TIP

When we were young our father, Doc Doughty, would often tell us bedtime stories. Our favorite stories were about Joe and his dog, Tip. Joe was a young boy with a nice dog and together they would have all kinds of adventures --- or at least as many adventures that a small-town dentist could conjure up. We would remember those stories for many years. Then a time came when Doc bought us two beagles. Well they were mostly beagles. I mean they weren’t purebreds --- but who is these days? Of course we named them Joe and Tip. Joe was fatter than Tip, who was on the lean side. But they were a pair! We kept them in the cellar at night --- but they evidently enjoyed howling at each other for a good part of the night. So after two weeks Doc decided to give one away. A Family Council meeting resulted in a vote to keep Tip.

Tip would be around for the next fourteen years or so. I don’t recall how it really came about --- but Tip was supposed to be Sister Gail’s dog. But when Gail got married and moved away, she left ‘ole Tip behind. Tip then became primarily owned by my twin brother and sister, Jack and Jill.

Tip was mostly white with patches of black and brown. When he was younger he was quite frisky and very fast. Weren’t we all? But as the years went by he slowed down appreciably. Now Tip was not a dog that knew a lot of tricks --- unless you are one of those folks who considers eating and sleeping as tricks. And Tip wasn’t really very brave either. At the sound of a siren he would dash upstairs, tail between his legs and howling. But he did have one good trick. If you blew a bugle --- he would howl away as if he were singing to the bugle. Brother Jack brought Tip and the bugle to school one time and won a talent contest --- beating out a girl who could yodel.

Doc Doughty and his wife were kind people and gave Tip pretty much the run of the house. However, he still had to sleep in the cellar at night. Tip would attend parties at the house and would slowly mingle among the guests. Many kids like to pose with him for pictures and Tip always seemed happy to oblige.

Eventually, Jack and Jill moved away, too --- once again leaving Tip behind with Doc and the Missus. Four kids were gone --- but Tip was still there. Doc and the Missus continued to take care of him. But as more years crept by Tip began having health problems. Finally, he got to the point that he could no longer control his bodily functions. As kind as the Doc was he could not tolerate that situation. A small-town dentist should not have to walk around his own two-story Colonial stepping on doo-doo! So Doc went to the local druggist, Mr. Conover, and told him of the problem. Mr. Conover asked, “So you want something to put him to sleep, Doc?” “I’m afraid I do”, was the reply. “Two of these pills should do the trick, Doc. Just crush them up and put them in his dog food.” “I’ll take four”, replied Doc. Doc was not a man to mess around once a decision had been made. “Four it is!” “How long should it take?” “Oh, about twenty minutes I’d say.”

That evening at suppertime Doc crushed up the four pills and stirred them into Tip’s dog food. He put the food into Tip’s bowl and then brought Tip into the kitchen and left the room closing both doors. After twenty minutes --- hearing nothing --- the Doc opened one of the doors and peered in. There was Tip standing in the middle of the kitchen --- quite alive --- and staring back at the Doc. For many years Doc swore that Tip knew what he had done to him that fateful night.

Doc returned to the living room and nursed his Martini for another fifteen minutes. Still no sound. He looked into the kitchen again. Tip was still standing there as Doc’s guilt increased. Doc returned to his drink. Ten minutes later he heard a slight thud. He returned to the kitchen to find ‘ole Tip quite dead. The next day Doc buried Tip in the backyard and even made a little wooden cross to mark the grave site of that noble beagle. None of the kids were home back then. We had all enjoyed Tip over the years --- but it fell to the Doc to do the deed at the end. He spared us that entire unpleasant task.

When I came home from the Navy for a leave that summer Doc told me the whole story. I had not even known that Tip was gone. I remember feeling bad about Tip --- but I felt even worse for my gentle father. Because after he concluded the story he added, “Son, --- in my whole life --- that was the meanest thing I’ve ever done”.





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