Thursday, March 10, 2011

Scottish Royalty

Douglas McAllister Larson

Scottish Royalty
by Greg Larson

     I noticed the sleek dog on the evening news.  A Scottish Deer Hound had won Best in Show at the 135th All Breed Dog Show sponsored by the Westminster Kennel Club.  Foxcliffe Hickory Wind, a bitch with a fine pedigree, was out on the town, dining at the finest restaurants in New York.

     I tried to get the attention of our Cairn Terrier in-residence, Douglas McAllister Larson.

     “Douglas, did you hear that?  One of your relatives just got her fifteen minutes of fame.”

     Douglas, perched upside down on the edge of his favorite upholstered chair, didn’t move a muscle.  He was not impressed.  Yes, McAllister is his middle name, but I’ve convinced my granddaughter that his real middle name is Drinkwater.  She is easily entertained by watching Douglas lap the water out of his bowl.

     He’s a big dog in a small package, with a blue-collar attitude and no lack of self esteem.  He is fiercely loyal to Gretta and me, but he has an air of aloofness, and he doesn’t beg for attention.

     Although the Cairn breed of Terrier wasn’t recognized by the major kennel clubs until 1912, they were bred on the Isle of Skye for centuries, along with the Scottish and West Highland Terriers.  The landowners used them for chasing out foxes, badgers, and rodents from the rock crevices and mounds of earth.

     Douglas believes he’s earned the right to be king of our household, working 24/7 to secure the property from any evil that lurks on the perimeter.  Squirrels, birds, rodents, plastic bags, and kites are on the top of his enemies’ list.  He’s especially vigilant when I grill meat on the barbeque.

     “Douglas,” I said, still trying to get his attention, “I noticed the Deer Hound was eating filet mignon at one of those New York restaurants.”

     I detected a hint of jealousy as he moved his head ever so slightly.  It’s because he has been threatening a hunger strike for the past couple of years.  At his mealtime ritual, he stops after a couple of steps and stares at the food bowl, and then looks up at Gretta and me as if to say, “Do I really have to eat this crap?”

     He continues to stage closer to the bowl, and eventually Pavlov’s theory becomes reality as Douglas finally starts crunching on the dry dog food.

     “Little guy, this food is supposed to be good for you,” Gretta tells him.  “It’s specially made to keep you fit and trim.”

     I inspected the bag of scientifically formulated dog food, and read some key information: “Precisely balanced nutrition for your dog’s special needs…Clinically proven antioxidants for a healthy immune system.”

     “You’d think this food would keep his allergies in check,” said Gretta.  Recently Douglas’ eyelids reddened and swelled without warning.  Gretta took him to the vet and to an eye-doctor specialist, and returned with a cadre of eye drops and pills.

     “I just don’t understand why the poor little guy has these allergies and conditions,” bemoaned Gretta.

     “Dogs are inherently unsanitary,” I responded.  “Have you noticed the places he sticks his nose when we take him for a walk?  Why, he’s killed squirrels, birds, and mice in our backyard.  Stuff happens.  I’m the one who gets to bag it up…what’s left of it.”

     Gretta looked at Douglas and continued to chorus, “Poor little guy.”


     The phone rang one day while Gretta was out running errands.


     “Mr. Larson?” asked the caller.


     “This is Dr. Johnson’s office,” she stated.  “We’re calling about Douglas.”

     Douglas was sleeping in his usual chair.  I couldn’t imagine why the vet was calling.

     “Is there something wrong?” I asked.

     “Dr. Johnson had a consultation with Douglas’ eye doctor, and they’ve concluded that Douglas should go on a special diet to see if it will clear up his allergies.  They want to start him on venison or duck formula for his nutrition.”

     I should be so lucky.  Fresh game sounds pretty fancy for a dog.  Where do they hunt these deer and fowl?  Sounds expensive.

     She continued, “If you and your wife are okay with the decision, we can have the new dog food ready to pick up tomorrow.”

     “My wife is out at the moment, but I’m sure she’ll want Douglas to try it out,” I responded.

     Douglas has won the hunger war. He’ll get new food, fit for a king.

     The next day, Gretta brought the new bag of special food into the house.

     “Douglas,” she said, “You have something new to eat…duck and potatoes!”

     She began to mix the new and the old food, following the veterinarian’s instructions to slowly convert Douglas to the new diet.  Otherwise, it would be too rich for him to digest.  Yeah, right.

     Douglas’ ears and tail were on high alert as he smelled the new formule pomme de terre et canard.  I actually detected a smile on his face, with his moist tongue anticipating the gourmet meal.

     There was no hesitation as he went for the bowl.  The food disappeared quickly.  He looked up to us wishing he could have more.

      "You’ll have to wait ‘til tomorrow,” said Gretta.  “But we can give you some pieces for a treat.”  She waited until he sat in his special place by the cabinets and gave him a piece of the new food.  He ate it like candy…something he would never do with his old food.

     I tried one of the little nuggets out of the bag.  It was gamey and had a bad aftertaste.  Based on Douglas’ love for the new food, I suspected the formula was designed more for his taste than mine.

     After eating his meal, he went to the front door to look out on the sidewalk action, school kids and dogs on leashes…anything that moved.

     “Douglas,” I said, “You are really lucky to live like a king.”

     He looked at me as if to say, “I’m not like a king. I AM king!”

Douglas sleeping on his throne.

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