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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

My Dog, Sputnik

Posted March 1, 2007 6:09 a.m. EST
Updated March 1, 2007 9:17 a.m. EST

Gilded are the days of our youth. Oh, those magical Morganton memories! Morganton was Mayberry with sophistication. But not too much sophistication as you will see after reading this story.

The image is forever burned in my memory: my dear Uncle Phil holding a wiggling puppy on the back porch of my grandmother’s house next to ours. My sister Miriam was suffering the flu and the doggone blues. Her heart ached for Puddin.’ My parents were forced to give away this puppy after way too many indoor accidents. The new dog would be named Sputnik.

Like her namesake the Russian satellite our Sputnik developed her own special orbit. This feisty but friendly lab mix, walked one mile to work everyday. My parents ran The Book Store on Morganton’s main drag. Sputnik was our special ambassador under the card table next to the Parker Pen counter and children’s book section.

 Sputnik would wag her tail and greet customers as they entered the store. Ole Sput became a town legend. She also worked her way up to a lucrative salary of biscuits, bones and bountiful scraps. Our store was a lot like Sputnik’s diet – a hodgepodge.  We sold books, office and school supplies, wedding gifts, greeting cards, art supplies and picture framing.

The only time Sputnik growled at a customer was when a gorgeous woman from Kansas City came into town with a huge oil painting of a professional baseball player. She wanted to get it framed at the Book Store because of our "reputation of excellence." We were embarrassed by the growls but Sputnik was obviously onto something. The woman's check bounced and we never saw her again or her money.

 I recently dedicated a song to Sputnik at my Morganton concert. I can’t hug my current dog. Sparky is not a hugger. Neither was Barney before. But Sputnik loved a firm hug especially on a cold day by the heating vent in the living room. I cried the day a Dodge took Sputnik’s life as the aging dog tried to make one more commute to work downtown.

What is your favorite pet story? Please share!