Our son, Randy LaFoy, visited us last week. He lives in Birchwood, Minnesota, and he brought his new family addition, an Australian cattle blue heeler dog named Tilly. Tilly was only 3 months old and a ball of energy. She wanted to play fetch, tug of war and beg at the dinner table. Didn't take her long to figure out who was the most likely candidate to slip her a snip of food: Me. I am a sucker and easy prey for food. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for dogs.
My first dog was a Heinz 57 breed and his name was Bingo but he answered to the name, Bing. Mother did not want him in the house but he was welcomed into the basement at our home in Milford and on the back porch. I started delivering newspapers when I was in fifth grade for the Sioux City Tribune and I had 30 customers. The Tribune had no Sunday edition and cost 25 cents a week of which I kept five cents. Each morning at 6:30, my grandfather, Ed LaFoy, would call me on the telephone to wake me up. I got dressed, went outside, and grabbed my bicycle; called to Bing and away we went downtown to the Strand Theatre where all the newspapers were dumped to be picked up by the carriers. I never had to call him but after a few days he knew my route as well as I did. Several times I threw him off with a new customer, but he knew the route. I had that paper route until I started to work at the Milford Mail newspaper as a "printer's devil" in 1939.
My father, Ray LaFoy, began working for the town of Milford in 1933. He was issued a truck that he used to haul gravel, served as dog catcher, went to the city dump, and disposal plant and Bing always rode with him while I was in school. In the winter, Dad had a plow blade on the front of the truck for snow removal and Bing was always along. One winter when Dad was moving snow around Bing started to cough and sneeze while sitting on the passenger side of the truck and when Dad reached over to open the passenger door for Bing; he hardly made it. He was so weak and it was a real effort. It was only then that he realized he was breathing carbon dioxide gas from a ruptured muffler. Dad finally got the door opened and Bing had saved his life.
Later Dad was manager of the Champlain gas station in Milford, for several years. Bing's favorite resting place at the gas station was under or behind the desk in the corner of the waiting room. After World War II, Dad moved on and Bud Drown became the manager of the Champlain Station. One hot and dry day in the summer, Bud told the employees to ''button up" the station as a storm was coming. They looked outside and questioned his pronouncement. Bud told them that Bing had come into the station and was hiding under the desk knowing that a storm was coming. Sure enough not long afterward a heavy wind and rain engulfed the area. Bing knew and reacted and they all respected Bing after that.
In the summer of 1943 the United States was at war when I became 18 years old and enlisted into the U.S. Air Corps. We left Milford and went by bus to Camp Dodge near Des Moines. Soon after we arrived, we were issued uniforms and equipment so we sent our civilian clothes home. After the suitcase arrived back in Milford, Mother removed them and put them in the wash. In those days a ringer wash machine was used and the wet clean clothes were hung out on the clothesline to dry. My civilian clothes hung there and Bing laid under them until Mother gathered them and brought them in the house. He must have detected them as mine. He was still alive when I came home in January 1946 but died soon after. For a Heinz 57 (mixed breed) dog, Bing was the greatest.
I was enrolled at the University of Northern Colorado seeking my master's degree and Connie as teaching second grade in 1949. We rented a basement apartment about halfway between our two schools. One Sunday, while driving around, we chanced upon some puppies for sale and fell in love with a beautiful little cocker spaniel. We bought her and named her Sandy. She was a great dog and was great with our boys as they became part of our family. Sandy took a lot of abuse from growing toddlers but she never objected. We had her many years and it was a sad day when we had to put her to sleep.
When Sandy passed away Connie's dad thought we should have another dog for the boys and he thought it was another cocker spaniel but it was not. We named her Jet because her hair was so black. Jet had long black hair and she had long legs but each summer we had her hair cut off and she looked like a small Labrador. Jet was smart and took to our family. We had our cottage on Terrace Park and she loved it. Unfortunately for us, she would find a dead fish to roll in about the time we drove back to Mason City and, although we gave her a bath before we drove back, we kept the windows open. We took her pheasant hunting and without any training on our part. She knew just what to do by going ahead of us and flushing out the birds.
We loved to iceboat. One fall, we came over from Mason City and the ice was only about 3 inches thick. We put the iceboat out and the boys sailed back and forth not far from shore. Jet chased the iceboat back and forth staying on the sand all day. That night she was exhausted and, although she had cut her feet, she really slept.
Jet was with us for many years and when she died we bought a dalmatian and named her Sparky. She was a great dog. One day Carl, our youngest son, was out in a sand pile next to our house with a neighbor boy. Sparky was nearby and very protective. The mother of the other boy came over to bring her son home but Sparky refused to let her near the boys. She called her son to come home but he refused. She finally went home, phoned Connie, and asked her to let her son come home.
When we went to West Lake Okoboji and our cottage at Terrace Park, Sparky would patrol the lot line. We had her for several years and passed her on to a farm family with four boys.
Our last dog was a black Scotty, which we name Bonnie Lass. Two things about Scotties are: they are not afraid of anything and choose one person in the family as their favorite. We bought Bonnie for Carl, our youngest son but she chose Connie. We loved Bonnie and she was with us for many years.
We love dogs, but hate to admit that — at our age — they would be difficult to care for and keep up with. Today, dogs are the vet's best friend. Stores have several rows of special dog foods, supplies, gifts and you name it.