1969 to 1983
A true and inspiring story.
Times unsung like “American Pie.” Almost everyone grew up claiming at least one favorite childhood pet. That best four legged and furry little friend imparting a plethora of daily memories, some of those memories filtered to simmer well into the longest life. Ours was a doozy little terrier mix named Mameetoes, whose name was shortened to Meetoes for doggy simplicity. A name offered up from a childhood acquaintance, who, after a lengthy verbal traversement, uncovered its meaning as a “Beautiful Mountain” in some lost South American dialect.
Like all puppies Meetoes understood little regarding the formal behavioral framework that would soon outline the borders of his developing world. Residing as the only Canine in a world surrounded by Felines, Meetoes soon realized that age old adage concerning Rome and was cast with a lifetime affliction toward a feline affection. An odd example of this was the time we had a litter of kittens nursing in a low round wicker basket. After the kittens became mobile enough to run around the house, and when Momma Kitty would basket-up for dinner, Meetoes would go around and collect all stray kittens gently in his mouth and bring them back to the basket for dinner. Did this dog really have paternal cat instincts?
Most pet lovers can attest to the natural instinct of a male puppy once finding itself perched at a forty-five degree angle. The instinct to begin fornication at forty-five degrees will often bring the surprising result of a rolled up newspaper or swat of the hand. Humans can sometimes harshly importune a moral lesson. In Meetoes case that forty-five degree instinct became imprinted into the lifelong affection he had come to have toward the race of creatures he believed he was a part of that had surrounded his formative youth.
Like countless pet owners, we lived with a doggy door installed in the back door allowing free access to the “Great Grassy Restroom.” A door consisting of an eighth-inch thick rubber flap flinging freely through its raised up square. Now unlike dogs, who quickly learned to plow through that flap on a dead jump, cats would crawl through and peek out slowly to survey the landscape outside first before taking that final push to vacate the square. Of course that peeking pause was executed at a forty-five degree angle. I can personally attest to observing on several occasions where the puppy, Meetoes, arrived behind such feline encampment; head hanging outside, body and hind feet paused inside and as opportunity would knock, Meetoes would use his front legs to trap, hug, and hold the cats in place and the forty-five degree instinct made its lifelong mental imprint. How often this action took place during the day when no one was around to levy the law was anyone’s guess.
So began the fourteen-year lifespan of a dog who truly loved to mount and show his affections toward any cat, male or female,that he happened to approach from behind. Of course when caught red-handed, often surprised by the shoe or book slamming into his side, he always broke away with the same head-up shinning look on his face, “Hey man what’s wrong with loving cats.” Nothing immoral every crossed his mind. During these spontaneous advances most felines were strong enough to turn and free themselves from underneath his grasp and claw their own way free. Always to Meetoes utter surprise. Somehow the rejection lesson was always short lived. We often wondered, then contemplated betting on, whether or not he would actually consummate any of his numerous love liaisons. Probably not considering most affairs were short lived due to the feline nature, cats often hate to be pinned down. Again, what transpired when no one was around was anyone’s guess.
Then one summer day after truly a dozen years of daily feline rejection, a rejection Meetoes had always taken with the same head-up-face as a grain of salt. My parents adopted a stray old tomcat who just happened along arriving beat-up and barely alive. Hair missing about a quarter of its body, both ears mostly chewed off. They decided to call him Uggy as the name seemed to just fit. He was nursed back to health. Then low and behold, upon Meetoes first clandestine advance and mount, Uggy Liked It! Somehow, someway, the animal fates had finally brought to the elderly Meetoes and his crusty old affections a beat-up old tomcat who we assumed must have thought it was a MASSAGE! Uggy never fought back! Meetoes finally had a real lover! At least he thought so as the frequency of the encounters seemed to increase. Of course this cracked us all up and infuriated our Mother. You might look out the kitchen window into the backyard and yell, “Hey Meetoes is shagging Uggy again.” Which would always bring about the same manly style illicit demand from our Mother, “Someone go out and throw something at that Damn Dog!”
Such was the strange personality and moral riddle of my childhood best friend. Yet Meetoes was not so one dimensional as to just languish around contemplating his feline affections. Meetoes was also utterly and completely possessed on the game of fetching a “Tennis Ball.” One can honestly say that as much as he loved cats, they became second fiddle in the presence of any tennis ball. Supposing one wanted to relax around the television to watch an evening program, all tennis balls had to be clandestinely hidden.
TRULY TESTED: You could starve Meetoes all day by taking away all bowls of food while hiding all tennis balls. Then around ten o'clock at night, bring out a bowl of food and a tennis ball in exactly the same moment. No contest, hands down the tennis ball would win out over the hunger drive every time. Meetoes was a twenty-five pound, two-foot long, ball-chasing machine that over time developed true professional athletic skills. The moment the ball left your hand that machine was ambitiously focused entirely on one single purpose. To catch and retrieve by grabbing said thrown ball as quickly and efficiently as doggedly possible. Once caught, he’d always bring the ball directly back to the thrower with a proud strut conveying everything regarding victory of purpose. Placing the ball directly at your feet to hotdog himself ready for another throw.
Let me recount just a teeny-tiny sampling of these personal and sometimes I admit belaud memories. Meetoes, like all skilled athletes of his kind, required and thrived on the challenge. If a small child were allowed to throw the ball out say about eight to ten feet. Meetoes could and would easily catch and retrieve with such precision and speed that he would soon tire, become bored, then seek out an adult that could offer up the gusto he required. If you bounced it high and easy he would catch it every time. If you threw it to far and it rolled to a stop before he could chase it down, do this enough times and he’d get frustrated and go look for a cat!
