Dickens for Dogs, or Worrying about Winston

Whenever anyone visits my house, they look around and ask, “Do you happen to have a dog?” If I could see a thought bubble over their head, it would read, “There’s no way anyone could keep their carpet clean if they had a dog.” It is true, there is no dog, and this means no paw prints on the carpet and comforter cover. But we did have a dog for almost 15 years, Winston. Winston was a wire-haired fox terrier with a bad attitude. Like me, he was nice to people he knew, but rather hostile to everyone else. We spent most of Winston’s life making up for his tragic childhood. We made sure he had a dog door, long walks, a nice bed, and lots of petting.

He originally belonged to my parents. Unfortunately, they bought him just before deciding to move to England. Since England was a country with an animal quarantine, he would need to be housed in a kennel for six months to verify that he wasn’t rabid. I had just moved to New York after graduating, and my mother called and asked if I could take him. The alternative wasn’t acceptable, so he flew to New York and moved into my small apartment. A year later, my parents decided they wanted Winston in England, so we put him on a British Air flight, and he went into quarantine.

That Christmas, we visited Winston at his prison. It was on the freezing plains of the English midlands. He had barked so much he lost his voice. They only fed him warm porridge. It was like Dickens' Oliver Twist for dogs. He spent six hard months in jail.

A couple of weeks before his release, my parents decided they were bored of England and wanted to move back. So on the day he regained his freedom, they picked him up at the kennel, drove him to the airport, and sent him back to me—hence the need to make up for his bad childhood.

Winston had a good life even through the eating of a turkey skewer. He found his way into the garbage one Thanksgiving and managed to eat the skewer. The vet was sure somebody was playing a trick on him when he saw the X-ray. So at 14, Winston went in for surgery to remove his skewer. He survived this, then managed to injure an eye fighting with the dog next door. Then he needed to have his eye removed. In the end he was a tough little pirate dog, with a patch, and big scar.

I never got another dog, because I don’t want a different one.