Thursday, April 8, 2010

Black Dogs and Black Widows

I think of this every time I see a black dog... Like most everyone, there are keys that turn on memories sometimes... A cologne, a certain feel to the time of day, a moment in time when you can smell or taste something from the past... Weird, yes. I guess so. However, it happens.
I don't remember being afraid of the dogs. I was too young.  But my Mama told me the story so often that I almost think I do remember being afraid of them. There was no reason to fear them. And I only screamed, terrified, when I saw a black dog. It didn't have to be a big dog, it didn't have to be near me... and I had night terrors about them, too. But scared of them I was.
When we moved over to Amboy street, as I mentioned earlier, I was very young. But I was old enough to be scared to DEATH of black dogs.  My mom said that one day she went out of the front door and was out in the front yard doing something. She might have been talking to the neighbor. I, Miss Adventure, or misadventure, came right out behind her and was playing on the front porch.  I guess I didn't want to go down the steps, and playing on the porch was good enough for me. She knew I was there because she heard the screen door shut. She glanced back now and then to make sure I was alright, which I was.  Then a few minutes later, she said, I was screaming my lungs out.  Now our porch was small and consisted of railings and pickets so that you couldn't readily see the porch without being close enough to peer between the pickets, or balusters if you will. But between my screams, and her running to see what was wrong, she said she heard a strange, low growling. She got to the bottom step and over in the corner where the porch joined to the house, there stood a huge black dog. She had never seen the dog before, and had not seen it come onto the porch. When the dog saw her he ( she determined later that it was a boy) whined in his throat and wagged his tail, so she knew he wasn't a threat to me or to her.  I was standing just a few feet from him, obviously petrified, and when I saw my mom, I apparently moved just enough to make the dog step to the side just a bit but keeping me away from his corner. And he growled. Mama came onto the porch and picked me up and the dog stood still, wagging and whining. He didn't want to come away from the corner but she finally coaxed him to come to her and made me pet the dog on his head. When I realized he wasn't going to eat me, she said, I calmed down. And when the dog moved over closer, behind him, sitting in a neat, tight little web with her pretty red hourglass showing in the most tempting fashion to lure tiny fingers to it, was a huge black widow spider. Mama said that dog was barring me from getting near that corner of the porch and I surely would have touched that shiny black bug with the pretty red spot and would certainly have been bitten and been in a lot of trouble. From that day on I never feared black dogs again. I don't remember if she ever found out where that dog came from or where it went after it saved my life that day. I hope it lived a fine, happy life.
So why the unexplained fear of the black dogs? Who knows? But I think things happen for a reason and I think that the fear of the dogs was the key to my being safe from that spider that day. Mama said she was born with a 'caul' over her face - which was rumored to give the person an extra sight, or sense...( It did, too) And though I didn't have that, there was something - something that told of a future instance where my unreasonable fear of man's best friend would save my life... Do I love dogs? You bet!