Moochie As A Puppy. The Last Time We Saw His Eyes.
I was a 14 year old kid when my Aunt Dee and Uncle Jon-Jon got Moochie. Their two oldest boys – my cousins Johnny (14 too) and Bobby (13) – had been hounding their parents to get them a dog for months with little success. Then one weekend Uncle Jon-Jon pulled a bender and got Aunt Dee into a frazzle. One of her conditions for him to get out of the dog house was for the kids to have a dog. At least that was the story.
Moochie was an Old English Sheep Dog. My aunt and uncle bought him from an Amish farmer who raised sheepdogs and collies in a town called Mentor about 30 miles west of Akron. Aunt Dee picked both the breed and the name. Uncle Jon-Jon said she had just watched The Shaggy Dog on the Sunday Disney show the week before. If she had been watching Rin Tin Tin or Lassie, he say, it would have been a different dog with a different name. The he laughed at his story. But I think Moochie was the one really laughing. Neither Aunt Dee or Uncle Jon-Jon liked dogs. The boys wanted one, Uncle Jon-Jon got drunk and pissed Dee off and Dee used the opportunity to make Uncle Jon-Jon do something he loathed. They were both pretty good at finding opportunities to screw each other. This time they both got it but it would take them a little while to figure that out.
I met Moochie a couple of months after he had been brought home. Our family lived in the country and had a couple of full grown mutts we had been raised with. They were farm dogs – they lived outside, caught rabbits and got a bath by standing in the rain. Moochie was a just puppy jumping on the furniture and chasing tennis balls under the bed, a white little fur ball – cute for sure, but urban cute. Perfect for my pretentious aunt and uncle and their posh house in suburban Akron. I was not impressed.
I didn’t see the dog again until nearly a year later. Then I was impressed. Moochie was a lumbering giant that weighed over ninety pounds and when he jumped up on his hind legs, he was pretty much at eye level with you. If you could see his eyes which by that time you couldn’t.
The other thing I liked about the grown up Moochie was the quantity of drool he produced. It was enormous which irritated Uncle Jon-Jon to no end. I remember once him driving Johnny, Bobby and me down to the Sparkle grocery to pick up some stuff for Aunt Dee. Moochie was along too, sitting on the front seat next to Uncle Jon-Jon. As we drove down the street, Moochie stuck his head out the window to catch the breeze. His long tongue lolled down his chin and large drops of saliva began driveling out. The stream of wet got caught in the car’s wake and flung back on the side of Moochie’s head, the car’s passenger windows and, I assume, the windshield of any car following us.
He just didn’t drool on car trips. Moochie drooled anytime he wasn’t moving. He’d be sitting on the living room couch, nose resting on one of the sofa’s arms and with a pool of slimy wet stuff soaking into the carpet below his head. He could be standing in the back yard watching us play ball and the drool ran through his chin whiskers and covering him and the ground below his head. His face was always wet. If you played with him and got him jumping up and down, the water sprayed everywhere – on you, the furniture, whatever. We kids could have cared less. Uncle Jon-Jon was less tolerant. But what can you do? Some dogs are droolers; big dog droolers drool big.
Old English Sheep Dogs are very very hairy. Hair traps dirt. The problem with Moochie was that was that neither Aunt Dee nor Uncle Jon-Jon wanted to bathe him. Partly it was their general antipathy towards dogs but also bathing a hundred pound dog as big as small cow was not a simple matter. Their solution was to take Moochie to a pet groomer on the south side of Akron for a full doggie bath; but they didn’t do it very often. It wasn’t because of the cost – they had plenty of money; rather the two spent so much time bickering over who should take him to the groomer, that months would go by without Moochie getting cleaned. By then, the poor dog was filthy, smelled pretty ripe and his head was a mass of dried up drool dirt.
Aside from the drool, the dirt and the stench, Moochie was a pretty good dog, at least to a teenager who only saw him a dozen times a year. He was a big burly thing that rolled around like a puppy, romp at your heels and give licks at the slightest show of affection. Johnny and Bobby loved the dog. Moochie grew with them as they moved from junior high to high school to graduation. Moochie was there when Johnny’s first ‘serious’ girlfriend dumped him; Moochie licked his tears way. Moochie proudly sat next to Bobby the day he got his learner’s permit and drove the Impala to the Sparkles with Uncle Jon-Jon in the back seat growling in fear and irritation. Moochie licked up all the spilt beer the night Johnny threw a beer party when his parents were away in Cleveland helping Aunt Dee’s sister move. And it was Moochie who knocked over Sheila Wagner, Johnny’s second ‘serious’ girlfriend when she was holding a piece of cheese pizza over her head in an attempt to keep Moochie from eating it which he did anyhow. She broke her arm when she hit the kitchen floor with Moochie on top of her. That kinda of ended things with Johnny.
But it was Moochie who stayed in Akron when the whole family up and moved to Florida. That was the sad part of the Moochie story.
It was after Bobby graduated. Uncle Jon-Jon’s TV repair business was losing money, Jon-Jon was tired of northern Ohio winters and Aunt Dee had dreams of living in on some beach in the tropics. They settled on southern Florida. In the summer of 1971, Jon-Jon and Dee went to Fort Lauderdale for a couple of weeks and came back with an offer on a house in Pompano. They put the Akron house up for sale. Uncle Jon-Jon got a rival down the road to buy his TV repair business. Bobby was heading off to college and Johnny, who was doing nothing, figured Florida was a better place to do nothing than Akron. So Uncle Jon-Jon and Aunt Dee were pretty much free to get out of Akron before the snow flew except for what to do with Moochie.
Moochie In His Golden Years
You see, while Aunt Dee and Uncle Jon-Jon were doing their Florida planning, it occurred to them that Florida was not a great place to keep an Old English Sheep Dog. Years before, Aunt Dee grew to regret dogging Uncle Jon-Jon into buying Moochie. She was never keen on dogs and six years of Moochie did nothing to change that. Jon-Jon dislike for dogs was turned to hatred by Moochie’s size, drool, shit and dirty hair. They were looking for an excuse to dump the pooch and Florida’s heat and humidity gave it to them. Moochie needed to stay in the Midwest for his own good.
I don’t know what really happened to Moochie. At the time, Dee and Jon-Jon told everyone that they found a farmer back in the Amish country that took in the dog. Moochie herding real sheep and cows sounded pretty prosaic. But many years later, Aunt Dee said she was sorry she let Jon-Jon take Moochie to the Akron animal shelter. She was in her early eighties and her life as a younger woman had become highly edited. By that time, she kept a black and white picture of her and Moochie standing in the yard together on a table in her bedroom. She often talked about what a wonderful dog he was and how much he meant to her. Uncle Jon-Jon never said much when Dee went on about her love for Moochie. When asked, he always repeated that he took Moochie to a farm not to the shelter. They were two old people who made a past they could live with. As for Moochie – I hoped he really did get taken in by a farmer and away from two people who hated him for being what he was – a big Old English Sheep dog.