The number one dog in my book

By TIM BEELAND,

Just about everybody has a dog story. This one here is about a bunch of dogs. It begins with the end, though, with the best dog I really think we have ever had. Her name is Idgie Bella and she is nearing the end of her life. That makes us sad.

She was my daughter’s Christmas present in 2006. Bella is the name she gave her pup, and Idgie is the name wife, Danny, and I added to her registration papers after the tomboy girl in the book and movie Fried Green Tomatoes.

Bella is what you might call a big-boned girl for a Yorkie, and she was quite the tomdog as a pup. She has more personality than a lot of people I know and she adores her family, especially me, I like to think.

She grins at me when I walk in the door and used to stand up on her back legs, stretching her front paws high in the air like a child wanting to be held.  She doesn’t do that much anymore.

She always liked to kiss a lot too, and as a pup, would clean your teeth — if you let her — better than any toothbrush anybody ever had. She chewed clean though the bathroom sheetrock one time proving quickly that she didn’t like to be shut up. But she was so loyal and pure in her love and affection that it didn’t really matter.

A second best good dog is hard to pick. My memory is good but...

I suppose our old German Shepherd, April, was one of our best dogs. April went everywhere me and my friends went as a child. She was the best guard dog a bunch of neighborhood kids ever had. Of course you didn’t really need a guard dog in Newton in 1970.

No dog story would be complete without the mention of Little Bit. I don’t know what kind of dog Bit was, but he looked like a miniature Pincher though there were no miniature Pinchers back in those days. Bit was a traveling dog. He went all over town. He especially liked to visit the A&P where my parents and I worked. Bit would walk up on the automatic door mat, wait for the door to open, and march right on in. In through the front door, out through the back of the A&P — that was Bit.

My dog Hairy joined our family from the pound when I was either a senior in high school or a freshman in college. For some reason, I don’t remember why, a couple of us ended up at the dog pound in Meridian and came home with a couple of new dogs. Hairy liked to go fishing and tagged along with me everywhere. She smelled really bad though.

In college I found another really good dog. He was half Shepherd and half Great Dane. I called him Buddy. My Buddy the Bear. He died early from Parvo and it made me very sad.

After Danny and I were married we saved a beautiful Cocker Spaniel, Buffy, from an abusive family and she really appreciated us for that. Buffy got a sister dog, Butterbean, a pure bred Old English Sheep Dog, when we lived in Clarksdale. Butterbean had Hairy’s aroma but thought she was a short haired lap dog. Bella’s grin reminds me of Butterbean’s. She would crawl her big old self up in my lap, roll back her lips and stick out her tongue. Her breath was bad too.

With Buffy and Butterbean still with us, Biff joined our family in the ‘80s. He was a half and half Shih Tzu/Lhasa Apso mix. I presented Biff to Danny for a birthday present wrapped in a paper sack one day. She screamed when she saw that little rat looking up at her from inside that bag and almost dropped him to the floor. He hung around for the long run.

For my daughter’s third birthday she got Trixie Pearl, a black and white teacup Chihuahua. She kind of looked like a very miniature Dalmatian. Trixie was pure lap dog and liked to ride in the handlebar basket of my daughter’s bike. She lived to be 16.

Every list has a good and a bad column and on the very top of the bad list  was Spec. Spec was a Blue Tick hound we got from a family in the parking lot of Wal-Mart. Spec worked hard to proudly earn his place on the list. He chewed up everything in the backyard. He ate the light bulbs out of the landscape lights. He ate flower pots, pool toys, chair cushions, shoes, flowers, firewood and on and on and on.

If he was not knocking down the fence to escape the backyard he was digging under it. He liked to visit the neighbor dog and was known to come home with cute little notes from the neighbor dog’s owner taped to his collar. I liked him, but he finally had to go live in the country where he could roam free and ride in the back of a pickup truck.

Today we’ve got Bella, or I hope we still do, and two other dogs my daughter would say she “rescued.” They are both teacup Chihuahuas — Dottie, the grumpy old lady of the house, and Roxie, the latest member of the family that we’ve had living with us for several years now, and who might be a bit mentally challenged.

But it is Bella that’s number one in my book. I suppose me and her just hit it off from the beginning, and I’m sure going to miss that smiling face when she is gone.