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updated: 12/29/2011 3:53 PM

Mike Jackson on the outdoors: A dog's tale

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I am a relentless sentimentalist.

I'd like to keep everything how it was in 1951, or sometime thereabouts.

I want to come home and find my mother there. I'd race to the front door of our apartment when I would hear the downstairs door to the outside world slam shut and then listen to track my father climb to the third floor.

I am still that little kid who wants to play long after it gets dark outside.

But in reality that stuff only exists in fiction boks. The child-like wishes are creations in one's head, and will dwell there for a very long time.

Something magical happens between kids and their dogs. I get e-mail pictures every week from people who send photos of infants sleeping on top of huge mutts. I've seen pictures of big dogs schlepping toddlers around by the collar. Some big pooches treat youngsters as if they themselves belong to momma dog.

My second dog was Skipper, a hearty German shepherd who guarded me as if he had nothing else to do. When he died I thought my word had come to an end.

The late Buck Squancho had to put down one of his Brittany Spaniels, a hunter of the first order. It happened at a local veterinarian's office, with Buck holding his beloved dog in his arms while the vet injected Buck's pal with the dosage that would send his furry friend to doggie heaven.

My oldest daughter Stephanie and her husband Jordan just went through a similar experience with one of the sweetest dogs I've ever had the privilege of sharing playtime. Fozzie was a 14-year-old Portuguese water dog.

He came to my kids when he was just a tiny ball of black, fuzzy hair. At that time Steph and Jordan lived in a Lincoln Park condo. Fozzie could barely make it up the slippery, wooden stairs leading to the second-floor bedrooms. For snack time, Fozzie liked to chew on the corners of doors and a doggie gate.

I joked with Jordan when I asked him if I could train Fozzie as a hunting dog for when I'd go out for pheasants and quail. He didn't like that idea.

But I was able to derive a ton of pleasure from that black dog without taking to the field.

Every time I came to visit, Fozzie raced out the second-floor front door and jumped into my arms. I was so taken by his behavior that it felt like I was holding a 6-month-old baby.

Now I must tell you many families tend to go with the traditional breed, like the retrievers, short hairs, terriers, and the like. It's the younger generations that seem to prefer the more exotic types of dogs, like Fozzie and his cousins.

I didn't have much experience with Fozzie's breed until I did some research. I learned from other owners that these water dogs were used by several different cultures to dive down to where schools of fish were suspending, grab some, and make their way back to the surface.

Many different breeds in Europe were never fed by their masters. The dogs had to go out and hunt down their meals. It didn't matter if the dogs were connected to humanity; their mission was to find food and satisfy their hunger.

Fozzie didn't have to do any of that. He frolicked in the Arizona sun as well as swimming a lap or two in the family pool in southern California. He loved to play ball with my grandchildren or retrieve a Frisbee. He ran like a whitetail deer, always loping long in huge strides.

Then time raced by, as it always does, and before long Fozzie began to suffer from internal ailments. I knew it would not be long, and perhaps Steph and Jordan knew it as well but didn't want to say it aloud.

And then the moment came, with an e-mail loaded with tears and sorrow.

I mourned the loss of my pal, as infrequent as our playtimes were. And I stopped and thought how lucky I was to have known and loved a furball like Fozzie, a family member who earned the title as my first grandpuppy.

• Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.

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