A few days ago, I was having lunch with a fellow dog lover friend, and our conversation turned to why we had chosen our particular breed. I relayed an interesting story, a tale which my mother had revealed to me some years later in life.
Apparently, when I was about 4 years old, my family was visiting my grandparents’ home in Adams, Tennessee.
My grandfather was having their house painted with a white enamel, and I had wandered outside, watching the workmen busy at their job. My grandfather was the proud owner of a beautiful black and white English Setter named Jack, his loyal and faithful quail hunting companion. I was told that when the workmen left for lunch, I had entertained the idea of what Jack might look like with an all-white coat, if only the proper amount of white paint might be applied.
Mom related that when the workmen returned, my grandfather was immediately summoned, and I had proudly stood there, assuming that he would provide a glowing critique of my newly created artwork. On this occasion though, he was at a loss for words. Poor Jack, they had to shave the dog in order to remove all the paint; once a beautiful blue belton setter with a soft flowing coat, now reduced to a hairless odd looking creature, in need of suntan lotion.
My mother told me that I was too young to spank, but I am confident that the thought had occurred to him. She told me that there was much hilarity and ribbing directed to him that week, by his buddies who had stopped by for a visit upon hearing the news, and a “look-see” for themselves. Things like, “Heard there’s a field trial to be held over in Guthrie next week. You two should make a hit!”
I do, however, faintly remember receiving a verbal scolding, one probably worse than a spanking. Mom told me that I also had a new desire that afternoon, whereby I had wanted to pack my T-shirt and shorts into a tote bag on my shoulder, like a hobo, and to run away somewhere, anywhere. Many years later, after I had graduated from college, and purchased my first home, my first dog to purchase was a gorgeous black and white English Setter puppy. Due penance was paid. I have owned setters ever since that time.
Mom also had another tidbit of information. During that same week of our visit, a neighboring kid down the road apparently provided entertainment for his family too. They were considering sending their kid in for a day’s worth of psychological counseling, for a malady involving sandpaper, superglue, used brake fluid, and grasshoppers. Mother told me, “compared to him, you were a saint.”