When I was 13, our next door neighbour got a dog. In itself, that’s not extraordinary. However, this dog acquisition caused quite a stir. She was an elderly widow and lived alone. The dog was a young Boxer. His name was Copper. He was the colour of a new penny, she or someone said. I can’t remember where she got him, if she sought him out or if he just happened along. I thought it was wonderful that Mrs. Layfield got a dog, but even I was a bit surprised, especially the dog being a big energetic Boxer.
My parents, and probably everybody else in town, were amazed, maybe even horrified. The Layfields had never had a dog in our memory. And Mrs. Layfield was a tiny lady. My mother feared the dog would knock her down the stairs, knock her over in the hallway, knock her down outside. You’d go to her house, ring the doorbell and hear Copper tearing along the hall at full speed. Mrs. Layfield would come along behind, open the door and welcome you into the front parlour.
She was a lady of the Victorian era. Her house was lovely, with beautifully polished old furniture, lace antimacassars on chair arms and backs. Delicate porcelain figurines and glass ornaments displayed on table tops. And in the middle of it, a huge slobbering Boxer galumphing around.
Boxer amidst bric a brac
Copper, to my knowledge, never knocked a single table over. He seemed able to jump and play in the middle of a room full of lovely and fragile bric a brac without touching a thing. In deference to her upholstered furniture, she put old towels on chair arms and parts of the sofa where he was likely to be, and likely to drool. She kept towels in the kitchen by his bowls and in the hallway to mop up the water that dribbled out of his mouth after he drank. But other than that, Mrs. Layfield made no adjustments to her living arrangements to accommodate his boisterousness, and she didn’t need to. He seemed to know where it was ok to be boisterous and how to play around the furniture.
Her backyard was already fenced, and we’d watch Copper playing with stuffed toys and balls in his yard. Mrs. Layfield took him for walks down Main Street. He walked sedately beside her, never pulling or getting tangled in her feet.
The two of them aged together. Copper’s hips got bad and she made him a bed on the main floor when he couldn’t climb the stairs. Not long later, she did the same for herself. She and Copper lived together until he died of old age. She didn’t get another dog. A few years later, she sold her house and moved to a nursing home. A new young family moved in, with a young black Lab. It was nice to see a dog in the yard next door again. But we still called it “Copper’s yard”. Many owners later, we still call the house “Mrs. Layfield’s house”.
From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Stories, Feb. 13, 2011