Stories About Don
According to all animal characteristics and descriptions, my first pet was definitely a dog. However, he had many human traits. Even his name was more human than canine. He was not known as Rover, Bowser, Sandy, or Spot; he was simply Don.
In the early 20's country people in great numbers were migrating from the rural areas to urban center to enjoy the greater opportunities, comfort, and ease of the city. So it was with Don. Born on a farm near Windsor, at an early age he left there and joined our family on Leroy Street.
At this time Marean-Lauder Company used to have billboards along the roads leading into the city proclaiming that this store was THE SPOT to buy men's clothing in Binghamton. For some reason, Dad assumed the task of erecting the signs. He would locate a place he thought would be a good one, usually just before a curve in the road where the driver would have an unobstructed view, get the farmer's permission, pay him a few dollars, and then put the sign up. It was on one of these excursions that Dad met a farmer whose collie cow dog had had a litter of puppies. Always partial to collies, Dad could not resist and bought what must have been the friendliest, cuddliest, smartest one of the litter. The price was five dollars, which, as far as I am concerned, has even to this day always remained the right amount to pay for any dog. (Admittedly, there are some members of the family who disagree with me on this.)
Don's mother had been a collie. We knew this because Dad had met her personally; but as Don matured, we began to wonder about his paternal ancestry. Definitely, his father had been something other than a collie, and Don had inherited some of his characteristics. He had the yellow color of a collie, all right, but his hair was short, not long. As collies usually do, he had a beautiful white star in the middle of his forehead, but his nose was blunt, not long and pointed. His tail, too, had the white tip usually associated with a collie, but rather than being bushy it was thin and wiry. Don was definitely a mutt, but we didn't care. Dad and I loved him anyway; and Mother, who grew to love him also, certainly always liked him as much as she would any dog that would get hair all over her rugs.
Don liked to hike. One of his favorite pastimes was accompanying Mr. Casey, our mailman, on his route; and since we had two daily deliveries in those days, he got plenty of exercise. If Don happened to be in the house when Mr. Casey came up on our porch, vociferous woofs at the front door quickly made known that he wanted to go out. More often, he was lying on the front porch watching and waiting for the mailman with his heavy bag to get off the street car down at the corner and begin his route. People in the neighborhood knew Don as well as they did Mr. Casey, but Don assuredly knew the mailman better than the people on the route did. He always went with our regular man, but never with a substitute.
Don also liked to ride, and we soon learned that if we did not want him in the car we had better keep the doors closed. Even when the car was just parked in the driveway behind the house, if a door was open, Don hopped in and lay down on the seat, waiting and ready to go. Like a small child, he preferred to sit up front with the driver, and he was happiest when the car was hurtling along at top speed (about 30 miles an hour down hill) and he could lean out his side, head around the windshield, and with the wind in his face. Don had one bad habit of chasing cars. He didn't chase just any car - only the faster ones, and he particularly liked to chase after the car driven by a Mr. Doolittle, who lived n Bennett Avenue just east of Millard. Mr. Doolittle liked Don, and whenever don chased his car, Mr. Doolittle would stop, open the door to let Don in, and take him riding.
Don also liked to eat. He especially liked Grandma Marean's pancakes, and she must have enjoyed feeding him, for every Sunday morning when she made Grandpa's pancakes she also made extras for don. Never did don disappoint her, and every Sabbath morning he appeared at Grandpa's 17 Murray Street back door ready for his special breakfast. How he knew when Sunday came we never found out, but somehow he knew. He always appeared on Sunday, but never on any other day.
I remember the great friendship that developed between Don and one of the Italian men who were building our stucco garage after Dad bought his first car. Sometimes Don even gave up the mail route to stay with this warm, loving Sicilian. Though the cement mixer was sure it was his friendly personality that had won the love of the dog, I knew better. The sandwiches of hot pastrami laden with garlic that the man and the dog shared at lunchtime were certainly more odiferous and tastier than anything Don got at our house.
Sometimes Don combined his favorite pastimes, hiking and riding. He walked from home directly over town to Marean-Lauder Company. He never had any trouble reaching the store when it was located at 35 Court Street. Later when the store moved to 171-173 Washington Street he did have a little problem at first, but he soon adjusted. Once he reached the store he just lay down, usually in the back room with his friend Frank Domiano, the tailor. Frank was a wonderful fellow and a true artist at making ready-made clothes fit like tailor-made ones, which, in actuality, they really were by the time Frank finished with them. As a boy, Frank had once run after a street car to hitch a ride, had slipped and fallen under the wheels. As a result, both legs had been amputated above the knee. A job where he could sit all day at a sewing machine probably had its advantages for Frank, but I often wondered how he could pedal that machine so well with artificial legs. He refused to learn to operate an electric machine. He and Don were great friends, and the dog was glad to stay with Frank until he heard Dad's footsteps on the cellar stairs and he knew that it was time to head for the car parked in the garage below and a ride home to dinner or supper. (We never had lunch. Our big meal was dinner at noon, and supper was a lighter meal at night after work was over.)
Another combination of activities that usually included a handout of food for Don was a walk from home to the store, but via the Security Mutual Building. Here upon arrival he entered the lobby and proceeded to the far end and sat patiently in front of the elevator door. When he had the opportunity, he sneaked into the elevator and then rode up and down as long as was necessary until it stopped at the floor he was seeking. Here he had more friends who were glad to feed him and then send him on his way to the store to wait for a ride home.
Finally, it was Don's three greatest passions that brought about his undoing. While accompanying the mailman on his rounds, Don stopped temporarily to chase a car that was barreling down the street. Though the driver, caught unawares, tried to swerve, he could not avoid hitting Don. His left hind leg was broken, and after setting it, the veterinary had to put it in a plaster cast. Surely less tasty than hot pastrami, the cast, nevertheless, a little at a time found its way into Don's stomach. It wasn't that he liked it; he hated it. It limited his activity, and he wanted to get rid of it. Nothing that any of us could do would stop Don's chewing at it, and eventually hardening in his stomach, it brought about his death.