By Tom Rodriguez
I don’t know when we got Spotty but he was always around when we were little kids. I guess Dad thought we should have a dog to play with so he got us one from somewhere. Spotty, or as my Dad used to call him “Spidona,” was a short-haired black and white spotted dog, about a foot high who thought himself to be a tough dog. In actuality, he was kind of a phony because he would often start fights and let his buddy, Capone, actually do the fighting. Capone was my Uncle Cooky’s dog, a large handsome German Shepard, who to my memory never lost a fight. My Uncle Cooky said he named Capone after Al Capone, the famous gangster, but we always called his dog “KaPoNee.” Instead of “KaPone.” I don’t know why we did that but I guess it was easier for us to pronounce.
As I recall, Spotty and Capone used to hang around whenever my Uncle would bring him over to our house. Then, when another dog walked by, Spotty would start barking and growling and showing his teeth and then when the other dog would make a move to chase him, Spotty would run and get behind Capone , who would go after the other dog while Spotty barked and acted like he was the one who chased him away.
Anyway, as Rodriguez family folklore tells it, when I was five years old, I was supposedly very close to dying from food poisoning after eating something at a church social on a hot summer afternoon. Whether I was really close to death or not is something I will never know since all of the adults who were there have passed on. My best guess is that I did become ill and that because my parents had both been raised in a Mexican culture that believed in superstitions, they may have been easily inclined to believe that our dog Spotty was responsible for saving my life.
According to my mother, she said that when we got home from the church social, I became deathly ill and vomited profusely. She said that my skin was pale and that I was totally listless and seemed to be in a coma. She said that my father went to the train station to call a doctor but because it was a Sunday, he wasn’t sure that he could get a doctor to come out to our home.
When my father returned home, he told my mother that he was unable to get in touch with our doctor and that he had left a message with the doctor’s wife who promised him that she would send the doctor as soon as she could get in touch with him, or when he came home.
While waiting for the doctor, my mother and father said that Spotty began barking loudly in our front yard and that he was jumping frantically up in the air as if to bite someone or something. Being very religious, as well as traditionally superstitious, my parents believed that Spotty was barking at death in order to keep death away from our house and me. As the story goes, Spotty, who was less than one foot tall, keep barking and biting the air hysterically in front of the house until the doctor arrived. The doctor examined me and then sent my father to get a prescription filled at a nearby drugstore. Later that evening, my mother said that I was much better but was still weak and dizzy. It would be a few days until I was my old self again.
As for Spotty, after what my folks told me Spotty did for me, my two brothers and I always treated Spotty like the little hero he was. And, for many years afterward, the story of Spotty saving me from the grim reaper was told and retold many times and he was looked upon by all of the boys on our block as a special little dog.
Sadly, several years later, during a period in which an evil man was poisoning dogs around the large area we lived in, our lovable little Spotty was poisoned and died a terrible death as my parents, and my brothers and I looked on helplessly. It was a sadness I carried with me for a long, long time. And, who knows? Maybe Spotty did save my life?