How Much Milk Should A 1 Day Old Puppy Drink The Little Man Who Wasn’t There – Living With Brownies

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The Little Man Who Wasn’t There – Living With Brownies

I don’t know if grandma brought the brownie to live in the coal bin when she came to live with us. Perhaps he was an integral part of the house at 145 Madeline Street in Pittsburgh. I know he was there until we moved away, and I imagine he still torments the inhabitants of the house – unless they replaced the old coal oven with a gas stove trendy.

All winter I heard him hopping around in the coal bin as I played above him in the living room, never straying far from the warm air register where the updraft of the furnace warmed my very cold days. My invisible friend, Dahlia Brown, also heard the brownie. We never got close enough to talk to him, but when we surprised him very gently descending the cellar steps, we could see the shadow of his peaked cap cross the cement block wall and disappear in the depths of the coal bin.

Every morning I faithfully served her a saucer of cold milk, per Grandma’s instructions, and when I returned later in the day, it was clean as a whistle. Grandma was an expert on brownie behavior. Having had many brownies in her past, she knew that families who treat them kindly and share their homes peacefully will be rewarded with good luck.

The only time the brownie expressed his displeasure with our household was when he was forced to share it with a dog. The first pet we acquired was Pal, the all collie puppy. Pal seemed friendly enough the day he arrived by crate from my aunt’s farm in West Virginia, but it didn’t take long for the brownie to turn him into a monster.

For reasons of cleanliness, Mother tried to relegate Pal to the basement at night. As soon as she pushed him down the basement steps and closed the door, leaving him in the dark, the brownie began to harass him mercilessly. By morning, Pal was in a state of perpetual excitement. The moment the cellar door opened, he leapt from the depths screaming and began to hurl himself into the living room as if trying to shake off an invisible little man mounted on his back.

The older Pal grew, the wilder he became. My dad built a sturdy twelve foot fence around our garden. He couldn’t contain Pal. He was so upset after his nightly encounters with the brownie that he ripped the fence off and ran destructively through the neighborhood. The third time he escaped, he found a friend in Reo, the local

car mechanic.

Reo was chewing large chunks of tobacco. I mistook them for Hershey’s chocolate bars and nodded enthusiastically every time he offered me a “chaw”. He was happy to provide Pal with a corner in his greasy garage and couldn’t understand why we had trouble with such a calm creature. We knew the brownie was the problem.

Our next dog, a beautiful Dalmatian, came to our house when I was six years old. Rex first appeared one late winter evening when my father was removing the ashes. Rex approached him shyly, wagging his tail.

“Hi, lad,” my dad said, before heading back to our warm home.

The snow was still on the ground, but it had begun to erode the earth in random patches, and it was in one of those arid, muddy places, on a strip of dirt beside the driveway, that Rex passed the night. My dad noticed it the next morning and thought it odd that the dog didn’t come home.

He was there the next night…and the next. By then my parents were sure he had been thrown nearby on purpose and needed shelter. During the Depression, money was tight and food for such a large dog was expensive, possibly depriving a family in need of basic meals. The father believed that the owners of the dog had delivered him to our neighborhood hoping that he would find a good home there.

During the day, Rex sat sadly in our driveway dodging the ash man, as well as the ice cream man and the baker who hawked their wares to the kitchen doors facing the driveway. Grandma and I watched it from the comfort of our padded chair. I was convinced he had chosen us to be his family, but she was cautious.

“We don’t know anything about him,” she said. “It could belong to someone on the next street.”

“Then why doesn’t he go home?” I replied.

Grandma thought for a moment, then walked to the kitchen cupboard and pulled out a burlap sack. “We’re going to put this on the back porch and leave the door open. If the dog wants to stay, he’ll let us know by coming into the yard and sitting down.”

From his distant spot on the cold floor, Rex watched Grandma place the bag on the porch. No sooner had she entered than he bounded through the door and onto the porch, his tail wagging shyly.

“I guess we better get him something to drink,” she mused. She found an unused bowl, filled it with water, and placed it by the door. He washed it dry.

Up close, you could see the outline of his ribs. “This dog needs food,” Grandma said.

She found leftovers in the cooler. As soon as she extinguished them, he consumed them. By the time Dad came home from work, Grandma and I had decided the dog deserved to come inside. Mother was less certain. The dog was scruffy from its fight with the elements, she pointed out. It was impossible to tell what kinds of germs it harbored. Mother considered germs her mortal enemy. At other times, the mere mention of germs silenced further discussion of any topic, but now that my chin was shaking and tears were welling up in my eyes, she turned to Father for help. None coming from that direction, she placed her hands on her hips and decided the dog couldn’t come into our clean house without a bath.

Smiles reappeared all around. The father had no trouble coaxing the dog into the cellar through the basement door. With a little effort, he lifted Rex into the tub and Mother, now dressed in her oldest house robe, scrubbed him. After Rex dried off next to the hot furnace, he was found to have a nice sleek coat, and after a few weeks of regular feedings, his ribs disappeared and he acquired a distinguished air, much like that royal train dogs from which he was descended.

Rex was a nice, sweet dog and wouldn’t have hurt the brownie for the world, but the brownie, remembering how Pal invaded his sanctuary, was petulant. In his insidious way, he worked on Rex until the morning when Mother opened the cellar door and found him foaming at the lips, his eyes sad, as if to say, “The brownie did it.”

Our next dog traveled all the way from Parkersburg, West Virginia in the B&O baggage car. It was a birthday present from my great aunt Jen who visited us twice a year while her hair transformation was being renovated at the Joseph Horne department store.

A “grass widow” (grandmother’s fancy euphemism for “divorced”), Aunt Jen was oblivious to the clock. She regularly sat up all night devouring books on astrology and pointing out key prophecies. On this occasion, she called us at three o’clock in the morning to tell us that a puppy was on the way.

“He’s thoroughbred,” she assured my drowsy father. “His mother was a pureblood Scottie and his father was a pureblood Bulldog.”

Aunt Jen never realized that her assessment of the dog’s lineage was wrong, but despite his mixed parentage, Bruce was first and foremost a short, handsome, black Scotsman whose only traits inherited from his wandering father were short hair and sideburns. arched front.

Ever since the day we brought him home from the station, Bruce has refused to stay in the basement with the brownie. He earned his freedom by scraping the door and chewing off a piece of the top step. Horrified at the thought of having to report on the damage in our rented house, Mother relented and fitted a box for Bruce under the Chippendale feet of the stove. There he found peace, just as the brownie got solitude.

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