Just because an animal—or person—is big and hulking doesn’t mean they’re stupid. The following incident involving our next-door neighbours’ dog, Bambi, demonstrates this in spades.
Our next-door neighbours in Darien, CT, the Kellys, were not generally known for their sense of humor. But Mrs. K. could get off a pretty fair zinger every once in a while.
Her sense of humour was nowhere more in evidence than when it came to the naming of her dog. He appeared to be a cross between a Black Labrador and a bearskin rug, and he weighed anywhere from 190 to 210 pounds, depending on how many garbage cans he’d managed to break into that week and how recent his last haircut had been. So naturally she named him “Bambi.” If he’d been a human male, he’d have played right tackle for the high school football team.
Overall, Bambi rated as a moderate-sized nuisance—or would have had he been a moderate-sized dog. Certainly he was a bit of a pest, but no more of one than half a dozen other dogs around the neighborhood. It was just that, because of his immense size, the consequences of any deed he did were greatly magnified. If an average-sized dog knocked over a garbage can, maybe a quarter of its contents would end up spilled on the ground immediately surrounding the can. Let Bambi knock over the same can, and its entire contents would be strewn over a radius of 50 yards.
Bambi was, therefore, not an especially popular visitor to his neighbours’ lawns and driveways. Since we were his nearest neighbours and had by far the biggest undefended driveway on the street, we wound up bearing the brunt of his depredations, which were quite numerous since Mrs. Kelly allowed him to roam pretty much at liberty during daylight hours. I came to dread seeing him shambling down that long driveway. “Bambi, go home!” I would shout at him whenever I saw him coming. If he didn’t vamoose quickly enough for my liking, I would attempt to speed the process by flinging a handful of gravel or even a few very small stones in his general direction. Generally he would vamoose just quickly enough to avoid having a second handful of small stones flung his way.
Far from upbraiding me for my cruelty toward our neighbours’ dog, my parents, my mother in particular, took to following my lead and reaching for the nearest small stones themselves whenever they saw the four-legged bearskin approaching. Bambi remained unperturbed by the chilly welcome he always received at our hands, and continued to visit us at least two or three times a week. Seldom if ever would he be up to any good.
More than once, a handful of small stones wasn’t enough to drive Bambi away. He would stick around, driven by whatever impulse to harass or annoy us. It would take everything I could think up to get rid of him on those occasions.
So oblivious did Bambi sometimes appear to be to our spirited attempts to drive him off the property that I came to regard him as stupid, or at least far from the sharpest blade in the canine drawer. But an experience I had with him, one cool, cloudy August afternoon, convinced me that such an assessment would have been quite mistaken.
On this occasion, Mother was visited by a friend named Alice McNichol. Mrs. M. was a short, perky, dark-haired woman who drove a car very much suited to her—a bright red VW Beetle. After an hour or so, the two women had finished their drinks and their conversation. The sky was threatening rain. It was time for Alice McNichol to go home.
There was just one obstacle standing in the way of Mrs. M’s departure—Bambi. The giant dog, whose arrival I hadn’t witnessed since I’d been busy writing in my room throughout the visit, had somehow managed to install himself in the driver’s seat of that red VW. With a stubbornness that would have done Gandhi credit, he flatly refused to budge. I was summoned to help.
I looked at the gigantic creature, planted firmly behind the steering wheel, and shook my head. Frankly I was dumbfounded that he’d even gotten into the car, much less stayed there for an hour or more. “This won’t be easy,” I said. Mrs. M. did not dispute me.
Even in the rather unlikely event that Bambi could have taken the wheel and driven the car to Alice McNichol’s house, there still wouldn’t have been room for her in the front seat alongside him. And since the car was a two-door model, getting into the back seat would have been out of the question.
For the better part of half an hour, I cajoled, cursed, wheedled, pushed, shoved, and smacked that dog in an attempt to get him out of the car. So, to the best of her ability, did Alice McNichol, who couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds dripping wet. It was all to no avail. The harder we pushed and shoved and smacked, and the more urgently we cursed, cajoled, and wheedled, the more firmly did Bambi implant himself in the driver’s seat. By this time, there were distinct rumblings of thunder. It was absolutely imperative that Mrs. M. get home immediately to avoid being caught in one of Darien’s legendary summer deluges.
I turned to Mrs. M. “There’s only one possibility left,” I said.
“We’re going to have to turn the hose on him. I hate to do it, because I know it could damage your upholstery. But at this point, I really don’t see any way around it.”
“Go ahead,” she said. “I’ll worry about the upholstery later.”
Without even looking at Bambi, I turned and walked with slow, measured, purposeful steps toward the side of our house, where the hose lay ready to hand. Just as I bent over to turn on the faucet, he leapt from the car, showing surprising agility for an animal of his size, and trotted up the driveway and out toward home, moving just fast enough to avoid the small stone routine. Hastily thanking me, Alice McNichol jumped into the car, slammed the door, and was very soon on her own way home.
He may have been clumsy. He may have been a giant pain in the butt. But he wasn’t stupid. No, indeed. As for Alice McNichol, she was never seen in our neck of the woods again. That one afternoon of Bambi’s passive resistance seems to have settled her hash for good.