By Scott Warner

Just up the hill from DeMatha High School in Hyattsville Maryland, an elderly Irish setter named Gator gave birth to a litter of five pups in the spring of 1974. Since the father Gino was a coal black afghan, all of the young puppies were unusually beautiful. They all had very distinctive coats but one was exceptionally gorgeous, strikingly marked with tiger stripes in five different colors: brown, black, white, tan and grey. Gator?s owner Jamie was a saxophonist whose rockabilly band practiced in the garage. Although the bass player of the group whose name was Craig lived in a house not suited to raising a dog, he couldn?t resist the temptation and took the puppy home to his new wife. She was so enchanted by the exotic little creature, she named him Dilly.

Despite his extraordinary appearance, Dilly was just your average happy-go-lucky puppy, friendly and playful. He would happily eat anything given to him including eggplant parmesan. As he grew older, this tendency developed into a mania for chewing up absolutely everything: the legs of tables, an expensive cowboy boot, two couches, a projecting corner of a wall. Even with this infuriating propensity, the musician and his wife loved the pretty little pup and life was rosy for two years. Dilly had grown to full size by this time and was more beautiful than ever. His wondrous striped fur had grown to afghan length and everyone who saw him exclaimed how lovely he was and wanted to know what breed he was.

But Craig and his wife began to have marital issues which led to divorce. Neither one was in a situation to care for their beloved pet. Since Craig?s younger brother Scott lived on a rural farm, he asked Scott to take Dilly in. It was a sorrowful but necessary affair when Craig delivered the dog to Scott. But Dilly adapted to his new environment quickly. He obviously enjoyed his newfound freedom to roam the woods and pastures and swim in the creek, so it was impossible for his new owner to perceive any negative effect the separation had on Dilly. He also liked to chase the animals living around the farm: raccoons, foxes, opossums, snakes, skunks and pheasants.

On very rare occasions however a wildcat growl would emanate from the woods, a weird yowl that sounded just like a baby?s squall. Dilly would take off in pursuit but then the bobcat would shriek again. Dilly would reconsider and slink back to the house. Late one night, Scott heard Dilly barking furiously at something up on the ridge. He called and called to Dilly but the dog refused to return home. A groundhog would have been quickly dispatched, a fox would have escaped to its den. A raccoon or possum would have climbed a tree and a skunk would have irrevocably settled the dispute in the usual way. So Scott was afraid Dilly might have finally caught up with that wildcat.

However a short time later, the wayward dog finally showed up at the front door. Dilly laid on the living room carpet while Scott continued to watch an old movie on TV. He noticed that Dilly kept rubbing his muzzle with his paw. This happened several times before it occurred to Scott that something was wrong. When he knelt down to inspect Dilly, he discovered five porcupine quills embedded in the dog?s muzzle. He yelled to awaken his younger brother Glenn. They coaxed Dilly into lying on his side while Scott wrapped his arms and legs around the dog and Glenn took hold of one of the quills with a pair of pliers. On the count of three, Glenn quickly yanked the quill from Dilly?s muzzle. The dog reacted so violently, he somehow managed to levitate himself and Scott two feet straight up into the air from a prone position.

When they landed, Dilly was panting in anxiety but he never uttered a single peep. One down, four to go. They waited for Dilly to calm down before attempting to repeat the procedure. Dilly seemed to realize that if he wanted those quills out of his face, he was going to have to endure the torture. Every time Glenn pulled out one of the quills, Dilly and Scott would go for another little ride. When the ordeal was finally past, Scott and Glenn inspected the quills. They varied in length from three quarters of an inch to an inch and a quarter and had rearward facing ring shanks to deter extraction. So it wasn?t a porcupine that Dilly had encountered, it was a hedgehog. Within a few days, Dilly had fully recovered from his wounds.

Six years later, he went missing overnight. . . this had never happened before and Scott was fraught with worry. The next morning, he followed Dilly?s tracks towards a farm owned by a crazy old coot up the road. Scott went to the door and asked for permission to search the old man?s property but was denied. Later that day, he saw the old man leaving his cornfield with a shovel. Scott was devastated with sorrow and shame; besides losing his beloved companion, he knew his carelessness was to blame. He wanted to confront the old man but decided that that would surely lead to more calamity.

A few years later, the elder brother begged Scott to take another dog off his hands, a small foxlike dog named Jelly Bean. She was also a good natured, friendly dog. Like Dilly, she was joyous in her new found freedom to roam off the leash. Late one cold November afternoon, she went missing. Scott searched everywhere but couldn?t find her. Night began to fall and it was starting to sleet. Fearing the worst, Scott gave up hope and went to bed. About 11 pm, he thought he heard whining outside his window. He threw open the window and stuck his head out and called for Jelly but he didn?t see or hear anything, so he shut the window and went back to bed. Then the whining happened again.

Scott quickly threw on some clothes and went outside to look. There she was, covered in sleet, lying in the cranny behind the back stairs. She couldn?t stand, so he carefully lifted her up and carried her indoors. He laid her on a pillow and spent the night lying next to her. In the morning, he took her to the veterinarian who took an X-ray and discovered a .22 caliber bullet in her hip, the one Scott was unable to get a look at the night before. That crazy old man had done it again! Thank goodness she wasn?t killed, thank goodness he heard her whining. Jelly must?ve spent all afternoon and half the night painfully crawling back through the sleet from the old man?s farm with a bullet wound in her hip. Within three days, Scott installed a fence around the yard. Seven years later, the crazy old coot finally passed away and Scott removed the rusted fencing.