This is Yeller Bill. Silly yeller dawg.
I have loved dogs all my life, but never so much as I loved Billy. I got him for
my sobriety birthday, and named him after Bill W. (the founder of A.A.). He
never licked my face, but instead he’d smell my breath—as if checking for booze.
He never smelled any alcohol on me. He was the biggest and yellerest of his
litter, and he grew to be an enormous 115-120lbs. in his prime. He possessed
what I called “alternative intelligence.” Not stupid, but his cognitive
functions did not work the same way as mine (or anybody else’s). And sometimes,
the cognition switch was off. Silly yeller dawg.
If not for Bear, our black German Shepherd, Bill might not have lived through
his puppyhood. Once, while pursuing a bouncing ball, Billy would have tried to
charge through, between the spinning spokes of my son’s bike tire. That’s where
the ball had gone, so that’s where he would go, too. Bear, however, was a
brilliant dog, and he saw the potential (who am I kidding—the imminent) carnage
before it was too late. Baring (Bearing?) his white sharp teeth, Bear roared,
and flashed across the few feet of ground. He smashed into Bill and bulldozed
him sideways, away from the whirling wheel. Billy, oblivious to the danger, did
not understand why Bear was so mean to him. Silly yeller dawg.
Bear applied the same Baring, Roaring, Flashing, Smashing and Bulldozing
technique during another of Billy’s suicidal adventures. My husband fell a large
tree, and it plummeted toward Earth—directly down onto the spot where Bill sat,
raptly gaping at it. Bill just parked himself, and calmly watched the tree
approach, as if he found it of great interest. Bear did his thing, just in the
nick of time. Neither of them got crushed by the tree trunk, but both of them
were covered by the branches. Silly yeller dawg.
As an adult, Yeller Bill did not have Bear to watch out for him. One evening, he
chewed up some firewood, and got a chunk stuck, blocking his airway. He choked.
He collapsed. He went into full body (all 115 lbs) convulsions. My husband, who
always remains extremely calm during a crisis, attempted first to grasp the
blocking object and pull it out through the dog’s mouth. The wood chunk lodged
too far down Bill’s pipe to reach it. So my spouse hefted up the big dog in his
arms, and employed the Heimlich Maneuver, repeatedly, but to no avail. In
desperation, he shoved his forearm down Billy’s throat, forcing the obstruction
through to the stomach. Wind whooshed into Bill’s mouth, his eyes rolled wildly,
and his jaws snapped several times. He recovered over the next few hours.
Throughout this ordeal, my only contribution was to spring up and down
frantically, and scream, “He’s gonna die!!!” Fortunately, my husband was there
to save my dog, or he surely would have died. Silly yeller dawg.
Billy-dog taught me to appreciate things I had grown so accustomed to that I
didn’t notice them anymore. For example, he was so excited about watching the
toilet flush. I thought, “Yeah, that is pretty cool, huh?” The yucky stuff is
just whisked away! He forced me to play every day, and take walks when I would
not have done so on my own. He loved to play Frisbee. He loved to swim even
more. In fact the words “swim” and “pond” became “s-w-i-m” and “p-o-n-d”, until
he began recognizing the spelling, too. As far as Bill was concerned, water
existed for him to be in it. If there was water, Bill was in it. He even dunked
his whole head in his water bucket. I loved to see his pure joy as he leaped
into the pond or the lake. He drank a lot of water, too. He preferred to drink
from the tub spout. In the mornings, when I would wet my hair under the bathtub
faucet, Billy would drink the water off the back of my head. Silly yeller dawg.
Many times I almost drove my car off the road because I was looking at the huge
yeller dog in the back seat. With his massive head stuck out the window, his
vast superfluous lips would catch the wind and billow out like parachutes. I’m
not exaggerating. When he kept his head inside the car, he often laid it on the
top of the back seat, and gazed forlornly out the rear window. I’m talking
pathetic. His misery looked so genuine and profound that other drivers would
come up from behind me, alongside my car, and glare hatefully at me. How could I
treat that poor wretched beast so terribly? Silly yeller dawg.
Everywhere Bill went, people remarked about his size. Even the Veterinarian said
he was “huge”. The Vet Tech called him the “Gentle Giant”.
At every fast food drive-thru, the clerks at the windows would always exclaim,
“Wow! What a big dog!”
I always had the urge (but never acted on it, alas) to whip around, look at Bill
and act surprised; then say, “Oh my God! What happened to my Chihuahua?!”
Bill, as immense as he was, was a coward. The worst kind of coward, in fact. He
was a bully and a poser. His bullying days were cut short, once our other dogs
realized he was all bluff and would quickly back down if opposed. In fact, he’d
come and hide behind me! But, in the car, he was brave. He snarled and barked
viciously (or as I called it, “Bicious”) whenever we passed another dog on the
side of the road, or in another car. The operative word there is “passed”. If we
stopped the car near another dog, Bill immediately laid down out of sight, and
popped up Biciously as soon as we began to drive away. Silly yeller dawg.
Yeller Bill and I flunked obedience school, but we struck a compromise: he would
do what I said, as long as I didn’t ask too much of him. I established the rule
of thumb, “Billy gets to do whatever he wants”, and therefore, he was always a
good dog. A good Silly yeller dawg.
All things must pass, sadly. After the choking incident, Bill continued to have
seizures on a fairly regular basis. As he aged, the seizures worsened. We gave
him supplements that held them off. But, suddenly one day, he had a seizure, and
it never really ended. We had to give him prescription medications then, and in
his later years, we had to increase his dosage. Then, in 2001, Billy had surgery
to remove some tumors, one of which turned out to be malignant. It did not
return, but others appeared. He also developed spinal arthritis, according to
the Vet. Perhaps it was spinal cancer. During his last few days with me, Billy
hurt a lot. He could not be left alone. Then, finally, he could not move his
body, and he yelped and yelped constantly. On December 28, 2003 we had to put
down my Yeller Bill. He doesn’t hurt anymore. But I still do, and probably
Silly yeller dawg.
Sheree L. Read