A story about the smartest dog a man ever knew.
A King Amongst Peasants
B. Evans Hudson
Sir McGee von Ruffington was a mutt. For all intents and purposes he appeared to be the product of an unholy union between a deformed bull dog and a very small yak. Parentage aside, McGee's lifestyle had done nothing in the way of softening his off-putting appearance. Overeating, overprotecting, and overenthusiasm had lead McGee down a dangerous path and scarred him frequently along the way. His chocolate brown fur was matted beyond the most experienced groomer's best efforts; particularly on the beast's rotund belly that rested on the ground at all times. He stood on four short pudgy legs, the back left of which didn't move on its own so McGee just kind of heaved it along begrudgingly behind him. His left ear was missing, surely the result of some past dog fight. His bottom jaw stood out a sheer three inches revealing plaque covered teeth, many of which were missing or broken. And two milky white eyes would peek out from under tufts of overgrown fur on old McGee's wrinkled and mashed up face; because the poor thing was almost completely blind.
In a sentence: McGee was an ugly damn dog.
But as the poets and dreamers of the world would have us all believe there is someone out there for all us since beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all of that. And so it was, McGee's perfect person was one Mikey Winkle: garbage man, animal lover, and part time lawn care specialist. Best of friends the pair were, inseparable even.
Each night Mikey would settle himself in his ratty recliner with a TV dinner watching whatever ballgame was in season at the time; and on the left arm of the chair would lay McGee waiting to lick the plastic tray clean, even though he had already finished a whole can of Gravy Train. When friends and acquaintances would run into Mikey at the Co-Op or Piggly Wiggly they would inevitably find McGee in the front seat of Mikey's rusty Ford Pick-up gingerly gnawing on a piece of rawhide. And on Sunday mornings as Mikey would be singing in the Crown Street Baptist Church's choir, the congregation would hear old McGee howling along with the hymns outside. After services let out Sunday afternoons, Mikey would take McGee to the park and the pair would walk, slowly mind you, around the small pond. There the occasional passer-by would look at the ugly dog and say aloud, "Bless his heart," which to anyone fluent in Southern linguistics knows to be the polite way people tell others they are substandard; and Mikey would spring into action defending his best friend.
"I know he don't look like much," Mikey would say, "but this here is the smartest dog I've ever met. Got fed up with him one time a few years ago. Hadn't had him long then, just a few weeks ya know. I come home from work to eat my lunch and he had run amuck through my house destroying my couch. Dug up my potted plants and such. Relieved himself all over my bed covers, ya hear? I didn't have a choice, had to get rid of him. So I threw him in the back of my truck and drove him out to the river a good ten miles from the house. Walked him across the river and down a piece then I turned tail and left him there.
"Now I swear to the good Lord that when I finished my work that day and made it back home this dog was sitting pretty as you please on my front porch. He made it across the river and ten whole miles back to my house. That's when I knew this was no ordinary dog; he was a king amongst peasants. That's why I call him Sir McGee. And since that day he and I have struck up a bond to be envied. A better friend I've never had."
Many a friend and stranger were subject to Mikey's narrative over the years. That is until the January it turned so cold snow and ice covered the whole of the South. And Mikey Winkle, dedicated not only to his dog but also his job, was tragically killed when his garbage truck skidded off the icy road and into a gully. He was laid to rest in the small cemetery beside Crown Street Baptist Church and for a while McGee stationed himself on the small granite plaque that marked his best friend's remains. Refusing to eat or drink, in spite of the parishioners' best efforts, McGee passed on that April.
And in the face of contention from some of the church's staff, McGee was laid right next to Mikey Winkle. A beautiful marble tombstone was donated by James Henry, one of Mikey's closest people friends. The finely etched words read:
Sir McGee von Ruffington
A King Amongst Peasants
When asked why James would be inclined to spend so much money on a tombstone for a dog; he would tell the story of the afternoon he was fishing down at the river and came upon the old ugly dog that he knew belonged to his friend Mikey Winkle. Knowing how attached Mikey was to his critters he put McGee in his truck and dropped him off on Mikey's front porch. That way, he figured, Mikey would never know the dog had run off.
2014 B. Evans Hudson