My mom believed our dog, Tim, had a story to tell. I’m sure dogs have stories to tell. However, the trouble started when mom became convinced that Tim was going to tell her his story. That’s just crazy.
Tim was our German Sheppard. He came to us as a rescue dog after his training on the canine narcotics task force went terribly wrong. Tim suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and had to be retired from the force. The chief of police decided that Tim was in need of pastoral care and that is how Tim came to live with us.
When Tim arrived at our home he refused to enter the house. He would make it as far as the back door and then collapse spread eagle, nose down and shaking. My dad set him up in the backyard with a zip line and long leash giving him plenty of room to run. My mother would take her chair outside and sit with Tim. She would pat his head, talk to him and listen to his story. She would tell us, “Tim has got a story to tell!”
It took about two weeks of pastoral care in the back yard until Tim was finally ready to come inside. My father hung a sign on the back door that said, “Tim PLEASE KNOCK HERE” and he did. He would come to the back door, pause at the sign and then knock. My mom was ecstatic! She said, “See, Tim can read! He’s going to tell us his story! He’s such a smart dog.”
In the evening when my mom would sit down to watch the ABC news, Tim would sit with her. At that time in New England there was a well known physician, Dr. Timothy Johnson, who would come on the news to give his health advice. When his voice came on, “Hello this is Dr. Timothy Johnson,” Tim’s ears would perk up. My mom would laugh and say, “See how smart Tim is, he recognizes his own name.” Then she would begin talking to him, “Tim, you need to go out and get your medical degree. You could have your own ‘Canine Health Spot.’ I’d tune in and listen to you.” I would just roll my eyes and think, “My mom is crazy.”
Tim truly was a smart dog except for this one thing. Tim was neutered, but he didn’t know it. If you weren’t fast enough at the back door clipping his leash to his collar he would take off running for the woods. He would be gone for hours. My mom would get mad, and then she’d get nervous and worried. She’d say, “What if he gets lost and can’t find his way back home?” My brother Eric would respond, “Don’t worry Mom, he’s so smart he’ll call for a ride.” Mom would answer, “You’re right! He’s a smart dog!” And I would think, “They’re both crazy!”
One afternoon, mom wasn’t quick enough with the leash and Tim took off running for the woods. He was gone for hours and had not returned home by the time my sister, dad, mom and I sat down to eat dinner. Eric wasn’t home. Half way through dinner, the phone rang and my mother got up to answer it:
MOM: “Hello, Johnson residence. May I help you.”
VOICE: “Hello this is Tim Johnson. May I please speak to Ted.”
MOM: hahahahah “Well Tim, you finally did it. (turning to us with a wink, “It’s Tim calling.”) Did you get so tired chasing tail you need a ride? Eric said you’d call.”
VOICE: “Excuse me. This is Dr. Timothy Johnson. May I please speak to Ted?”
MOM: “Oh well now, ‘it’s Dr. Timothy Johnson’ is it? And here I thought you were just out chasing tail today. But you did it. You went out and got yourself that medical degree. You go dog! Well I look forward to hearing your ‘Canine Health Spot’ tonight! But let me tell you something Tim, if you come home dirty, wet and stinkin’ I am going to have to hose you down in the back yard, ‘doctor’ or not!”
VOICE: “Excuse me! Is this Reverend Faith Johnson? This really is Dr. Timothy Johnson from the ABC news. I really need to speak with Ted Johnson.”
MOM: hahaha “Oh Tim, there’s no need to be so formal …”
About that time, my father remembered leaving a message for Dr. Timothy Johnson requesting that he be the keynote speaker at an upcoming event. He stopped laughing and began to wave at my mother, “STOP, STOP … it is Dr. Johnson.”
My mother didn’t see my dad, but then my brother Eric walked in the back door followed by Tim. Eric sat down to eat. Tim laid down on the kitchen floor. Tim was dirty. Tim was wet. Tim was smelly. But Tim was not on the phone. And neither was Eric.
We watched as the color drained from my mother’s face. We could hear the voice on the other end of the phone, “Reverend Johnson, Reverend Johnson?” My mother didn’t say a word. She just slowly handed my dad the phone.
My dad took the phone and said, “Oh Dr. Johnson, I am so sorry about all that. That was my wife on the phone. You see our dog, Tim, ran away today and she thought it was him calling.”
I don’t know what Dr. Timothy Johnson thought of my parents, but I learned that crazy is contagious!
Martha Reed Johnson is a Florence S.C. resident and member of the Storytelling Guild which meets in Laurinburg.