The purpose was to throw it with just the right velocity to match his athletic skills. Just outward to the exact moment when he caught up with the ball. A moment moving at a fast enough pace to allow bouncing angles that could challenge his skill levels at twisting his body in odd ways to catch the ball quickly. Providing athletic purpose to the whole game while providing all of us the entertainment of watching those skills in action. Often twisting and turning his body in ways just like wide receivers do in the N.F.L. Sometimes in these twisted contortions he would knock the ball away in another direction, reclaiming his four footings, sometimes in odd ways, snapping to re-zero-in on the quickest direction with breakneck speeds to the recapture and then instantly begin his proud strut of return.
My personal favorite memory and throw in the early days, was to time the bounce of the ball just right so just as he began his strike of capture he’d run out of pavement and end up in the pool! If this made him mad it was only a temporary rebuff, as he would quickly swim to capture the ball and make his way to the shallow end steps, climb out to do his own doggy shake rap-song, then spring into the proud strut of return. Of course if one happened to be sitting out back playing ones’ guitar, this type of deceptive throwing would offer up some time between throws to practice a little before the sitting little-eyeballing stare of anticipation would disrupt any concentration.
One day I was working on an automotive project in our backyard garage that opened out onto a paved alleyway. I was tossing the ball down the alley but my mind was all about torquing bolts on a flathead. (Tossing the ball had become an unconscious act.) After several hours I had finished my mechanical goals for the day and looked up to find Meetoes was not in his proud strut of return, but was a creature subdued and limping. Sure enough I had sent him flying down the pavement enough times to rub the pads on all four paws raw and bleeding! Indeed I felt really bad and neosporined him back into top shape after a couple of days and yes we had to hide all tennis balls for those few days to the detriment of all the cats....
Even a master tennis-ball-chaser like Meetoes would have his moment of doubt and pain. Camping in the mountains one summer we were tossing down an inclined and rutted dirt road that presented itself as a terrain for miraculous catches. One particular catch was executed by Meetoes by spinning around at full speed three times to suspend the ball against his chest until gravity brought it down and away just enough to be snagged up never once touching the ground. Catches down this road might instigate a tumbling roll and then a springing leap out at a different angle to catch a ball that had taken an irregular hop. He really became our personal legend that day, but alas, the bouncing fates would intervene. An infamous toss, a terrain inspired bounce, and Meetoes was compelled to dash into a small bush full of bees! His sudden imprint into their world proved very painful causing the master-ball-chaser to retire into several days of sickly recovering, well past the end of said current camping trip. Yet to us he was a legendary athletic ball chaser and we now understood what levels could challenge his potential to amaze.
Of course there are times when you just want to relax and play your guitar and the constant pressure to throw out the next challenge for this little four-legged maniac becomes very annoying. You can just ignore him, works for awhile but will instigate a gradually increasing yelping into an all out bark of “come-on-man.” You can hide the ball, which will instigate the behavior of him prowling the area were he saw you hide the ball and him offering up an erratic crying constantly during this search. Play your guitar loud enough and you won’t be bothered. Or you can get creatively deceptive with throwing the ball. Like tossing it full force into a thick bush forcing him to dig and climb for a while before mounting victory’s proud strut. One time I managed to bounce the ball up into a small metal trash can about a quarter full of trash. Ah! Ha! Get that you Little Turd! He circled and circled. He jumped! He stood up and pushed against the can, all to no avail. Twenty minutes later and by slowly building up his pushing force against the can while slowly increasing the distance he would charge into the can and hit it with his front feet. He began to rock the can on its side, again-and-again, until finally it teetered on its edge and fell over to the aspirating full arm cheer of the only guitar playing fan who ever truly understood the legendary status of this little canine cat lover!
Unlike most dogs Meetoes rarely barked at strangers. He was seemingly to refined toward his personal pursuits of loving cats and capturing his beloved soft round toy then to lower himself to such doggy annoyances. He could sit up, shake your hand, but for some reason he would never roll-over,,,,
When I listen to Jerry Jeff Walkers’ Mr. Bojangles, I truly understand how someone could write those lyrics and grieve a long lost friend. How fleeting our relationships can be, canine or otherwise. I could never venture to guess all the multitude of pet owners, in all walks-of-life around the world, who might relish similar memories about similar childhood friends.
As dogs go Meetoes had a genius that manifested itself within his razor sharp mental quickness for making decisions that perpetuated his often contortionist athletic skills regarding tennis ball retrieval. His imprinted puppy affections for loving cats represented just a side quirk of that genius. Indeed a cat for him had only one purpose. Male or female he “never” hurt, bit, or harmed his companions upon his advance in any way. So was the moral human discipline he received but ignored his entire life warranted? Borrowing a phrase from the hippies, "He was a MASTER BALLER." So having read thus-far, might we put forth the Doggy Moral to the Meetoes story as being: “Worry little about the past,”
“Be concerned less about the future,”
and “Live more in the present chasing the things you love.”
Finally, there’s no doubt the sudden influx of human munchies and a brand new ball every year had something to do with it. Should you venture back and take a closer look at the photo up above, you’ll no doubt notice his favorite holiday was Christmas....