Did you hear the one about the dalmatian who rang the doorbell?
That was Rex, our first dalmation, a big white male with just a smattering of black spots. When we got him from a farm, there was no leash law in the suburb of Milwaukee where we lived. So, Rex ran free around the neighborhood.
One winter day, when he returned home from his rounds and wanted to come in the house to warm up, he realized that if he stood on his back legs and leaned on the doorbell, someone would soon come and let him it.
It was convenient for him, but we sometimes got tired of hearing the doorbell ring. One day, the story goes, my mother was occupied with something when the doorbell sounded.
She thought Rex could wait a minute before being let in, but then she looked down and saw him lying at her feet.
She ran to the door to confront a deliveryman.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I would have come sooner but I thought you were the dog!” she exclaimed.
The man looked at her like she was crazy and left in a hurry, the story goes.
One reason I remember this story was that it became part of a column called “All Things Considered” in the Milwaukee Journal. I have no idea how the columnist heard the tale. But he lived in the same suburb, so someone must have told him the story.
It must have been a slow news day.
Eventually the village council passed a law requiring dogs to be on a leash and not running free. Poor Rex just could not adjust and his temperament became unpredictable, so he went back to live on the farm where we got him. I called once in awhile to see how he was doing. But Rex was not part of our lives anymore.
So, we got another dalmation, a puppy we named Rocky.
Rocky was smaller and even more energetic than Rex.
His main attribute was an amazing ability to sneak out the door whenever anybody came over, and I had a lot of relatives coming over.
“Don’t let the dog out,” was the greeting everybody heard instead of “Hello.”
When Rocky escaped, he’d be gone for a few days. He was so fast he never got caught by the dogcatcher. And when he came back, he’d have a very full stomach.
Rocky had an amazing ability to hold huge quantities of food.
One time, he ran across the street and ate an entire turkey that was in the garage awaiting that family’s Thanksgiving dinner.
My family replaced the bird.
Another time, my father’s dignified cousin Ruth brought us a box of chocolates.
“I picked every piece myself,” she told us proudly.
We left the box on a window seat and went into the dining room to eat dinner. When we returned to the den, you guessed it, Rocky had eaten the entire box of hand-picked chocolates. Ruth never brought us any more candy.
Rocky also did not know the dog-lovers from those who did not want a canine’s closeness. My Uncle Harry said he thought the dog’s name was “Go Away,” since, he said, that was the only name he heard him called.