Never in my wildest imagination did I ever dream that I would write anything about one of our dogs. But there comes a time for everything. Prince Patrick of Ramapo, as registered with the American Kennel Club, was his full name. We called him Patrick, for short.
We bought him from a breeder somewhere in Kansas. At least that’s what the pet store owner told us when we placed our order. The year was 1968 and he cost all of four hundred dollars, including shipping. This was in anticipation of our move to the suburbs, or country, depending on your point of view. We were moving from a comfortable co-op apartment in Queens, N.Y. to a house, a real house, our first house, in Ramapo Township of Rockland County, N.Y. And what do first time home owners who have children do? They get a dog. Hence the name Prince Patrick of Ramapo. There was no question in our minds that he definitely looked princely, even as a fledgling, cutesy pup. My wife Marilyn and daughters Mindy and Sharon all agreed.
We have had a total of six dogs since Patrick. There was Freckles, Heidi, Nicholas, Sammie, Honda and Casey, the last of which is still with us. Patrick, as his name implies, was an Irish Setter – who was absolutely the most incredibly good looking dog we have ever seen, emblazoned by a dark, shiny mahogany exterior with white paws, or socks as they are referred to by animal afficianados and a white star in the middle of his chest . To say that he was just good looking was truly an understatement.
The move was uneventful. During the slightly more than one hour drive by car across the George Washington Bridge and up the Palisades Interstate Parkway, Patrick was comfortable inside a cardboard box lined with enough newspapers so that he could relieve himself to his hearts content. We arrived about an hour before the moving van which gave us all enough time to check out our new surroundings and survey the landscape.
With almost a full acre of land at our disposal there was more than enough outdoor space to ‘train’ Patrick. He had been doing his ‘thing’ on newspapers for about one week, albeit sporadically, so we figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to get him accustomed to relieve himself outside. For this act we used the number system, namely number one for urination, number two in the event of a bowel movement and number three if we should be fortunate enough for him to have accomplished both at the same time. One plus two equals three. Right?
The car ride must have made him thirsty for all he wanted to do was to drink water, a lot of water. Before all of the water had gone through his system I took him outside thinking that I would catch him at just the right moment and be well on the way to having a fully house trained dog. I looked at him and he looked at me. It was immediately clear to me that he had absolutely no clue as to what he was supposed to do. Perhaps he needed someone to show him? And so I unzipped my pants and proceeded to show him how it was done, man to man, or man to dog. Right? It was a good thing the neighbors couldn’t see.
Did he pick up on it? Did he get the drift? Not on your life. After countless attempts at ‘potty’ training him in the wild, we decided to simply open the door and let him run to his hearts content so that he could pick out his own numbers along the way. Did it work? For Patrick it worked.
Regarding the first number we didn’t care where he did it. Numbers two and three were problematical unless you didn’t mind having little, and sometimes large, presents or landmines littering the front lawn. And so I would take him out under leash amidst the high grass, bushes and trees.
The oddest thing about this procedure was that Patrick, who was definitely not the brightest of creatures and who had four legs and never looked where he was walking, was able to successfully navigate himself in such a way so as to miraculously avoid stepping on his own poop or that of his furry friends. I, who am an intelligent being, with only two legs and who always looks where he is walking, would invariably end up stepping on one of his presents or landmines.
Since it was far simpler to open the door and let him run with the wind, it got so that all he liked to do was to run. It got to the point where if someone came to our front door and we weren’t careful, he would, instead of acting like a watch dog, sneak by us and take off.
On these runs he could be gone for hours and return filthy and smelly. He would always bring back with him various ladies undergarments or expensive clothing with their labels still intact. Where did he get them? This was indeed a puzzlement which to this day we have no answer.
My wife’s brother paid us a visit one day. Alan was a long distance runner in college and when we told him about how much Patrick loved to run, he volunteered to take him for a five mile run while attached to his leash. We were thrilled. Maybe that would take some of the starch out of that son-of-a-bitch and he would not want to run so much.
They went literally over hill and dale for five miles and when they returned, it was as though we had a different dog. Whereas Patrick was always a bright shiny mahogany, he seemed to have been dusted from head to tail by a mysterious white powder. Gone was his lustrous sheen and all he wanted to do was to lie prostrate under the stairwell for the next twenty four hours. We thought that he might be having a heart attack but after the twenty four hours was up he was raring to go once again.
