It was early autumn 1950, the first week of the school year. My world was full of things to worry about. A bicycle accident left me with a badly skinned knee and minor but ugly gravel scrapes on the left side of my face; these had been spotlighted with bright red mercurochrome stains destined to remain for weeks. Everyone stared - I looked awful; girls shrieked the boys made fun while my self esteem drooped.
My one joy was the tail wagging greeting of Ole Rex when I stepped off the school bus. He was my partner in crime; my exploring companion; he ran alongside during my bicycle outings. Rex didn’t know any tricks. Not because he wasn’t smart but because I wasn’t smart or patient enough to teach him. He looked puzzled by my instructions when I tried, but he wanted to learn, I just knew it. I vowed that someday I would learn to teach him.
He wasn’t there one day. For a moment I thought I got off the bus at the wrong house. Suddenly it didn’t matter that I didn’t have a girlfriend or
that my clothes looked funny and my face was painted up like Frankenstein. Ole Rex wasn’t there, I wasn’t a whole person, something was dreadfully wrong.
It didn’t take long to learn what happened. Mom told me that Rex had been shot by old man Staggs who lived three houses down the road. Everyone said he was Bible Crazy. After the summer revival, he never laughed or even smiled; his eyes were glassy and seemed to be looking at something faraway. And he quoted scary verses from the bible when he talked.
“Oh no, where is he?” Salty tears were rolling down my face.
“I don’t know - he ran limping and yelping into the woods when he was shot. I gave the old man a piece of my mind and told him that he had to find the poor dog and end his suffering.” Her voice breaking slightly as she spoke.
It turns out that the old man didn’t find Rex dead or alive.
For the next two days, after making sure Old Man Staggs was not outside with his twenty-two rifle, we searched the woods and fields for Rex’s body; there was little doubt in my mind that he was dead. Then someone reported hearing a slight whimper coming from under the floor in the kitchen. Could it be Rex?
With my Roy Rogers flashlight I explored the area through a small vent hole in the underpinning. I spotted something; with his back to the hole I
couldn’t tell for sure if it was Rex. Rex had a beautiful black coat trimmed snowy white on his chest and face. No white was visible.
I had to get to him. This meant clearing part of the underpinning to gain access to the crawlspace. The crawlspace was too low even for my small body; I had to dig a path to what I prayed was Ole Rex still alive. As I progressed I could see signs of him breathing but not a single whimper did I hear. By the time I reached him it was clear it was Ole Rex and he was alive. I scooted him on to the throw rug I used to keep my face out of the dirt while digging and slid him out.
Although he was barely responsive we were thrilled. We made a bed for him from a cardboard box and some old rags and placed it in the kitchen floor. The gunshot wounds indicated that the bullet had gone in on one side of his midsection and out the other. In a few days he became more responsive and began to drink water and eat a little.
With Ole Rex on the mend my world was different, even from before Old Man Staggs shot Rex. I was still repulsive to the girls at school; my clothes were still not as good as my classmates and the boys still made fun, but my injuries were healing and the mercurochrome stains were fading. Somehow I knew that I could overcome all these problems and even if not, it didn’t matter; Ole Rex would greet me after school and we would ride, romp, and play in a world of optimism only a ten year old can understand. -CP