Writing about my old Solon apartment has me reminiscing about Spike, the 130-pound Rottweiler Sabra had when I first met her in the mid-1990s.
Spike was one of the sweetest dogs in the world when it came to humans, especially children. He and I walked a lot together, and we even marched in a few parades. A North Liberty Fun Days Parade especially sticks out in my mind. It was an extra hot and humid evening as we stood in the staging area, when a child of about 6 years old from a nearby float of tee-ballers called out, “Hey mister, can I pet your dog?” I nodded my okay and before I knew it, the entire team circled around Spike, hands poking at him from every direction. Spike hardly twitched at all the sudden commotion, although I did see him slyly nip the top off an ice cream cone one of the kids was waving.
He was not so calm and friendly when it came to other animals, however. In fact, he was an absolute alpha male maniac. If he spotted a fellow canine while we were out driving, for example, he’d lunge and bark with such force that it might make a human occupant think a tire blew out.
Another time I was sitting peacefully in a lawn chair watching a ball game with his leash around my wrist when he spotted another dog. Charging at his target he pulled me over backwards from my chair and dragged me 20 yards before I could roll over and yank him to a stop.
It didn’t matter if the bogey was big or small. Once he broke his leash to attack a Chihuahua being walked by its owner, who yanked the Mexican mutt into the air by the leash around its neck as if she could hold it higher than Spike’s reach. As the hapless hairless twisted in the wind, I fancied Spike salivating at the thought of a spinning snack, a taco el pastor, so to speak.
On the other end of the scale, nothing set him off like a passing freight train near the softball diamond where Sabra played. Spike was her steady sidekick at the games. It was his favorite thing to do. Team members threw him balls to fetch. Humans, lots of them, petted him and dropped food everywhere.
Jekyll or Hyde, he was always a chowhound. While he wasn’t much of a hunter, I swear he could detect a McDonald’s wrapper that crossed a path three days earlier and tell which way it was going. His appetite was off the scale, as were the regurgitations that sometimes ensued.
This last characteristic brings me back to the apartment.
It was early November when Sabra asked me to watch Spike while she visited family for a week. On his first night of lodging, Spike searched and destroyed three pounds of treats from Halloween that my daughters were hording. The pilfering wasn’t discovered until the next afternoon when the girls returned from school and looked for a snack only to find a small scattering of chewed candy wrappers.
Of course, there was lots of chocolate in the mix so we took him to a vet. But it was too late to pump a stomach, so we were told to take him home and keep an eye on him. “Let us know if he can’t keep down his food or if he develops severe diarrhea,” were my instructions. As I’ve documented in this space many times before, I don’t deal well with bodily secretions, so it was with a good deal of trepidation that I heard this news.
To my relief, Spike was totally normal for two full days, and I thought the episode had passed without incident. On the third night, however, he woke me up whining to get out. I opened the door of my apartment and he dashed down the stairs and stopped before the door that opened onto the street. While I headed down the dimly lit staircase, he began choking and retching to beat the band. Just thinking about the potential clean-up job ahead made my stomach go sour. As I suspected, Spike was throwing up in the foyer, but in the dim light I realized he was vomiting a spray of perfectly cleaned and dried candy wrappers.
I swept the mess up with a broom in the morning.