Mr. Davis is one of the best-known and most respected breeders in the state. He’s in his eighties, I think; all I know is that he’s been around for decades. At least, that’s what I hear folks say. Mr. Davis prides himself on top quality basset hounds. He tells anyone who will listen that he raises the best show dogs in the country. Lately, I’ve started to worry how long he’ll keep me here. If no one seems interested, will he eventually get tired of taking care of me?
What I needed was a skill—a real skill—some sort of talent to make me impossible to replace. I needed to prove to him and all the others I’m really good at something—and not just good, but the best. Then he’ll have to keep me. Right?
Well, it made perfect sense to me.
So, I asked my mom one day if she could name one thing I did better than any of the other dogs. It took her a minute to think of something. That made me a little nervous.
“Let me see, now,” she said. “It’s really hard to come up with just one thing. You’re so good at everything.” Spoken like a true mother.
“Mom, I’m not talking about being good at something. Is there anything I do better than anyone else?”
She turned her head and smiled. Then, as it sometimes does, her back leg started thumping, and it slowly began moving in the direction of her head. I knew exactly what she needed.
“Let me take care of that for you,” I said. “That’s what I’m here for.” I reached up with my front paw and began scratching her ear.
“Mmmmm.” She put her head back and closed her eyes. “Now, there’s something you’re really good at.”
“Anybody can scratch an itch,” I said. “There’s gotta be something better.”
My mother was now in deep thought. “Give me another minute.”
This wasn’t going well. If your own mother couldn’t think of something—anything—that set you apart from the pack, then you were in big trouble.
She looked at me with a nervous smile. I could tell she was struggling to come up with something. It was starting to get embarrassing—for both of us. It was time to change the subject.
“Hey, Mom, did you hear about the dog who got too close to an electric fan and lost his nose?”
“Oh, dear,” she said. “Without a nose, how does he smell?”
I grinned. “He smells like all dogs—awful!”
She shook her head and started laughing. “Oh, Rutherford, where do you come up with this stuff? You never seem to run out of…” She paused. “Wait a minute. That’s it.”
“What?” I said.
“You’re the best joke-teller on the farm—hands down.”
I smiled. You know, she was right. As much as I’ve always wanted to be someone’s watchdog, I kind of knew it might take time to get discovered. And so, just to keep my spirits up, and to make the others think I was okay with being passed over, I went out of my way to learn new jokes to tell everyone.
It always made me feel good to see the others laugh. It took some of the sting out of rejection. And when I stopped to think about it, no one knew more jokes than I did—and if I have to say so myself—no one could deliver a punchline any better than I can. It’s an art, I’ll have you know. And it all has to do with timing.
“I do like telling a good joke,” I said. “And all the others do seem to enjoy them.”
“They love your jokes,” my mother said. “You have a real talent, son.”
It was nice to hear her say that. So, I could do something better than the rest. That was great.
But the more I thought about this talent of mine, the more I wondered how it would help me in the long run. I was flattered that other dogs enjoyed my humor, but was it enough to convince Mr. Davis I was a valuable asset here on the farm?
“I like entertaining everyone,” I told my mother, “but what good is it, really?”
“What good is it?” she said. “Rutherford, you single-handedly keep the morale sky-high around here. Everyone is always so happy to see you. You’re never without a smile and a funny story. That’s priceless.”
“But Mr. Davis is a human. He can’t understand my jokes. He doesn’t know I have this talent. Someday, he’s going to get tired of taking care of me, and he’s just going to dump me somewhere.”
My mother shook her head. “What are you talking about? Mr. Davis loves you. He knows that you’re…” She glanced at my short leg, “…special. He would never get rid of you. You’re one of his favorites.” She smiled weakly. “Of course, I wish I could say the same thing about his son.”
His son—now, that was another subject. Horace Davis was nothing like his father. He always seemed to be in a foul mood. He never played with any of us. I don’t think he even liked us. He treated us like—well, dogs. And he never smiled.
Wait a minute—I take that back. Whenever someone pulled out his wallet to pay for one of us—then, and only then, would he smile.
I, for one, didn’t trust him. And I’m sure my mother felt the same way. More than once she warned us about staying away from him. I wasn’t sure why, but I didn’t want to find out.
He always made me feel uncomfortable. Whenever he saw me, he would shake his head and make this grunting sound. For the longest time, I’ve had a feeling that if Horace is ever running this place, there’ll be no room around here for me.
I decided that if I concentrated on my joke-telling and helped keep spirits high around the place, I could survive anything.
To be continued…