“Boy” was the dog’s name. He lived across the street from my childhood home. He was not a friendly animal, but he was smart as a whip. His owner Mr. Barr, was sour and reclusive, but he loved that dog. They were inseparable. Mr. Barr trained Boy to ride on the fender of his 1946 Dodge with Dynaflow. (Dynaflow meant you didn’t have to keep the clutch in at a stop light. You could let it out and then ease down on the accelerator when the light changed.)
Boy had an arrogant look on his fuzzy face as they drove by. He seemed to say, “I know I am a special dog, privileged to have Mr. Barr as my master, a man who understands how special I am, how easily trainable I am. Just look how well-trained I am to ride up here on the fender. How many other dogs do you see riding on a fender?”
It seemed to me that Mr. Barr could easily teach Boy to do stuff like that, but he didn’t bother to teach him not to do stuff that he should not do. For example, he chased every bicycle or motor scooter that came by, trying earnestly to bite the leg of any he considered intruding on his road space, which stretched about a half a block. I learned to get off my bicycle as I approached the bellicose animal and keep it between him and me. I would roll the bike back and forth as I walked, blocking his pursuit of my legs until I was out of his territory and he relented.
Once, my first cousin from across town came to my birthday party. After all the festivities, he wanted to ride bikes. He got on my brother’s Schwinn and I got on my hybrid ditch-jumper. I forgot to warn him about Boy. We left my house in a direction not monitored by the dog, but we came home right in front of Boy’s domain. He flew towards us in a fury of soprano barking. Immediately, I got off my bicycle, thinking, I guess, that my cousin would follow my lead. Instead of doing so, he sped up, much to the delight of the dexterous dog.
Boy bit my cousin and drew blood. He left two rows of perfect teeth marks on his calf. My cousin screamed. He was a year or two older than I was and I couldn’t recall ever seeing him cry, but he was definitely crying that day. Instead of coming on into the house and letting Mother have a look at his wound as I recommended, he rode straight home without a word.
Soon, his father my uncle showed up at Mr. Barr’s door. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but Mr. Barr looked cowed as he held Boy in his arms. As it turned out, he had no evidence of a rabies vaccination for Boy and he had to keep him pinned up for awhile. My cousin was required to get shots in his stomach and after the confinement Mr. Barr had to put the dog down. As far as I know he never got another dog.
There was something sad and incomplete about the 1946 Dodge with Dynaflow after that. Mr. Barr sat on his front steps smoking his pipe as we rode our bicycles by his house sadly, but without fear.
Daniel G. Ford, Ph. D.