For reasons unbeknownst to us, Patrick hated German Shepherds and whenever he would see one he was ready to attack, no matter how big his opponent was. Perhaps he was molested by one when he was but a pup. Around the corner from us, Beverly and Gary Allen had a huge German Shepherd whose name was Sam. After Sam sired a litter of pups, Beverly and Gary kept one of the males who they named Son of Sam. But that is a whole other story.
We discovered this animosity one sunny day when Marilyn was visiting Beverly with Patrick in tow. Sam sat on the grass next to Beverly, seemingly content. Patrick, as soon as he saw Sam, for no other reason than seeing him, went into a frenzy and lunged forward.
I heard the screams from around the corner, which was a good one hundred and fifty yards away. Marilyn was in her seventh month with Jill and I thought she had broken her water. I jumped into the car and was there in less than thirty seconds. The sight was one to behold. Marilyn and Beverly were hitting the two dogs with whatever they could get a hold of in order to break them apart. I joined the fray by grabbing a rake and started swinging at the both of them. The two dogs who were more bark than bite and thoroughly exhausted appeared to be grateful that we were able to separate them. I quickly put the leash on Patrick’s choke collar and he obediently followed me into the car. Marilyn’s water did not break but she was shook up from the experience.
The bitter hatred of Patrick towards Sam was such that whenever we would drive past the Allen house with Patrick in the car, we would tie his leash to one of the inside support bars of the convertible top as a precaution.
It happened on a day that we were taking Patrick to the local Vet for some routine inoculations. I was driving with my wife Marilyn sitting next to me. Patrick was in the back with the window rolled down because it was a nice day, his leash tied to one of the convertible top support bars. As we drove past the Allen house Patrick’s hairs stood up. Sam was at least fifty yards away, minding his own business, but Patrick was ready to launch a pre-emptive attack through the open window. It’s a good thing his leash was tied to one of the convertible top support bars.
Then we had the following conversation:
ME “The dog seemed to have calmed down”.
MARILYN “Where did he go to?”
ME “He’s in the back. Where else?”
MARILYN “No he’s not. He’s gone.”
During Patrick’s erstwhile attack on Sam he had jumped through the open window of the car and was running alongside with his leash tied to one of the convertible top support bars. Fortunately for Patrick we had not gotten onto the highway and we were still on local streets going not more than ten or fifteen miles per hour.
Patrick was a voracious chewer. What did he chew? Three couches, among other things. He had eaten through the upholstery and had started on the wood frames. This cost us thousands and I was ready to have all of his teeth extracted but then how would he be able to eat his food. We could not leave the house with Patrick there by himself. Leaving him in one of the cars, with the windows rolled down, seemed to work, most of the time. What could he possibly chew up in the car? The steering wheel? And whatever upholstery damage that he could do in a car was far less than that which he could do on a couch.
At that point we decided that it was time for Patrick to see a shrink, a dog psychologist. We found an expert who was highly recommended and who made house calls. This expert, whose name I cannot recall, brushed aside our concerns and claimed that he could train any dog no matter how intransigent he was. After about an hour and a half the dog psychologist returned our check to us and walked off the property. What were we to do?
In all fairness to Patrick, he was fine as long as he was tied to his leash. The problem was when he was untied or loose. A friend of ours suggested a learning technique that had worked wonders for him when his dog was off the leash and was given the command to ‘stop’ or ‘stay’.
The first step in the procedure was to get a rope or clothesline that was at least twenty feet in length, tying one end to his choke collar and the other end to something immovable, like a tree. During this time his choke collar would also be attached to his regular leash. He would then be given some routine commands which he followed through on because in his mind he was still attached to his regular leash. Remember, he has a very short memory span. So after unhooking his regular leash he had no recollection of his choke collar still being tied to the rope that was tied to the tree. I then slowly stepped back while repeating the command, “stay”. As the distance between us increased I could see his eyes becoming glassy or glazed and when he thought that I could no longer control or restrain him, he began to take off and run up the driveway, totally unaware that his choke collar was tied to a rope that was tied to a tree. Within seconds he was at full stride. As he reached the last bit of slack in the rope, I yelled out at the top of my voice, “stay”. Naturally, he kept going full speed. The force of the rope that was tied to his choke collar and the tree lifted him up in the air and he came down on the driveway with a ‘splat’.
Was he hurt? Not in the least. He got up, shook himself off and calmly walked back to the spot where he decided that he could make a clean getaway, did an about face and sat down in a perfect sitting position as though nothing had happened.
