When I was growing up, we had just one dog (and no cats at all), a slight, curly-haired German Schnauzer mix we called “Blondie.” The name reminded me of Chic Young’s “Blondie” comic strip, which I read avidly as a kid, but there was no connection that I knew. My parents had barely finished grade school and didn’t read much at all, certainly not books and maybe not even the Sunday funnies, so I think we named the pup “Blondie” just because her hair was, well, blondish.
She was a sweet mutt, except when it came to cars out front, which Blondie would determinedly protect us from. She chased and barked at them ferociously but not far, as Harold Street was short, a single block of small houses; ours at 7927 Harold, built in 1950 and still standing today, was 740 square feet and had just five rooms - two bedrooms, a bath, living room, and kitchen.
The menacing cars always fled from Blondie’s vociferous assault, for which dutifulness she of course expected a reward. Her favorite treat was Milk-Bone Dog Biscuits, which were kept in a cabinet beneath the kitchen sink. Blondie would wolf down as many as my parents would toss her way, and so, at age 5 or 6, I figured they must be pretty good. My mom made real biscuits from scratch, as all North Carolina farmgirls did, I suppose. Those were mighty tasty alright, but these biscuits for dogs looked more like cookies, were enticingly bone-shaped, reminded me for some reason of Barnum’s Animal Crackers (which I loved playing with nearly as much as eating), and thus I thought they might be even tastier.
Sitting alone on the kitchen floor, as I recall, I took a bite. Though they weren’t sweet, as I had expected, they did seem good enough. I ate half a dozen maybe; got sick quick. Somebody told me later that the makers put insect-repellant in those biscuits, to discourage hungry bugs. That was perhaps not true, but, hey, it was the early 1950s and food safety wasn’t high on everybody’s (anybody’s?) list.
I learned a lesson that day. And here’s one for you: if you have little kids and a dog, keep the kibbles on an upper shelf, not under the kitchen counter.
Rick LaFleur is retired from 40 years of teaching Latin language and literature at the University of Georgia. His latest books are “The Secret Lives of Words,” based on his widely distributed newspaper column, and “Ubi Fera Sunt,” a translation into classical Latin of Maurice Sendak’s children’s classic, “Where the Wild Things Area.” He and wife Alice live part of the year in Apalachicola, under the careful watch of their French bulldog Ipsa