My Dog "Sport"
by Leo Doucet
The first dog I can remember at home belonged to Grandmother Doucet. It
was a medium sized dog of a yellowish brown color with white on the
chest. She called it Pearl. I don’t know how long she had it and I can
only remember seeing it twice. Once in the kitchen and once after it had
been hit and killed by a car.
It was on a cloudy Sunday afternoon when someone came in and said the dog had been hit. Grandma hurried out the back door and came back crying. I went out with Mom and remember the dog laying in the yard. It was, I believe in 1929 when I was three years old.
It was very unusual for a dog to die this way because there were perhaps only a dozen or so cars in town. In any event Grandma was broken hearted and would often fondly recall all the things Pearl did. She must have had it for a long time. Mom never had much good to say about dogs, any dog. Anyway I wanted one and kept after Dad to get one.
It was unheard of in those days for someone to buy a dog or cat. It seems there was always one to be had for free. There was only one Veterinarian in Dalhousie, a Dr. Jones who was also the manager of the Chaleur Inn Hotel, owned by the International Paper Co., and no one would think of bringing a sick dog or cat to him. That cost money while a new dog cost nothing. If a dog or cat was sick for more than a few days it would be put down. A dog would simply be taken out into the woods and shot. A dog tangling with a skunk got the same treatment. Cats were put into a feed bag along with a rock and tossed over the wharf. Dalhousie had a healthy dog and cat population and there were few strays.
One day in the Fall when I was about five Dad came home with a small black and white dog about the size of a Boston Bull Terrier. Dad said his name was Dick. I was very pleased and played with him a lot, problem was that he was often sick for a day or two at a time, maybe that was why someone gave him to Dad in the first place. Mom didn’t want sick animals around and threatened to have him put down. I managed to keep him until the middle of that winter when Dick got sick and remained that way for about two weeks. There was little chance of taking him into the woods because of the snow and I had him for a few days longer.
Dad had a friend (of whom I have written about before) who in my view was very cruel, Mom despised him but he always hung around the barn where we kept several horses. Grandma was not fond of him either and he kept clear of Grandpa. He told Mom that he could arrange to have the dog put down. Dick disappeared one morning and I did not see him again until late in the afternoon. I was playing outside when a man came up and said he had my dog wrapped up in the blanket he was carrying. I knew the man and he came into the house with me.
His story was that he was fishing smelts in his shanty when all of a sudden a dog had popped out of the hole in the ice. He had grabbed the dog and placed him near the stove in the shanty. Shortly after he had wrapped the dog in his coat and walked to his home about a kilometer away. It was then that one of his sons had told him that the dog belonged to me.
Dads friend was in the barn, as usual, and Grandma told me to go and get him but not to say anything about the dog. When he came in, war broke out. His story was that he had put the dog in a feed bag but could not find a weight out on the ice. He had thought that if he pushed the bag out under the ice the results would be the same. He had used his fathers shanty that was about fifteen meters from where the dog, being carried by the current came out. Once more this man was told to get out and not come back. Grandma said she would tell Grandpa. That kept this person away for about a month this time. He told some friends later that he had just pushed Dick through the hole in the ice. Dick recovered quickly and was ok for the rest of the winter but the next summer he disappeared and Dad said he did not know where he had gone.
Around this time we had a distant relative on Mom’s side of the family who worked with Dad mostly during the winter months in the Taxi business. His name was Albert Arseneault and he was from Richardsville, a small community just east of Campbellton. Dad would pick him up at his home on Sunday evening and bring him back the following Saturday evening. In the Taxi business there is no set working hours and it didn’t bother Albert to work at anytime of the day or night. This was not unusual at that time. The only people who worked regular hours were the employees of the Paper Mill. The pay was $6.00 per week plus room and board.
Albert could not drive a car so he worked driving taxi with the horse driven sleighs. One day when Albert came from his home he brought me a small brown and white pup. I called him ‘Sport’. I had that dog for about 7 or 8 years. He was the best dog a boy could have. Full grown he weighed about 65 lbs.
I did not mind the one mile distance I had to walk four times each day to go to school except that when I went by Nick Guitard’s store oVictoria St. on the way to school, their dog a large long haired mutt who seemed to hate everyone made life difficult for me. If I walked by with a group it was ok, but if I was alone the dog would come at me barking with the hair up on his back. He had bitten several children but in my case Mrs. Guitard would almost always come to the door and call him back.
One Saturday I was walking past the store with Sport at my side when Guitard’s dog suddenly came at me. He never got past the center of the street. Sport met him head-on and flipped him on his back. He had him by the throat and was shaking him when both Mr. and Mrs. Guitard came running out of the store screaming. Mr. Guitard had a shovel and managed to get the dogs apart. Sport came trotting over to me wagging his tail. Mr. Guitard then told me to get home and never to come that way again. I waited across the street for a few minutes and after the Guitards had gone into the store with their dog I started to go past. Mr. Guitard came out again with his shovel but he also was met on the road, and got a tear in his pants for his efforts.
From then on if I was late for school I always took Sport with me and when I got to Guitard’s store their dog stayed on his side of the road, after I was safely past I would send Sport home. One morning the teacher sent a student out to get something but when the student opened the classroom door she turned and told the teacher that there was a dog at the door. Who’s dog is it the teacher asked?. The reply was not long in coming for Sport calmly walked in and sat on the floor right beside my desk. With more than 500 students in the school he had had no trouble tracking me right to my desk on the third floor.
