I have not yet written to those of you who watch this space about the death of our dog Buttercup, although it occurred more than three weeks ago as I write this. Buttercup had been a member of our family for more than a dozen years. She passed away on Labor Day weekend at an estimated age of 17.

I have not yet written to those of you who watch this space about the death of our dog Buttercup, although it occurred more than three weeks ago as I write this. Buttercup had been a member of our family for more than a dozen years. She passed away on Labor Day weekend at an estimated age of 17.

As it is my duty in the family to dispose of the bodies of dead pets, I buried her, but I will spare the gentle reader the details. A lot of people read this over breakfast after all. And besides, it would lead me astray from the point of this article, which is Buttercup’s replacement.

Having written that phrase “Buttercup’s replacement,” I now realize how cold it is.  There can never be a replacement for Buttercup. Buttercup occupies a unique place in our hearts, and I must confess that I’ve wept over her more than I ever would have imaged.

No, “Buttercup’s replacement” is a code phrase that means another dog which will consume dog food while leaving highly processed piles of it in random, unpredictable places around the yard, another creature who extract pleasure from the pure act of digging.

I had purposefully delayed writing about Buttercup’s replacement until he had been selected because informing the world at large that you are in the market for a new dog can bring in opportunities at a rate faster than you can assess them. Indeed, when I was a kid living out in the country, folks used to leave dogs for us to examine without us even knowing that we needed one.

To relieve your suspense, the replacement dog’s name is Charlie, a Brittany spaniel who is about a year old. Charlie is a sweet-tempered, loving dog who has wormed his way into all of our hearts in about a week’s time.

There were a few moments of uncertainty when he first met our other dog Obadiah when we were concerned. We’d obtained Obadiah a couple of years back as a companion for Buttercup. Obadiah had fallen into the role as being Buttercup’s pup, so their relationship was strong, but, as a consequence of this, there were doubts about how another dog would be accepted.

There had been a deal of discussion concerning this.  We’d said that the replacement dog should be female, like Buttercup. I had suggested that, in addition, the new dog should be small.
Ideally, it should be small enough that when the sad day comes that it dies — part of Nature’s plan for all of us — the body should fit easily into the boot box. As this was driven by my lonely experience of having recently dug a grave in a hardpan soil, my advice was politely listened to and summarily ignored.

Charlie is, of course, male and he is much too large to fit into a boot box, but he and Obadiah are like brothers. This is to say that they get along great most of the time but sometimes they wrestle a bit.

Our Trinity of Cats was somewhat concerned. They’d considered Buttercup’s passing to be a step in the right direction dog-wise. It was one down, one to go, and it would be easy to catch one sleeping without the other on guard.  When Charlie was brought upon the scene, the cats all turned out to greet him with stares though half-shut eyes. They turned the same gaze upon my wife as if to say, “How could you?”  It was like watching a wealthy family greet the girl from across the tracks that the family’s scion has brought home.

One might have fun with such, but one does not bring them home.

The cats have come to view the situation with resignation.

The transition to the replacement dog has gone smoothly except for one issue: Charlie is an escape artist.

We learned this last Tuesday. Grandma Janet, straight back from swimming the geysers and hiking the glaciers of Iceland, caught Charlie opening the latch to the gate from the back yard.
He’s a thinker.

That was fixed, and then he escaped by climbing the gate itself.

He’s a climber.

If he could learn to poop in a toilet and not smell other dog’s butts, we could run him for president.

This was a problem. Buttercup had suffered from similar tendencies in her youth. At that time, we resolved the situation by chaining her in the back yard until she no longer had the youth or spirit to escape.

I no longer have the stomach for that.

I spent $30 and half an hour in my first attempt to make the gate escape-proof. I used some hardware and bailing wire to make an interior shelf on the gate. It has worked for five and a half hours.

If you’ve got any other ideas, let me know.  E-mail me at okieinexile@gmail.com. Seriously.

Bobby Winters is Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Mathematics at Pittsburg State University. Ideas for escape-proofing a chain-link fence should be sent to okieinexile@gmail.com.