My Dog Was My Best Childhood Mentor by Mark Marty Rathbun

by Mark Marty Rathbun

“With my father Slade busy making ends meet, I never had much supervision as a kid. Even though he’d go at it with my older brothers, he and I always seemed to get along. I think he considered me to be sort of like a good dog.

“My father had taken to drinking every night, and my latest stepmother was a wine and valium addict from the day she moved in…

“I was loyal to him and listened to him attentively. Once in a while he took to confiding in me, even though I was his youngest son. He’d get into fights with my brothers, chase them out of the house, then settle down with a six pack of Coors tails and a pack of menthols. And after maybe a couple of 16-ouncers the old man would start philosophizing. He’d get so into his thoughts that he’d light up his next smoke before the last one was put out. His philosophy was simple and pretty easy to follow and agree with…

“After about four beers he could get melancholic and blame himself for Bruce and Scott; sometimes when he had too much to drink he’d even take on some measure of blame for mom’s fate. I got pretty good at hearing him out and seeing he got to bed on a little bit of an up. All I ever really did was listen. If that was a virtue, I attribute it to [my dog] Chipper, who was perhaps my best early childhood mentor.”