My childhood dog, Mean Streak, would have turned 287 in dog years this past Sunday, had he not taken leave of this world to commence peeing on the fire hydrant in the sky back in the spring of 1986. Mean Streak was an excellent watchdog but a bit on the high strung side. My family and I did not excel at dog training, as much as our dog excelled at getting us to play by his rules. Revered dog whisperer Cesar Milan probably would have shouted himself hoarse at us.
An example of Mean Streak steamrolling us was that he expected warm toast with butter for breakfast. One morning, I entered the kitchen where I discovered Mean Streak was exceptionally snarly as was my father. I avoided the dog but confronted my dad.
Me: What did you do to piss off the dog?
Dad: I made him breakfast. Why won’t he eat it?
Me: Did you toast it?
Dad: Of course, I toasted it!
Me: Did you butter it?
Dad: Butter it! Which one of you jackasses started him on that – you or your brother?
Me: Try your mother.
Granny, who lived with us, would make the same breakfast every morning for herself and Mean Streak, except she had coffee with her buttered toast. She would have gladly given him a cup of java, too, but she had the capacity to see that he was excitable enough without adding caffeine to his diet. Whenever Granny went away, Mean Streak would be a bit out of sorts. He was confident that she would get his breakfast right unlike her son.
A particularly bad habit my grandmother taught the dog was how to bribe. Mean Streak would not allow anyone to touch his supper dish when he had finished eating. The only way we could get it back was to show him a biscuit. If you were foolish enough to try and take his dish away without a treat, he’d sink his teeth into your arm. He made it very clear he was in total control of that dish. Therefore, you’d prominently extend the cookie towards him so he could clearly see it since he was so nearsighted. After he was certain it was indeed his dessert in your hand, and not the exploding cigar he deserved, he’d punch a paw into the dish prompting it to stand on its side. Then he’d carry it to you in his mouth, and drop it at your feet in exchange for his end of the deal. Once he punched his dish so vigorously, it went flying under my dad’s Buick.
Mean Streak went ballistic.
He crouched low but could not shimmy his way under the car. He was barking frantically, which did not faze me since he was always barking at something, including the wind. He even barked in his sleep. As Mean Streak was freaking out, I was in the living room calmly reading the newspaper, tuning out the racket. My grandmother arrived on the scene. When she realized what had happened, she ordered me to intercede on the dog’s behalf.
Granny: Get the dog’s dish.
Me: No way. He’s on his own. Sucks to be him.
Granny: He’s upset!
Me: When he bites my arm off, won’t that upset you to have a granddaughter the neighbors call ‘Stumpy’?
Granny (demanding): Go under the car now!
Me (channeling John McEnroe): You can’t be serious!
She was. I went under the car. All the while Mean Streak is crouched low, anxiously watching my every move with a crazed look in his eye and white foam dripping off his jowls. When I get a hand on his dish, I whack it out. He grabs it without saying thanks, and obediently hands it to my grandmother who rewards him with his biscuit adding:
Granny: Good boy!
Alongside barking and growling, Mean Streak’s other favorite activity was to lie under the kitchen table and chew on his nails, as opposed to his countless chew toys and tennis balls. One day he gnawed with a little too much gusto. Hence, as seen in the picture below, his bandaged right paw.