Kathy Vance: Friday

Friday as a wee puppy with my sisters, early 1960s

Friday as a wee puppy with my sisters, early 1960s

“Mothers always take care of the puppies. No matter how much the children promise and plead, don’t ever get a puppy unless the mother is ready…”

Ever hear that one? This is what happened in our family in Ottawa in the 1960s.

Friday was supposed to be a small mixed breed puppy and we named him for the day of the week he arrived from the dog shelter. We had several mixed up names in my family: my Mom’s nickname was Mike, I was called George until I was twelve, and now our dog was named for a day in the week. We never quite figured out what he really was; he looked part Short Haired Pointer and maybe a mix of Lab and something else. That Friday he was no bigger than my big daddy’s hand. I was three years old and equally wee.

On weekdays it was just my Mom and the puppy and me at home as my older sisters were in school. At first my mother had to feed him with an eye dropper, but Friday grew and grew and grew until he became a really big dog. My Mother, who called her parenting style benign neglect, let all manner of chaos swirl around her and this included the dog. He followed her everywhere. No one in our neighbourhood thought a thing about it when the heard my Mom calling “Friday, come here!” from the front door. The memory draws a warm smile to my face even today.

Friday was a gentleman dog, very polite and kind to children. I would lie on the floor at the end of the day with my head on his chest lifting up and down with each breath he took.

Life went along like that until one day a car hit him a block from home. My Mom knew that he’d been bruised badly and that he wouldn’t emerge from under the sun porch for the week that it took him to heal. He was tender for some time after that and this led to the discussion of what to do with a dog who loved to run solo. Ottawa was not the metropolis that it is now, but it had its fair share of cars even back then. Finally a great solution was found. Friday was going to travel by train to live with my Grampa Jim and Uncle Don. Uncle Don and Aunt Helen had a little girl named Cindy and that meant a big deal to me, since my dog friend would have another little girl to love. The solution was so hard and so good at the same time because in the Eastern Townships of Quebec there would be lots of leg room for Friday.

My Dad brought him to the train station where he was informed that “the dog would have to wear a muzzle”. (Friday had never even worn a collar.) This upset my Dad to a tear and as he spoke more about this special gentleman dog, the baggage man grew sensitive to the situation at hand. Dad said the baggage man clipped the muzzle to the peg board commenting that the ‘requirement of dog with muzzle had been met’. My Dad was so thankful to this other man for treating Friday well. Later we were to learn that although this baggage handler was scheduled to end his shift in Montreal, instead he stayed on board the train all the way to the Sherbrooke Station in order o see Friday safely into the hands of my Gramps and Uncle Don.

Once acclimatized to his new surroundings, Friday would travel from county to county on the Township roads for the rest of his life without incident. Many black and white puppies were spotted in nearby towns and farmyards. He was proud, strong and happy. He could easily range and travel for over a week at a time, always coming home happy and well fed. If a dog could smile, it was Friday.

Every summer we would visit my Grampa and Friday who had become an integral member to both families. One morning when I was under ten years old I woke with Friday at dawn and as the rest of the house was asleep we talked with each other on the front porch, he slowly wagging his tail and me resting my head on his chest. I knew that no matter how heavy and big my head would grow, Friday’s chest would always be able to thud-thud-thud underneath it – always a heart beat close.

We decided to go for a walk to Batley’s Pond just down the road from Gramps’s. As the mist rose and the day began, it was my luck to spot the Mother Bear and her two cubs drinking from the edge of the Pond. Knowing that Friday was a woodsman’s dog, I reached for and succeeded in holding on to his neck ruff. That’s when Friday saw what I had seen – and although my grip was a good one, I was a kid, and Friday became a dog in full flight. In a split second, the mother bear slipped her kids into the deep woods and disappeared from my view. Friday arrived at what was left of their scent, and took off in hot pursuit. I could hear his howls deep in the woods. The echo of his disappearing voice prompted a rapid trail home for me, where I woke up all the adults to save Friday. They were attentive to me and calmed my tears, assuring me that the mother bear knew what she was doing, and that Friday knew what he was doing and that his biggest problem would be in finding his way back out of the woods. I called for days at the edge of the woods for Friday until the day we had to leave for Ottawa. Upon our arrival home we were welcomed by a phone call from Uncle Don. Friday had found his way back and was in fine shape. That taught me patience.

One Summer we arrived, stayed and left without ever seeing Friday. He was away on one of his rambles. When Friday returned home and smelled our scent all over my grandfather’s house, he ran from room to room and looked up at Uncle Don with an accusing stare as if to as how he could have let this happen!

The following Summer Uncle Don said to Friday “Mike’s coming home” about a week before our arrival. He said Friday sat at the end of the laneway, stuck to the spot. By the time we drove up, the patient Friday could contain his enthusiasm no longer. He ran down the slight slop from the house just as Mike, my mother, emerged from behind the steering wheel. Just as she got her footing, she was bowled over by Friday’s two front paws firmly braced on each of her shoulders. They relished in each other’s company. For me it was wonderful to see such displays of affection in a family that was otherwise reserved. Friday showed great capacity to love all his life and what a big lug he had become.

The last chapter of this story is that as a drunk driver was about to strike my Cousin Cindy in front of the village corner store, the old dog Friday stepped into the car’s path and ended his days. He was a great dog who lived life to the full, kept his heart and mind sharp and looked out for himself and for those he loved. When I close my eyes I can still smell his fur and feel my head moving up and down to the rhythm of his happy heart.

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