Mom and Dad selected our first family pet from what they thought was a litter of Basset Hounds. It was 1969, my brother Mallory Joe was a baby and I was three. They named the puppy Hazel and as she grew, it was obvious she wasn't a Basset.
Hazel had the short legs, long torso, keen sense of smell and a-ti-tude of a Basset, but her other parts weren't right. Her snout was long and pointy like a Dachshund, and her ears and markings were Beagle-like. Her head looked disproportionately small compared to her fat torso. [Fat is a bad word in our house, but she was... fat.] She was an odd looking mutt and people often asked, "What kind of dog is that?"
What I remember the most about Hazel:
Danger Was Her Middle Name... Hazel chased cars. It was terrifying to watch. Her short legs moved shockingly fast as she tried to bite a car's tires. We lived in a residential area so the occasional car moved at a much slower speed than we see today. I'm sure this fact saved her life many times. I vividly remember seeing Hazel hit by a motorcycle when she and I were both very young. It rolled right over her, then she rolled several times like a Little Smokie to the curb. Hazel walked away from the accident, but Mother swears she was never the same. She became quieter and moved too slowly for her young age, Mom says, because she was in chronic pain.
No Touchy - When new kids played at our house, they naturally wanted to pet Hazel. My whole family could see a child approaching Hazel with enhanced peripheral vision. We would simultaneously yell, "DON'T PET THE DOG!" Then we'd laugh nervously, "Uh... she might bite." Hazel was great with our immediate family, but snapped at anyone else who approached her. She was fine with others in the house if they simply left her alone. Eventually, only our closest friends were comfortable playing at our house. We had the "mean dog". But she wasn't. She was a dog in pain.
Hold Your Cookie Up! - Hazel could smell a cookie from anywhere in the city. She didn't move quickly though, more like Eeyore, probably because of her car chasing accidents. But if a careless child held a cookie anywhere other than over their head, Hazel got it. She sometimes got a finger too. Mom would give us and our friends cookies, instruct us to, "Hold your cookie up. I mean it. Over your head. HIGHER! Go outside with it. Quick. I'll block Hazel." And she did.
One-Trick Pony - Hazel didn't sit, stay, come, fetch, or anything else Hazel didn't feel like doing. Hazel could "sit-up" and she did it well. She sat square on her fat butt, posture-perfect [like a chubby ballerina] and begged for food. She looked like a fire hydrant and could hold the position for several minutes.
Hazel was about 11-years-old when Mom determined it was time to put her down. Hazel was suffering from cancer. It was time. We all cried, but knew it was the right thing to do.
Yesterday, Chris and I were in the park with friends and our conversation turned to dogs. As we shared various dog stories, I thought of Hazel for the first time in years. I joked that I grew up with a "DON'T PET THE DOG!" dog.
Awkward Segue: This morning, I watched a YouTube video my mother emailed me. It's about an 88-year-old woman who's the mayor of a Canadian city. Her name is Hazel.