remembering my first furry friend

As I scan old photos, the details of Frisky—my first dog—came rushing back.

By Marti Benson

He was purchased for our family in 1962 by our great-aunt Isabel. Having had Boston Terriers, I suspect Isabel thought she’d found a great deal on her favorite breed. Born on a farm outside of my hometown, this little fellow had powerful jaws, a stiff brindle coat and a noticeable cowlick on top of his head. But although he had some characteristics of a Boston Terrier, he was obviously not a pedigreed pup.

Frisky’s life was less cushy than Punkie’s, his successor. My sister and I loved parading Frisky around the block in a baby buggy, and dressing him up in doll clothes as our “baby brother, Frankie.” He endured countless hours at the restless feet of my siblings and I in the back seat of a cramped car during family camping trips. And his bed was a threadbare chenille blanket in a corner of our kitchen.

Still, he enjoyed freedoms Punkie would never know. Although his daily diet consisted of canned Alpo, it was complemented with table scraps. Mom would dissect the remnants from a chicken carcass or roast beef to add to Frisky’s bowl. On the rare occasions that we dined at a restaurant, Mom’s purse became a receptacle for leftovers wrapped in napkins for Frisky. He was also not neutered, and rumors circulated in our neighborhood about the number of puppies who bore a striking resemblance to our dog. Hey, it was the ’60s, and free love was the thing.

However, Frisky’s reputation as a fighter was just as notorious. Although he was confined to our large backyard surrounded by a picket fence, he still managed to get out and engage in warfare with his arch enemies Hector and Bandit—both much bigger dogs. It wasn’t until we discovered a silhouette of his torso worn into two pickets that we figured out his escape route. He spent quite a bit of time convalescing from his wounds on piles of towels. “I hope he learned his lesson this time,” my dad would say.

At the age of 11, Frisky developed a large bump on his shoulder. He’d always been a “lumpy” dog, but this one broke through the skin and began to ooze. My parents spoke in hushed tones about the growth. The night before his visit to the vet felt ominous. I wrote Frisky a poem about my love for him (which I still have) and promised I would never forget him. The next day, Dad came home from the vet’s office…alone.

I finished scanning the photos and gathered Frisky’s pictures. Tying a red ribbon around them, I tucked my poem into the bundle. Not only was Frisky a good dog—he was my first dog, and I will never forget him.

Send your questions to Marti in care of Life After 50, or email her directly at outnumberedbydogs@gmail.com.

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