Gus: The Top Dog of Durant

No one in my family thought of Gus as a dog.

If I had known about reincarnation at that time, I would have simply rationalized his humanness to that.

Gosh, he was good natured.  Once when Friday afternoon shopping had provided me with a new toothbrush and a tiny tube of Pepsodent, I tried the brush on Gus. “Come on, Gus, I’ll brush your teeth first.” I squirted a smooth line of Pepsodent along the bristles’ edges and stepped up to Gus. Like an obedient dental patient, he sort of grinned, baring a row of white canine teeth and I brushed the classic vertical method I had been so carefully taught.

In those days I was big on correct dental procedures.  What I was a little short on were the correct mouths and teeth on which to practice the procedures.  As soon as I had told Gus to rinse his mouth, I applied the same lathered toothbrush to my own teeth.  About that time mama came in and noticed me brushing my teeth.  Then she looked at Gus who had indiscreet tell-tale traces of Pepsodent along his lips.

“Good Night!  You brushed Gus’ teeth with your new toothbrush!  Now don’t deny it!”

“Yep, I did.”  It seemed natural to me and it took me a long time to see mama’s line of reasoning about that toothbrush.

One bright, but clear cold morning Daddy had some men over putting a new roof on the house.  Gus and I had been patiently standing around in the kitchen waiting for a fresh baked apple pie to cool enough for me to have a piece to carry outside in my hands.  I was anxious to begin my investigation of roofing, but I needed the fortification of hot apple pie before I could begin.  All seemed well until I got outside to the foot of the ladder.  After I got my foot on the first rung, I realized I didn’t have enough free hands to scale the ladder.  I turned to Gus. “Here, hold my pie, Gus.”  I shoved it in his mouth and climbed upward.


Soon the workmen were just grunting in response to my questionnaire concerning the art of roofing and I was forced to face the ultimate rejection of all  investigators, that is to seek knowledge elsewhere.  I assuaged myself with the comforting knowledge that a piece of apple pie awaited me ground level. Once I got to the ground, there was Gus waiting, eyes turned heavenward.  ” Where’s my pie, Gus?”   But this time no tell-tale traces lined his lips.  He had carefully licked away all the evidence.

Gus soon had a reputation in Durant.  He went everywhere we did.  No amount of coaxing though could convince him to ride in the car.  If we put him in the car and a window was open, he’d jump out.  If we opened a door, he jumped over us to get out.  When we tried to put him in the car, he immediately sensed it and dodged around us until we gave out. He even ran beside the car when he had to go to the vet. He preferred through all the years of his life to go everywhere we did by running beside the front wheel on the driver’s side.  It was hard on him in hot weather and the local shopkeepers always had a bowl of water to set down for him on errand days.

Durant was a very small, sleepy, dusty Southern town and the whole span of errands could be run within a few blocks.  Also we only lived two blocks from Main Street.  Soon everyone took it for granted that everwhere the little Carmack girl was that Gus was either by her side or the car side.

Every once in a while a stranger to Durant yelled out to us, “Why don’t you let that dog ride?”

Another hard part was that mama was an avid shopper, relentless in her search for the best bargain. She had comparative shopping down to a fine art much to Gus’ and my chagrin.  While mama scanned the store for a two cent savings, Gus and I plopped down near the store’s entrance. I always sat on him. He never left me. His duty was to babysit me and he lovingly executed this care with total dedication.  He was a cut above the sniffing of female dogs who crossed our paths.  He never abandoned his babysitting charge for any outside temptations.

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