When I was very young, I was a huge Underdog fan. I watched the show almost every day. I loved Sweet Polly Purebred, and I couldn’t wait to hear Underdog say, “Never fear, Underdog is here!” Looking back now on what my family calls “The Underdog Incident,” I realize what vivid imaginations young children can have. You see when I was about four years old, because of my love for Underdog, I was quite sure dogs could talk.
One day, right after a great episode of my favorite cartoon, my oldest sister, Carol, told me to go ask our dog, Charlie, if he wanted to go out. I found him under the edge of my bed.
“Charlie, you wanna go out?” I asked. He just looked at me without even lifting his head.
“Charlie, do you wanna go out?” I said again, a little louder this time. He lifted his head off the floor and cocked it to one side. I plopped onto the floor in frustration.
I nudged him lightly with my foot and said, “You wanna go out?” Still no response.
I was starting to worry Carol would be angry with me for taking so long. I really hated getting into trouble, so I nudged him harder with my foot, asking once again, “Do you wanna go outside?”
Anger was welling up inside of me. I would make him talk to me! This time it wasn’t gentle nudges but three full force kicks, right in the chest, each time asking that same question, “Do you wanna go out?”
I must have missed the growling, because I am sure there was some. I didn’t notice any warning snaps, but there are almost always those. I guess I missed a lot because before I realized what had happened, Charlie had bitten me in the face two times.
Someone called an ambulance and the next thing I remember is looking up at a doctor calmly telling me to hold completely still because he was about to put a stitch very near my eye and he didn’t want me to be blind.
In all, over 150 stitches were needed to repair my injuries. My face still bears many scars from them, but none of the physical marks can compare to the scene burnt into my brain from a few days later when they took Charlie away for what he had done. Well, for what I had done really. The look of heartbreak in his eyes has stayed with me all my life. I never want to see that sadness in the eyes of any animal ever again, at least not because of me. I believe this one event over all others is why I adopt and love so many animals in my adult life. I want them all to have the life Charlie should have had, if not for one little girl’s love of Underdog.
©2016 Nancy Lehmann