A King#039;s love is still remembered

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 10, 2002

When the sirens are tested once a month I often think about my favorite dog -- King.

King was no ordinary dog. He was the 'neighborhood dog.' He was the best howler you ever heard. He would throw his head back, make an 'O' with his mouth and howl. Not your usual

'ah uuuuuuuu uuuu uuuu uuuuu uuuu.' There was no break in his howl. Sometimes you couldn't hear the end -- it was a crackly, gurgly sound but he could hold a note that would make Barbara Streisand envious.

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When we first moved to the north Minneapolis suburbs, he stared at us from behind a chicken wire fence across the street. He was the neighbors dog -- a big German shorthair that we stayed away from.

As rumor had it, he could take your arm off with one bite and that's why he was kept behind the fence.

We were glad when we heard the neighbors across the street were moving.

The day that mom suggested we go across the street and get acquainted with the brown dog with the gray spots and the big mouth, I thought mom was trying to kill off her brood of seven one at a time.

"Uh ah, not me. He's mean. He'll jump on me. Promise you'll save me if he knocks me down," I begged my mom.

Mom had no idea what this dog could do. He was legendary, yet no one had ever seen him out of that cage.

She and the neighbor, Diane, took me to the fence and as it opened, I felt like a T-bone steak. King looked at me, his jowls wet with slobber. He covered the ground between us before I could faint. I stood stiff as a board as he came to attention and dropped to his seat when Diane said 'sit.'

He didn't move a muscle but his eyes said, "Ah, come on. Let me slobber all over this little girl."

Diane said, "Now you try."

I walked back a few paces, said 'come on, King' with barely a breath between that command and 'sit.' He skid to a halt -- dead still.

King came home with us that day, to stay.

He was a great kid's dog. He would find the biggest stick he could drag -- lengths of two-by-fours or a limb -- and you'd have to throw it for him to fetch until you just got too tired to throw anymore. He could gnaw a hunk of two-by-four to toothpicks.

He gave rides to every kid that came over to play. When he was done he'd stop dead in his tracks, sit, and his rider would slide to the ground.

Parades often went by our house and all the police officers and firemen would give a short blast on the siren as they came by. King would howl. They all laughed. He had ridden in many of their cars.

There was no leash law back then and when King went wandering, they'd bring him home. After all the years behind the wire fence, we didn't have the heart to fence him.

One night he wandered into the street and was hit by a car. An officer came to the door holding the big dog across his arms. We were all crying at the same time. Seven sobbing kids. Dad had no choice but to bring King to the vet where they patched him up the best they could.

Neighborhood kids brought him scraps and juicy bones and the cops stopped to see him. He recovered though he had a limp. He no longer gave rides but he could still fetch all day long.

Then the sad day came and mom said King needed to go to the country where he could roam. He had arthritis and could no longer keep up with us.

My siblings and I talk about King to this day. We will never forget him that wonderful howling hound.

Ailene Dawson's column appears on Wednesdays in the Herald.