Taking time to remember ‘Pickles’

Published 10:10 am Friday, September 18, 2015

His name was “Pickles.”

Pickles was a blonde cocker spaniel who came to our family as a puppy in 1969 and lived a full life until old age and its associated maladies claimed him in 1983.

I’m writing about him because in many ways he was a unique animal, who managed to work his way into my heart, and his memory still remains strong when I think about my time growing up.

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I was in college and living at home when we got him, and his name was a compromise between my brother and sister, who had a knockdown, dragged-out argument over what to name the new resident in the house.

Pickles got to me almost immediately. Actually, the first night we had him, when I heard him whining and got up to check on him as he lay among the quilts and blankets that formed his bed in a large cardboard box in the kitchen. As I sat there talking to him and petting him, my father walked up and told me, “You’ll never be a mean man.”

There are some people I’ve dealt with over the past few years who might argue Dad’s assessment, but he was right. I’m basically not a mean person, and Pickles brought it out.

Pickles became a true family fixture. He got our love and at times our anger, like the time he was caught helping himself to a batch brownies cooling on the kitchen table, or he snatched a hamburger from my hand.

He was the guardian of our fenced-in yard, barking at visitors and chasing any squirrels who dared to enter his space. His vigilance was displayed just before my wife and I were married, when he blocked the priest marrying us from using the front door to attend the rehearsal supper at my parent’s home.

We learned what happened when there was a knock at the back door, and father walked in, telling us “the dog was barking in the front, and I couldn’t tell if he were friend or foe.” We eased his fears with “he’s friendly.”

Pickles was the most pitiful beggar I’ve ever seen, and he had a bag of tricks. His first move was to sit up, a good trick, since he had no tail to balance himself. If that failed, there was the leg move. He’d put his head on your leg and apply enough pressure to force you to look down and then look up at you with those big, brown eyes. Spaniels can make you pity them when they look at you with those eyes. If that failed, he stood by your chair and breathed on your leg until you moved from the heat.

Even as he aged and slowed down, Pickles was always ready to greet someone coming to the door, and he was patient dealing with a curious, active child — my daughter — who came to visit him on weekends.

After I moved out and settled with my own family, I never had another dog. I guess part of the reason was our hectic lifestyle, which made it difficult to properly care for an animal. But every now and then I think of Pickles and his escapades and how he could be a good companion. I guess I miss him more than I think.

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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