Storyworth: Did you have any pets growing up?

| February 1, 2022 | 0 Comments
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Bridget with Maggie, Butch’s Successor

I was about 10 years old when my Uncle Charlie brought Butch to our house. I don’t recall agitating for a dog. I don’t think it occurred to me that we’d ever have one. Charlie was my mother’s twin brother and had brokered dogs for others in the family. But I don’t think he ever owned one himself. My mother and father discussed whether to keep the dog and decided to do so. I’m not really sure why.

Butch was a rescue dog. He was a one year old Beagle when we got him and was extremely timid. We were told that he was a hunting dog who was “shell-shocked” when a gun went off close to his ear.

Whatever the reason, his timidity was profound. When he walked along the sidewalk, he would always stay right next to walls and bushes. He seemed fearful of being exposed, walking out in the open.

The first time he barked, we’d had him for a least a year. Yes, a full year without making a sound. And the bark came under extreme duress. He actually got himself locked in a closet in our third floor attic. He was missing all day, hours and hours. We had no idea where he’d gone. Then, after about six hours, we heard a very tentative yelp coming from the third floor. And there he was, stuck in the closet.

While my family always considered Butch damaged in some way, we truly loved him. His shyness was very ingratiating. He seemed to need protection. That said, we really didn’t protect him. The daily routine was to just let him out the door and he would roam the neighborhood. I’m not even sure we had a leash. And the idea of picking up his poop would have been abhorrent to us. It was a different time.

He did have one extraordinary skill. I’m not sure whether it was his sense of smell or some internal GPS, but he was always able to find his way home or find one of us. Two stories illustrate this capability.

One evening, as a family, we went to a department store named Zayre’s about 2 miles from our house. We brought Butch along. The route to the store was very circuitous, through our densely populated neigbborhood of Boston. At the store, we lost Butch. I think he just jumped out of the car. We searched and searched and couldn’t find him. Finally, we gave up and went home in the belief we’d never see him again. After a time, I don’t remember how long, we heard scratching at our front door. Yup, it was Butch. He had somehow made his way from the store through all the twists and turns for two miles back to our house. It was a miracle.

The other incident was even more amazing. We had two families of cousins in Dorchester, a large neighborhood of Boston, the Singletons and the Campbells. They were about 3 miles apart. On this particular day, my sister Susan was staying at the Campbells. The rest of us, my parents, two brothers and Butch, went for a visit to the Singletons. We did not go to the Campbells. Again, Butch disappeared. Again, we searched. Again, we thought we’d seen the last of Butch.

Later that evening, my Aunt Mary Campbell looked out the window into her front yard and saw a dog jumping all over Susan. She came running out to shoo the dog away, but Susan exclaimed, “No! It’s Butch!”

Somehow, he’d found his way from one cousins’ house to the other, presumably by scent. Could he have smelt Susan from two miles away? Did he just get lucky and get close enough to smell her as he roamed through Dorchester? Who knows. We were dumbstruck.

When I was about 20 years old, we’d had Butch for about ten years. He was a beloved member of the family. On January 19, 1974, Uncle Charlie, the man who’d brought us Butch, died suddenly of a massive heart attack while chopping ice outside his home. A couple of days later, Butch got hit by a car near our home on Walter Street while out on his daily unsupervised walk. I forget the details, only that somebody had seen him dead on the sidewalk. By the time we got to where it had happened, he had been picked up and taken away. We never saw him. It was brutal.

I remember being at Charlie’s wake and his kids, my cousins, coming up consoling me and my siblings about the loss of Butch and marveling how well we were taking his loss. I said, “Oh right, how would that look coming to Charlie’s wake, grieving about Butch.” But we were grieving. He was a very special, lovable dog and big part of our lives growing up. RIP.


My daughter, Bridget, began agitating for a dog almost from the moment should could speak. We held off for years. My wife, Rita, was very definitely NOT a dog person. (Spoiler: She is now). Finally, Rita began to wobble under the onslaught. She finally tipped over when Bridget delivered a PowerPoint presentation outlining all the benefits of dog ownership, i.e. unconditional love, exercise through dog walking, meet the neighbors, etc. My only requirement was that the dog be a Beagle, as an homage to Butch. Enter Maggie, a very timid female Beagle who had all of Butch’s pathologies with very few of his life skills. But that’s a topic for another chapter. Mainly, I included this epilogue to justify including a picture of Maggie in this post, since, sadly, I don’t have a picture of Butch. Here’s Bridget and Maggie.


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