Farewell to Lassie and the Advent of Purp
Lassie was a dog. A very wonderful Dog. A loving dog with the sweetest disposition that a dog could have. She was our dog in our earliest days in Apple Valley, having moved here with us from Altadena.
Lassie had a litter of pups. We had no trouble finding homes for all of them except one. That one was kind of a runt and not particularly pretty. Since we hadn’t found a home for her, we kept her. We had started calling her “the purp” (a corruption of the word “Pup”) so her name turned out to be Purp.
Lassie and Purp made some of our early moves with us, and not always willingly. Lassie would go back to our previous quarters as though she thought we still lived there. We would have to get her and bring her back to her new home.
Lassie aged and her movements became difficult. Then she developed something more serious. My uneducated diagnosis was cancer of the rectum. She would show symptoms of severe pain and she would lick herself and then lie on her belly in pain. I thought in the morning I’m going to have taken her to the vet and have her put down. Then I thought she needs relief now not in the morning! And then I asked myself, “Can I let my devoted old friend lie here and suffer all night while I go to a warm comfortable bed, just because I’m too chicken to do it myself?” Then I said, “I’m not that chicken.”
I went and got a two foot iron wrecking bar left over from my carpenter days. This bar was made of steel about 5/8 inch in diameter. On one end were curved claws like on a claw hammer and on the other end were straight claws. Holding the straight claw end in my right hand I laid the heavy curved claw end lightly on the back of her scull and raised it up and brought it down slowly in a practice swing. Then I raised it again and this time I brought it down hard and fast.
I could hear the bones of her skull and spine crunch. Her body stiffened and all four legs made rapid back and forth movements. I thought “Didn’t that blow kill her? Will I have to hit her again?” I thought, “It had to kill her. The movement is just a nervous reaction.” The reaction lasted only a moment. I went and got Phyllis to show her that Lassie was out of her pain because I knew that she was very concerned about it.
We covered her with a blanket and in the morning I got up early and took her to our model home that we were preparing to move into and dug a grave for her and buried her and made a little wooden cross with the name Lassie painted on it.
Purp was now our only dog, and though she was not beautiful as her mother had been she had inherited all of Lassies sweetness. Everyone liked her. Even people who didn’t like dogs liked her.
Purp went with us on our water skiing expeditions. Together Purp and Phyllis constituted the “worry committee.” Basically they both worried when any of the group went water skiing. When the skier made a “shore start,” Purp would swim after the boat and skier. I suppose, to try to help or protect the skier. Phyllis also worried, though she herself was a water skier. Phyllis never did swim after the boat, but as well as worrying about the skier Phyllis would worry about Purp.
On one of our water skiing trips, Phyllis and Margie did not go. Instead Jim and I and Purp took my mother. My mother was great at camp living, having grown up when camping was the way you did it when you were away from home. We took the boat from our campsite to a good ski beach and set up temporary headquarters and Jim and I took turns pulling each other on the skies.
Nearby on this beach was a family ski party which included five medium sized puppies. I called them, “the purple dogs with the yellow eyes.” Purp made friends with the pups right away and spent her time playing with them.
When we had our fill of skiing, we put our stuff in the boat and Jim and my mother and I got in and headed for the boat loading ramp. The plan was to take the boat out of the water preparatory to going home. NONE OF US THOUGHT ABOUT PURP! We backed the trailer in and winched the boat on the trailer and pulled it out of the water and put the canvas cover on the boat.
Just about then someone said, “Where’s Purp?” God! We had forgotten her! Jim and I quick found a place for Mom to sit in the shade and quick uncovered the boat and quick put the boat in the water and quick went back to the beach where we had left her. We were afraid that she might have wandered away and we might have to try to find her.
When we got there she was still fraternizing with the pups and the family who owned the pups was looking after her. They said that they were pretty sure that we would be back.
The moral to this story is, “Don’t leave Phyllis and Margie Home.” We need someone to do the thinking.