THETA, TN – One of our friends up here at Theta is Brother Roy Exum of Chattanooga (Lookout Mountain), Tennessee, and Yazoo County, Mississippi.
Roy has been through a lot recently, and for a few weeks, he was away from his typewriter.
Like the famous author and raconteur Willie Morris from Yazoo City, Mississippi, Roy Exum’s roots run deep in the State of Mississippi, home of creative folks like Oprah, Elvis, Jim Henson/ the Muppets, B.B.. Bill Falkner, and Jimmy Weatherly to name a few.
Like Willie who adored “Skip”, Roy recently lost his beloved companion “Scooter”.
A few days ago, Roy wrote a piece remembering his friend.
The month of August turned out to be unkind, with my dog, my favorite aunt and my magnificent mother all dying within three weeks’ time. As I finally begin to push out the three newest dents in my soul, my habit has been to write something akin to a goodbye note to those I have loved. I’m not ready for Aunt Martha and Mother yet ““ not by a stretch — but I remembered Scooter with great fondness yesterday morning.
For the past 14 years we have welcomed every dawn together, sitting quietly in the darkness to go through our prayers, drink our coffee, read the paper, and begin the day. Not once did he ever miss, a huge fistful of Milk Bones always part of our ritual, and while I have now had dogs for over 60 years, he was far and away the best shadow dog I have ever had.
That’s right ““ he was constantly by my side. If I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, Scooter would sit on the bathmat until we went back to bed. He never let me out of his sight, just like your shadow. It was impossible to play hide-and-seek with him. What’s more, he never complained, pointed out my weakness or my frailties, or was unkind to any of my friends. He met me at the door every afternoon in a way that was not only unfailing but better with each new day.
At the end, Scooter had a bad seizure on a day when mother was real sick and Aunt Martha had quit eating. Usually when I lose a dog it is me who gets sick and quits eating ““ sometime for days ““ but I responded to his demise by telling Mom my latest joke and getting Martha the biggest Whitman’s Sampler I could find (both worked!)
But yesterday in the quiet just before first light ““ and oh it is so quiet now ““ I remembered the night Brooke and Billy brought home “a new dachshund” from the sidewalk in front of Lupi’s Pizza. Scooter was the worst-looking puppy I’d ever seen, his eyes laden with infection and Parvo tremors. He hardly weighed a pound and early the next day I sent the kids to Doc Keller’s with orders to put the dog down
They were back in no time, joyously saying our great vet thought he might be able to save the puppy and then, after pausing just so, adding in a smaller voice, “He also said to send him $360 as soon as you can.” In the years that followed I spent hundreds more on Scooter ““ he had impossible mange his whole life ““ but I would have gladly spent thousands.
When he came into our life Charli Brown (without an “e” because “he” was a “she”) slept on the pillow beside me so Scooter’s place on the bed each night was on the outside on my left thigh. That way I could pet him and he could nuzzle me, which I now realized happened more than I thought. Another thing was that Scooter was a great doctor, a diagnostician.
One time I was feeling bad when I got home and the minute I lay down, Scooter and Charli were almost rabid in forcefully trying to lick my face. It was unreal ““ I couldn’t push them away. Five hours later I was on my way to the hospital with a new infection in my arm and, had it not happened on two other distinctive occasions, I wouldn’t have believed dogs could predict health calamities either.
The other noticeable trait Scooter had was that he was a talker. He’d bark just to bark, happily wagging his tail, and what was odd was that his joyful talking never got on my nerves. I’d just bark back and, as “dog people” all know, the constant companionship was an undeniable blessing. When I was gone he would dote on mother, who always saved him her last bite of lunch, and who took it pretty hard when I had to tell her he’d be standing by heaven’s gate when she got there.
Not until I get to heaven “¦ and, yes, there is some luck involved “¦ will I know how canine mystics work but Scooter’s ghost is already in touch with a puppy, another special dog, and Scooter is feeling the dog out, making sure, the same way Charli Brown and Skippy did when the tiny puppy came from Lupi’s that night.
I’ll be okay because that’s the kind of dog ol’ Scoot was to Pops. What a great dog.
Roy would probably enjoy hearing from you.