Guitard’s dog got his about a year later. A neighbour, Paul Arseneault who was the Town Electrician was replacing a street light on a pole across the street from the store when on climbing down from the pole the dog junped up and bit him on the leg. Paul said nothing but finished his job on the pole. The dog meanwhile had gone over to his side of the road and continued to bark. When Paul started down the dog came at him again but this time he was ready. When he was almost on the ground the dog jumped up and Paul hit him on the head with a large pair of pliers knocking him down. He immediately jumped on the dog, opened his mouth and broke the four canine teeth with his pliers. Mr. Guitard came running over and started to give Paul a hard time. Paul, a broad shouldered man, grabbed Guitard with one hand and told to get to hell home or he would do the same thing to him. Not long after Guitard’s dog disappeared. This did not make me unhappy.
Our house on Victoria Street was about the distance of two city blocks from a wooded ridge where I spent a great deal of time, In summer we hunted squirrels and birds with slingshots and B B guns. I never owned a B B gun then but always rented one from the Traer boys at about ten or fifteen cents per week. Slingshots I had plenty of. A trip to a garage would get me an old truck tire tube which was good enough for dozens of slingshots. A trip to the town dump would get me the tongues of old shoes and boots which I used for pouches, and of course the crutches were for the taking in the woods.
Going up into the woods meant climbing some long steep hills and this is where Sport came in. I would grag his tail and he would haul me up those hills in a hurry. Usually I was with a group of boys and of course I got to the top a long time before them. There was not one place in the five or six square miles area where we played in that I could not immediatly identify. I knew where the squirrels were, where the frog ponds were and where snakes were likely to be found. There was a marshy place where I could count on seeing a few very beautiful canary yellow birds. We called them ‘Yellow Hammers’. In winter the area was superb for skiing. and also for snaring rabbits.
Around 1937 I got a newspaper route for the Telegraph Journal. My main delivery was in what was called the ‘Company Houses’. This area housed most of the elite of the town. One family at the extreme end of the route was named ‘Aughty’. The newspaper cost eighteen cents per week but the Aughty’s always gave me a quarter, the best tip on the whole route. I delivered fifty-five papers.
The Aughty’s had a mean Cocker Spaniel who never missed a chance to nip me on the legs. Often I would wait on the road for someone to open the door and call the dog in. I vowed more than once that given the chance he would be amongst the missing. My one and only chance came and went before I realized what was happening.
Mr. Aughty passed our house on his way home to lunch. Quite often, especially in the winter, on his way back the dog would follow behind his car. Sometimes the dog running full speed would be about two blocks behind. If I saw him coming I never failed to put the rocks to him. He would bark at me but was too busy chasing the car to do much about it. It got so he would run only on the sidewalk on the other side of the street, no matter he was still well within range.
One lunch hour during the winter I had prepared about a dozen snowballs which I stored in the side of the snowbank. I was crouched below the snowbank which was twenty feet from the entrance to a woodshed which led to our back door. Pretty soon I saw the Aughty car go by and the dog coming some distance behind. At the right moment I let go and caught the mutt on the side of the head. He yelped and before I could throw another snowball he came straight at me. I almost made it to the door of the shed when he jumped on my back and sent me headlong through the door. I let out a scream of terror and to this day I can still remember the ‘thunk’ when Sport came out of nowhere and collided with the Spaniel. Before I could even get up Sport was on top and viciously shaking the Spaniel. I scrambled up and closed the shed door. The growls and roars were awful. Mom opened the kitchen door, saw what was going on and quickly opened the shed door while screaming for Sport to stop. He listened and the Spaniel streaked for home leaving some of his hide behind. She wanted to know why I had brought the other dog into the shed, I told her he had chased me there. That part was true.
When Sport had been but nine months old we almost came to a parting of the ways. I was six then and was watching my Grandmother make bread. She was using a large pan into which she was kneading dough. I hauled Sport out from behind the wood stove and began kneading his sides with my fists and flipping him over like Grandma was doing. He did not like this and got away from me and hid behind the stove, I hauled him out again and as I tried to push him down he gave a yelp and bit me on the edge of the left ear.
Apparently I let out a roar and when Grandma turned and saw me holding my ear with blood coming through my fingers she assumed the worst. She grabbed a stick from the wood box and cracked Sport on the head then opened the door and booted him outside. How dare he bite her grandchild. Dad had heard the howl of the dog and came in to find out what had happened. Grandma told him the dog had bitten me and he wasn’t coming in the house again, ever. A cut on the ear always bleeds profusely and this had frightened me enough that I also didn’t want the dog. Dad took Sport to the hayloft in the barn and kept him there for a week. He brought him out one morning while I was having breakfast and Sport seemed so glad to see me that I agreed he could stay. Grandma said if he so much as growled at any of us again he was finished. Sport never did.
My mother was an Epileptic and suffered much from this disorder, she never cared much about animals and it seemed that as Sport got older he got more in the way. She complained about him always lying in the doorway between the kitchen and dining room. One day she was not well and as she came from the kitchen with some food dishes she tripped over the dog with the hot food burning her hands. That was it, Sport had to go.
A few day later the dog was gone. I did not see him again for several months, but one day on the way to Campbellton with Dad I recognized him lying on the front steps of a farm house. On the way back I opened the window and called "Sport,Sport". He was up like a flash and came running toward the gate but Dad would not stop and said that it was not fair to call him now that he lived in a new place. Every time we went to Campbellton from then on I would watch for him and for the next several years often observed him either in that yard on the steps.
I have had several dogs since then but none like Sport. Grandma had passed away when I was eight and Mom it seemed was almost always sick and never in a mood to have a dog around.
This page was designed by Irene Doyle Feb. 1998