from prison and lay on the futon and yes, you could even use the TV remote!”
FREE DOG FOR SALE: $1,000.00…In 1992 our youngest daughter Courtney, who was 12 at the time, began asking if we could get a dog. I was raised in a family that always had dogs so my heart immediately wanted to say YES! But with both my wife and I working full-time and the kids in school we knew it wouldn’t work out at that time. But when Christmas came I had an idea. I made a “Free Dog Coupon” out of a picture of some cute lab puppies and then wrote a letter to my daughter, “Courtney, you can redeem this coupon for one dog of your choice when school is out in June. This is my promise to you…Merry Christmas!” I put the letter and the coupon in a manila envelope and hid it beside the chair I was sitting in when we opened our Christmas gifts. All the gifts were opened and then I handed her the unmarked envelope. As she read it tears came to her eyes, tears came to her sister’s eyes, tears came to my eyes, and fire came out of my wife’s eyes. Just kidding...fire did not come out of her eyes…just laser beams (actually, she loved T-Bone as much as any of us and deserves a medal for her extraordinary patience with the "Bone" over the years).
Well, late spring rolled around and we began searching the classifieds for a “Free Dog” (just a little side issue here...with all the laws that Congress enacts it seems to me that they would have made a decree to put an asterisk and disclaimer by any classified ads for pets that contains the word "FREE"; the disclaimer would simply have to say, “Please note the above aforementioned FREE dog will actually cost you several thousand dollars"). We eventually found an ad for free lab pups and took the plunge to go check out the puppies. There were a handful of 8 week old lab/setter mix puppies that had already attended the “pick-me-oh-pleeeeaaase-pick-me-I’m-the-cutest” school of deception. We picked up several of them and finally decided on a male that seemed to be pretty mellow (he actually came over and laid his head down on my wife’s shoe! Must have been an “A” student!). We found out he was born on April 15th -- tax day. So I wanted to name him "1040" or "Short Form" but I didn't think that would sound to good if I had to shout out the back door, "1040, where are you? Come on boy!" He got his name "T-Bone" from a pet on one of the kids' TV shows. My former boss one time asked me, "How's Porkchop?" I said, "His name is T-Bone." "Oh," she said, "I knew he was in the meat group."
That summer we trained him some and he trained us some. He was housebroken in just a couple of days and so we concluded, “This dog-owning thing ain’t gonna be so bad.” But a hint of what we were in for over the next 13 years came a couple of days after the kids went back to school in the fall. On Labor Day weekend we tested him out by leaving him alone for a good part of the day and he seemed to be fine. “Seemed” is the key word here. A couple of days into the school year I came home from work (the kids got home about 3:30 and I got home about 4:30) and I heard the vacuum cleaner running as I came up to the front door of our double-wide mobile home. “Well that's nice, the kids are cleaning the house,” I thought. But a scene of horror and devastation lay just behind the door. When I opened the door Courtney was trying to vacuum up dirt…. and lots of dirt. Kay had (past tense) an abundance of beautiful house plants arrayed by the front picture window…but they were now bits of destroyed greenery immersed in lots and lots of dirt. The vacuum was stuffed so full that the suction was almost non-existent and the dirt just rolled out the end of the hose. My wife had also just watered all the plants that morning so it was muddy dirt, and muddy dirt tracked throughout the house. Courtney and Amber must have thought when they opened the door, that that was going to be the end of T-Bone. And as they cleaned they were probably thinking about funeral arrangements. "But hey, he’s a pup," we thought, "he’ll grow out of it." We thought wrong.