The next day, I got up early to let Mister out the back door of our home. My father had put him in an old cardboard box and allowed him to sleep on an old worn coat of his. I saw where Mister had peed on that old coat. So, I figured the best thing to do was to put that coat in with the rest of the laundry. I just hoped my mother would not say anything. I felt sorry for this poor little beagle. He was all alone in the world. He pretty much was like me, along with my siblings. After I let Mister go outside, I noticed his ribs sticking out. He not only was gun-shy, but malnourished as well. The previous owner denied him the food he needed. I suspected his chances of living were going to be slim to none unless he got a friend from somewhere. I decided right then and there, I was going to be that friend. So, I looked in the fridge, found some old pork sausage. I put it in the old wood stove, got it warm enough and gave the food to a grateful little beagle named Mister. From that point on, a bond started that would last for the next nine years. It was an unbreakable bond between a then seven-year-old boy and a dog.
Later on that day, I took Mister out into the woods behind our home. The wooded area was vast. I was always warned not to venture so far as to lose sight of the house. I could still go at least a mile and still be able to catch a glimpse of our roof. By this time, Mister seemed to be coming around. He had been fed probably his first good meal in God knows how long. He was well rested and ready to sniff everything in sight. That’s the thing about a beagle; no matter what it may be, a beagle is going to sniff it to see just what the hell it is. Mister was no exception. We had a great time that first full day of our many days together. We went to the creek and Mister barked at every frog in sight. He even grabbed one in his jaws which he quickly let go. I think he realized they would not be something he would want to eat for later on that day. After Mister released the frog, I noticed a small lump on Mister’s front left leg. It was a tick the size of my thumb! That had to come off. I knew I couldn’t do it by myself. So, I hurried home and hoped my old man had not left the house that summer morning. As luck would have it, my old man had already left for work. So, it was going to be up to me and my little brother to get that tick off. “You better wait and let your daddy help you get that thing off that dog. You don’t know if he might bite you,” my mother said. “Mama, this thing is sucking the life out of him. This can’t wait for him to get home from work,” I replied. “Even so, you wait for him to get home. I can’t take you to no doctor if he bites you,” she said. Well, there was no way in hell I was going to wait that long. So, I waited for my mother to take the laundry to the clothesline and my brother and I took Mister back down to the creek where she couldn’t hear us yell if Mister were to bite us.
We got down to the creek and rubbed some mud on the tick, hoping that would numb the effect of pulling off it off Mister’s leg. This tick was a monster. I knew I was going to have hell pulling him off. Mister looked up at me as if to ask, “What the hell are you doing to me? So, I got a hold of the tick with my left index finger and thumb and jerked on it as hard as I could. Mister yelled like he had been run over by a damn truck! But, the good news was not only was the monster-size tick off of him but also Mister didn’t bite us. He didn’t even try. After he calmed down, he even came to both my brother and I and licked our hands as if to let us know he was grateful. That was another thing about Mister; no matter what you did for him, he showed as much gratitude as a dog could possibly show. I guess that endeared him to me even more.
While we were at the creek, we all decided to take a little dip on this hot summer’s day. Mister loved water more than any dog should have. He frolicked in it like a child. He loved to swim when the creek swelled up enough from the rain. I put a little more mud on the wound caused by the tick before we left that day. Again, he showed his gratitude by licking my hand. Mister was quickly becoming the center of our world. We didn’t have much to do out in the country, as I already said before. But, what little we could do, we enjoyed it immensely. We had a dog. We had a lifelong friend who would love and protect us from the creatures and elements of the dark and dangerous backwoods of southern Mississippi. Mister would prove his mettle on the days, months and years ahead as we explored life in the country and, later on, in the city a few years later.