By Jane-Ann Heitmueller
The couple had met while working in California during the mid 1930’s, married a short time later and had three children, but never found true happiness together. Their backgrounds and dreams were entirely different and it eventually became time, in 1947, to part ways. Even his soon to be ex father-in-law took his side in the divorce and offered him a job.
After putting the children on the train, Daddy rented a small trailer, packed both it and his old gray Chevy with all the family possessions he could stuff inside and headed south to take the furniture salesman job offered by Grandpa George. His companion on the long trip to Alabama was the beloved family Cocker Spaniel, Mister. The future was unknown, but Daddy knew he must find some stability for himself and his children.
For the time being, Grandpa George and Grandma Lois had agreed to take in the little six year old girl. The older boy and girl, ages fourteen and sixteen, would live with their father in a small efficiency apartment, until more permanent living arrangements were made for the family… but what about Mister? The owners of the apartment did not allow pets.
“George, do you think you and Lois could take the dog for a little while?” Daddy asked. “Sure, we can do that,” replied Grandpa. “That might make it an easier move for your baby girl. Her new world won’t be completely different with the dog around.”
Grandma Lois had other thoughts about the entire move and was not at all pleased to be saddled with the daily care and responsibility of a young child. She was certainly not in favor of taking in a dog, but held her anger and resentment deep inside and didn’t utter a word about the disruption to her household.
Everything the child and dog did seemed to irritate the grandmother. She constantly grumbled about having to feed the dog and tend to the little girl. The child, puzzled and confused by such actions, tried her best to stay away from the harsh woman and behave the best she knew how. While cowering in the hallway she often head the old woman muttering to herself behind the locked bathroom door. “ Why do I have to look after this child? She has a father. Why can’t he look after her?” Such resentment and fury was frightening to the little girl.
It seemed the dog was the child’s only friend in the unhappy household during that hot, southern summer. Mister was gentle, loving and always stayed close to his small companion. The two refugees took comfort in each other and had a special bond of friendship, neither imagining they would soon part.
For weeks the little girl was inconsolable as she grieved her loss. Everyone assumed Mister had just wandered away in the unfamiliar neighborhood, but many years later it was discovered that Grandma Lois had once again held her tongue and never said a word, choosing instead to take matters into her own hands. One sweltering afternoon, in a fit of anger and frustration, feeling she had endured all she could, the disgruntled woman called the local vet and ordered him to come, take the old dog away and put him to sleep.