There will never be another Pepper. My grandparents had two Boston Terriers. As nature took its course, four more appeared in the doghouse. Me and my sister were so excited, we were howling. Best of all, Mom and Dad said we were going to take one home when he got old enough. We visited my grandparent’s house a few times during the weeks leading up to the adoption. We spent the whole visit playing with the new puppies. One dog stood out. He followed us, climbed on us, licked us, and best of all, he chased us.
We ran across Grandma’s hard tile kitchen floor and the puppy’s little nails clacked furiously behind us. When we took a sharp turn, the puppy tried to do so with us, but he would lose traction and keep sliding in the direction his momentum was already going. His body would be facing us and the dog’s little feet were flailing away, but he was no match for the G-forces pulling him. As he slid in the opposite direction, he would yap in protest as we ran away. We’d hide and the puppy would search until he found us.
At last the day came when the dogs were weaned and we could take our buddy home. But Mom and Dad liked the one they thought was the prettiest. We wanted the one that played with us. Convinced they were selecting the best puppy, they packed up the pick of the litter and we had to say good-bye to our favorite. Knowing we would probably never see him again, we cried. No. We wailed.
Tears streamed as my grandparent’s house disappeared from view and we headed down the highway. Both of us were broken hearted. The farther we drove, the worse we lamented. All the encouragement my mother gave did nothing to ease our grief. After about twenty minutes of driving, they’d had enough. Dad turned the car around and we headed back to my grandparents. We couldn’t believe the change of fortune and we rushed into the house for the happy reunion. The puppy seemed just as happy.
After a long debate, we settled on the name, Pepper. Pepper agreed and it became official.
Pepper never tired of hide and seek. One of us would hold Pepper while the other hid. Once we settled into a hiding spot, we’d signal by giving a squeal. When Pepper heard the squeal, he went bonkers. The holder would release him and the dog would tear out in the direction of the squeal. The hunt was on. No hiding place was good enough to outsmart Pepper. It might take him a few minutes, but he always found his fugitive. He also was a bad sport.
His expectation was to find his opponent, and do so quickly. The dog became angry when we found a spot that was difficult to sniff out. If Pepper had to exert more effort than he thought was reasonable, he felt the need to retaliate by attacking your feet. Our feet were his preferred point of aggression. When playing, if we ran from him, the dog always attacked our feet to stop us from running. He only bit shoes. Sometimes the kids who were unfamiliar with Pepper would panic, and we’d say, “Sit on your feet.”
This was hard for people to comprehend. To stop an angry dog’s attack we should sit on our feet? Sounds crazy, but he quickly gave up if he couldn’t get to your feet. A couple of times, when I made him really angry, he gave a protest nip on my side.
When my friend, Bob, came over, I told him about playing hide and seek. There were new houses being constructed on the street behind us, so we decided they would make a good play ground. We took Pepper into a partially constructed house and started playing hide and seek. When it was my turn to hide, I decided the basement was the perfect spot.
I slipped downstairs and pulled the door closed. There wasn’t a door knob, but I at least was able to keep my spot out of obvious view. I went to the opposite end of the house and squealed. Pepper started yapping and I heard his clacking toenails overhead. I ran to the opposite end again and knocked on the floor. His pattering feet rushed into the room above me. I ran to the other end of the house and knocked on the floor again. His clacking toenails rushed overhead and I ran back to the other side of the house and did it again. I did this three or four times. On the next attempt, I heard his feet make it about halfway, but then they stopped. I was laughing hard and trying to be quiet. He hadn’t gone into the room above me, so I knocked on the floor again.
Still no sound of paws above me. I tapped a third time. There was silence for a moment longer, then I heard a door creek behind me. The basement door swung open and I saw Pepper’s head peek under it. He saw me and a rather ill expression crossed his doggy face. He bolted down the unpainted stairs and made a b-line for my feet. He ran to one side, trying to find a good place to chomp, but I scooted on top of my right foot. Desperate to take vengeance upon my feet, he rushed to the other side, but I shifted over to protect my left foot. He ran from side to side a few times before conceding the effort. But he still had a point to make. I had crossed the line with my floor tapping and to show me that he wouldn’t tolerate this type of cheating, he pinched me hard on the side with his teeth. Satisfied he’d made his point, Pepper trotted away and went upstairs to hunt down Bob.
Eddie Snipes 2012
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