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Every Dog Has a Story

And both of these dogs' stories has to do with escape.

My first wife and I owned these dogs (sort of), Ginger on the left, and Buster (Buster Brown, get it?) on the right. You can divide all dogs (and people?) into two types: Fidos and Rovers. Fidos stay faithfully by their masters' sides, but Rovers ... uh ... rove.

Both of these dogs were Rovers.

Ginger (named by her former owner for a famed Gary Larson cartoon) came to us from a neighbor, and only stayed a short time. When she belonged to our neighbor, she had been picked up several times by "Animal Control" (the dog catcher).

Finally, the neighbor gave up, and asked if we wanted her. We said "sure," and my then-wife went to pick her up from the "animal shelter" (the dog pound).

But because Ginger was a pit bull, only the registered owner could retrieve her. And the registered owner was not the neighbor, but her ne'er-do-well brother-in-law, who didn't want to be bothered to go get her. So it took a lot of finagling to spring her. (As I recall, the neighbor posed as her brother-in-law's wife--same last name, you know.)

She was the sweetest dog I've ever known. Despite what you may have heard about pit bull terriers, the greatest danger from Ginger was being beaten to death by her whip-like tail.

Well, when we got her, the neighbor kept her puppy. Ginger didn't like that at all, so she kept getting out to go see the kid. She not only dug under wire fencing, she chewed through it.

One day she left and didn't come back. We put up posters, and got a call from someone who had found her dead on the railroad tracks.

It's not as gruesome as it sounds. The tracks were high where she was found. She had been running along when a train came. She hunkered down to let it pass, and apparently died of a heart attack, not a scratch on her.

The ne'er-do-well brother-in-law owner retrieved her and buried her for us on her old home ground.

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Buster's story is happier. We found him in a park up in Altadena. (We lived in Simi Valley at the time.) He had been living on the streets, eating trash.

We took him home, still almost a puppy, and one or the other of us kept him until he died of old age on my ex-wife's Tennessee farm.

When you adopt a Rover, don't expect him to stay home. Hugo, an English professor who had moved in to Ginger's owners' old place, used to see Buster nearly a mile from home, cadging fries at a fast-food place. English professor that he was, Hugo nicknamed Buster "The Artful Dodger."

After my wife left and I stayed on in the house, Buster would get out one way or the other, and when the dog catcher came, he'd try to get back into the yard. Another neighbor saw him get picked up as he was scratching at the locked gate (even though he was on my property, he was clearly "free").

I learned to leave the gate unlatched. That way, he could just push it open; the dog catcher wouldn't dare enter a closed yard.

Another of the things I miss in Asia: the company of a dog. If I ever have another one, though, I'm going for a Fido.

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