One of my favorite pets from childhood was our dog, Gimpy. She was a dimwitted, stocky, black mutt that walked with a limp. We picked Gimpy up one day in North Omaha when we were on our way to see my great aunt (who had bought her cute, gingerbread house there in the 1950s before it became overrun with sketchy individuals whose hobbies included drive-by-shootings.) Somewhere along those run-down streets, we saw Gimpy, trudging along. Of course, we had no choice but to adopt her.
Gimpy, tongue wagging, always seemed to be happy. Even for a dimwitted dog, she knew she’d found a good home. Gimpy, however, proved to be quite a nuisance for all of us-especially my animal-loving mother.
For one, Gimpy had a couple of car accidents that led to emergency animal hospital visits. Gimpy also liked to get into things. She’d routinely get herself wedged behind pieces of furniture and larger appliances around the house–usually after we’d all gone to bed.
Being none too smart, Gimpy would never know how to get out of her predicament. It never occurred to her to ‘back up’ so instead she’d always continue to charge forward, getting herself further and further stuck. Whenever she’d reached a stopping point, she’d yelp bloody murder.
At three or four in the morning, off in the distance, down in the basement, somewhere far away, we’d hear Gimpy yelping. The longer we’d ignore her, the louder she yelped, and the more she yelped, the more she struggled. It was always better to start hunting her down as soon as the yelping began. We’d definitely learned this the hard way.
One time, Gimpy got wedged behind the dryer in the basement laundry room for the upteenth time. As we collectively groaned and put pillows over our heads to muffle her yelps, Gimpy knocked over a nearly full can of white paint. Her black fur then saturated in white, glossy purity, Gimpy began to do what any dog in her position would do. She began to shake…furiously.
Spits and spurts and droplets of white paint flew around the room and landed onto the walls, the ceiling, and several loads of the family laundry. As much as my mother wanted to discipline Gimpy, there was really nothing she could do. Gimpy, after all, was a dog– and a learning-disabled one at that.
In the coming years, there was something my mother did do, but it was purely by accident. With all the animals our family had, our veterinarian bills were always sky-high. Plus, we always had weird food that we had to come up with at the most inopportune times, like finding crickets and nightcrawlers in December, during a snowstorm, for Stripey our snake.
For those reasons, my mother did as much animal care and maintenance as she could at home. Whether it was clipping the dog’s nails or hydrating our Siamese cat that got leukemia, my mother was known to do it all herself.
One unfortunate day, it became glaringly obvious that Gimpy needed some grooming attention. Even for a dog, Gimpy always had a bad ’70s-style hairdo. Flat fur hung limply along her body from her head to her paws. Left to its own desires, her fur would just keep growing until eventually she’d look like the canine mascot of some hair band rocker. Looking at Gimpy that day, my mother decided to take on the grooming task herself.
A few snips here and there went well until she decided to do a little trimming around Gimpy’s muzzle and ears. Apart from a lone ‘Yelp ‘, the lovably, learning-disabled Gimpy was still smiling when, with a ‘Snip’, the top-right corner of one of her ears went flying. It landed nearly soundlessly– a black, furry clump of bloodiness on the linoleum floor.
My mother looked in sheer terror at Gimpy and then at the remainder of Gimpy’s ear, there on the bathroom floor. Then, a blood bath ensued. Like monsoon season in the middle of the Red Sea, blood gushed out from every capillary in Gimpy’s remaining hearing vessel.
My mother frantically scooped the dog up, put the remainder of her ear in a Zip-loc bag and rushed off to the vet. There, Gimpy successfully underwent “emergency ear-re-attachment” that cost impressively more than the grooming bill my mother had been trying so hard to avoid.
In later years, Gimpy started having incontinence problems– bad enough for a person, worse for a dog. During a trip to my grandparent’s farm, Gimpy had had her third ‘accident’ in one day. At that point, we decided that the best place for Gimpy was outside. There, she limply wandered out of our lives in much the same way as she’d wandered into our lives so many years earlier. It was Easter, 1988. (We’ve been trying to resurrect her ever since, but Jesus keeps appearing. )