I repeated the same lesson the following day but this time without the rope connected to an immovable object to see if he remembered any of it. He was gone for over three hours. One would think that such a lesson would sink in and teach him the meaning of the command, “stay”. No way. Perhaps for a dog with a brain.
We thought that we had seen it all. At first it appeared as though he was ‘cleaning’ himself, you know, like when a dog licks his testicles or cleans out his anus, or whatever. Even cats do it. But why was he in such a mad frenzy, running in circles as though he was chasing his tail? Taking a closer look, he wasn’t licking his balls or anything like that. He was licking his penis which was red and becoming extended. There were also drops of an unidentified fluid on the floor. HOLY SHIT! He’s trying to perform oral sex on himself. I was ready to kill him but how could I fault him for trying to have a sexual encounter, even with himself? Then I remembered. He has a short memory span. I quickly hooked on his leash and forcibly tugged him around and around in circles all around the room. It took almost three minutes but it worked. When done, he looked at me as though he was trying to remember something but for the life of him he couldn’t remember whatever he thought he was supposed to remember. That was the closest he ever came to getting laid because after that incident we had him ‘fixed’.
The nuttiest story of all resulted when Marilyn suggested that we enter Patrick in a dog show.
ME “Are you nuts?”
MARILYN “Think about it. Isn’t he the best looking dog you ever saw?”
ME “Yeah, but he has no discipline whatsoever”.
MARILYN “Maybe so, but he’s so handsome”.
We lived in WesleyHills, N.Y. and if you took State Route 202 in a northerly direction you would end up in Haverstraw, N.Y., a town with families and a history dating back to the Revolutionary War. It was announced in the local papers that there was going to be an AKC sanctioned dog show in Haverstraw, N.Y.
Try to picture it. It was a huge tent and inside there were three tiers of seats for the spectators, a registration desk, a section for the judges and a large semi-circular area around which were poised some forty to fifty pedigreed dogs, their masters or handlers standing beside them, all without leashes. These dogs maintained their positions as though they were soldiers standing at attention, without moving so much as an eyelash unless given the command to do so.
In we walked, the three of us, Marilyn and myself with Patrick in the middle. We took notice of the competition. There was no question about it. He was by far the best looking of all of them, pampered and prissy with their pink bows and feminine like haircuts. One could immediately sense that Patrick was different. His movie star looks and manly demeanor set him apart from the others.
It started off slow, almost innocuous, while waiting to register him. Patrick reached over to the nearest competitor on his right and calmly, nonchalantly sniffed at his or her butt, a normal thing for a dog to do. It was more like an act of curiosity. Whatever smell traveled through his nostrils it caused him to repeat the process but this time with more purpose that was accompanied by a short grunt. The sniffee responded with a very mild, almost unnoticeable, yap. Taking this reaction as a form of rejection Patrick quickly re-focused his attention to the dog on his left and repeated the procedure. Before waiting for a response from the second dog he turned to the first dog, the one who at first had snubbed him. The second dog then reacted, followed by the first dog. It didn’t take long for the others to remember that they were also dogs. It was as though he had started a chain reaction that was contagious. Within seconds almost all of the dogs in the semi-circle began to do what their base instincts told them to do. They were all sniffing at each others butt, grunting if appreciated or growling if unwanted or just barking. It didn’t take much. In seconds it was like all hell broke loose. It was dog pandemonium.
I couldn’t tell how old he was or what he looked like. All I can remember was this man wearing a straw hat, blue blazer with brass buttons, white pants and a white shirt with a dark blue bow tie, telling us to immediately vacate the premises or else he will call the police.
And so ended Patrick’s dog show debut. Maybe we should refer to it as a beauty pageant because all he really had going for him were his looks.
His demise came rather suddenly and was unexpected. For a while now we had been leaving him in one of the cars if we had to go out for a few hours, never more than seven or eight hours for that was his limit to holding it in. He usually went in to the car willingly but this time he objected. Not wanting to have to re-upholster another couch and knowing full well that any damage incurred by him would be mitigated by his confinement to the car, I did not let him have his way. Even with the windows open on both sides he was barking as we pulled out of the driveway.
We were gone maybe three hours. It was quiet, very quiet. Marilyn immediately said that she had a bad feeling. I peeked in to see if he was okay. He was dead.
The Vet said that he died of a heart attack as a result of his continual barking and over excitement due to his being pent up in the car. To this day Marilyn says that it was my fault and that I killed him. Does that upset me? At first it did but not any more. Whatever I did or didn’t do, I know that if there is such a place as dog heaven, he’s up there running and running and running, a prince among dogs.