Comeback kid (That’s my dog)

Nicky was a ramblin’ man, a rover, a rapscallion. Though the leash law was firmly in effect in North Little Rock well before we moved to Blackhawk Road, Nicholas von Robwillaurcath considered himself an exception to the rule.

Nicky was a rambler, but he always made it home to sleep in his own bed.

He wandered the streets of the east side of Indian Hills, meeting folks as he went. But he always came back.

People we’d never met would greet him by name if we took him for a walk. “Oh, we know Nicky,” they’d say. We were never quite sure how his name got around, but we did meet lots of people that way.

Nicky was a scrappy dog – he came from blue-blood lineage and had the paperwork to prove it, but he quickly got nicked ears (which made his name seem pretty appropriate, now that I think about it) from duking it out with other dogs over territory. Never mind that he was a slim miniature dachshund; he was large in his mind and attitude.

Once Mother heard him ferociously barking in the carport and opened the door to find the dogcatcher backed into a corner.

“Lady,” he told her sternly, “you’ve got to keep your dog at home.” Or something to that effect. Fat chance. We were lucky he didn’t arrest our four-legged juvenile delinquent; those were the good old days.

He was also a ladies man and a lover. He only sired a few puppies that we know of, once as a stud to another registered dachshund and the other time was with a homely, small mixed-breed dog from way down on another street. She used to strut down Blackhawk when she was in heat.

Pam and I called her a “slut mutt,” or something like that, and thought it was exceptionally funny that her name was Fanny. One of her litters had a couple of puppies that looked very much like dachshunds. Oops.

This was before people routinely spayed and neutered their pets. Don’t know that my dad could’ve borne neutering his boy anyway – Nicky was the other male in a family of girls for the few years he stuck around. Daddy called him “son.” They had a special bond.

When Daddy came home from work, Nicky would follow him to the bedroom and “talk” loudly about his day as Daddy changed out of his suit. “Tell me about it, son,” Daddy would say, encouraging him to go on. That little wiggling dachshund body would whip into a frenzy, and he’d twist the small round area rug on the hardwood floor into a ball as he wriggled.

Daily routine, it was. Another routine was helping Daddy mow our giant back yard. Daddy would pick up rocks and toss them into the woods behind our house to keep them out of the lawnmower. Nicky would retrieve each one.

One of his cooler tricks was turtle hunting. Daddy would say, “Go find me a turtle, boy,” and off into the woods Nicky would tear. It might take him an hour or more, but he wouldn’t come back without a turtle in his jaws.

Cathy and I (and Pam and Connie and whoever else happened to be there) liked to play a trick on Nicky, too, and though we felt mean, we thought it was hysterical to call him “Ricky” – he never seemed to notice and got just as excited when we talked to him. Shame on us. 

Nicky came to us as the cutest little wiggly Christmas present you ever saw in 1966. I was in the sixth grade and Cathy the second. It was mad love at first sight.

We decided on Nicky, short for Nicholas for his registered name, and Mother came up with the rest of it, a combination of Robert, Willette, Laura and Cathy. Robwillaurcath.

Nicky left us on Christmas Day in 1970.

What happened was this: We used to have violent acorn wars in the space between the Cartwright and Crownover houses. We’d divide into teams/sides/whatever and pelt huge acorns as hard as we could at the opposite side.

Hurt like hell, actually, but kids will be (idiot) kids and we thought it was great fun. But little Nicky wanted to be in on everything we did, and he’d chase and scoop up acorns too. At some point, he accidentally swallowed one whole, but we didn’t know it.

He became terribly ill in December and x-rays showed the acorn that had ripped his intestines. Of course my father told the vet to operate, and the surgery went well. His recovery was long and we’d go visit him to keep his spirits up.

No one was a more regular visitor than Daddy. We couldn’t go Christmas Day, of course, because the vet’s office was closed. My father came home in shock on Dec. 26 – he went to visit his boy, only to learn that the holiday caretaker hadn’t read the instructions and fed Nicky dry food.

His incisions ruptured and no one was there to notice he was dying. We were all heartbroken, beyond crushed. But none as much as my dad.

Daddy came home and took to his bed. Cathy and I, as aggrieved as we were, were scared. We tiptoed around and whispered in respect.

Sometime after he emerged from the master bedroom, Daddy announced that there would be no more dogs. He couldn’t go through the pain again. Of course that’s before we met tiny Katie Scarlett Cartwright, the cutest little gingerbread dachshund puppy you could imagine.

She was a faithful companion to Daddy through his illness and outlived him by a few years. But she’s another dog tale.

This is about Nicky, who blue-blood or no, was still nothing but a hound dog. And one heck of a guy.

Mother at 35 on the kitchen couch with my first Ben, who seems to be cleaning his foot, and Nicky shortly before the acorn wars of 1970.

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