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Thelma Jean Perón

April 10, 2012

In fall 2009 the family Yorkie disappeared. We think a coyote snatched Willow during a storm. In her old age Willow began tinkling around the house, and not knowing what else to do, Mother had put her out and fallen asleep before the rain started. Not even a month later my coworker J mentioned that she needed to find a home for her two West Highland terriers Ozzie and Obi. Despite J’s adoration for the dogs, her husband demanded she give them away, particularly since J was pregnant. When I asked Mother and Daddy if they would be interested in adopting the Westies, they reluctantly agreed.

Aware of J’s devastation over losing her pets, Mother convinced her to keep Ozzie, easing part of the simultaneous stress of caring for a high-energy terrier and newborn. On an October Saturday afternoon, I rode with Mother to pick up Obi at my coworker’s house; Mother cried on the way home in sympathy for J, who released Obi with red eyes and shaking arms. Mother’s sadness quickly dissipated when we arrived home and Obi apprehensively tiptoed out of his crate. She immediately started speaking in baby talk and praised Obi’s perfection.

“Fuch a fweet doggie,” Mother always coos while burying her face in Obi’s snowflake fur.

“He’s precious,” Daddy dryly responds.

Obi accompanies Mother everywhere – even when she works outside in her flowerbeds – and sleeps between my parents.

“Never in a million years I thought we’d be sleepin’ with a dawg,” Daddy huffs.

Daddy walks Winston.

Daddy walks Winston.

Jealous of the attention Obi had stolen, Daddy randomly adopted a Scottish terrier a few days before Christmas in 2010. He showed up with the shaggy puppy a couple hours before some holiday dinner guests were scheduled to arrive.

“His name is Winston,” Daddy announced while the dog peed on the kitchen floor.

Mother said she would allow Daddy to keep Winston if he house-trained him and gave him attention; Daddy failed to follow through on either promise. At the time he was able to work and often pulled 12-hour shifts. Sleep and church filled all his spare time. So Winston follows Mother (his caregiver) everywhere, too, still leaving Daddy dogless.

Daddy last connected with a dog in the late ’90s. One Saturday he came roaring up the driveway in his rickety Jeep Cherokee with a red heeler puppy.

“Y’all always git to name the dawgs. I’m namin’ this dawg,” he insisted.

“What’re you gonna call ‘er?” I asked.

“Thelma Jean Perón.” Daddy’s pronunciation of “Perón” resembled anything but Spanish. It sounded like “PAY-rone.”

My preschool Sunday School teacher Thelma Wood inspired the dog’s first name. Jean came out of nowhere. And Daddy threw in Perón because the family recently had watched Evita in the theater. Mother purchased the soundtrack and blasted it through the house while cooking or doing the dishes. Equally amped up by Madonna’s and Antonio Banderas’ performances, Daddy sang musical selections from the film every morning in the shower. He warmed up with a macho, descending scale.

“BWAAA,” he began, lowering the pitch to “BWAAAAAA,” still lowering and extending the length to “BWAAAAAAAAA,” continuing to lower the pitch until he couldn’t sustain the note. “Bwa. Aa. Aa. Aa. Aa,” he weakly throated. Mother, Timber and I jumbled in front of the bathroom door, biting our arms so Daddy wouldn’t hear us laughing.

Pairing his affection for the new dog with his Evita serenades, Daddy transformed the chorus to “And the Money Kept Rolling In” into an ode to Thelma Perón. Instead of hollering “money, money, money” in tune, he replaced the lyrics with “Thelma, Thelma, Thelma.”

What we thought would be the Thelma Perón era ended too soon. A few months after Daddy adopted Thelma, Timber and I were chatting with Mother beside the house while she watered a wilting potato vine. Daddy had bolted down the driveway to check the mail, Thelma bustling behind him.

Daddy returned holding a bill, the Wall Street Journal and Thelma’s collar.

“Well,” Daddy started. “A BM-dubya just came by an’ hit Thelma.” None of us even turned around.

“Very funny, Robert,” Mother exhaled, flinging hose water toward a neglected patch of fern.

“Somebody really hit ‘er. Killed ‘er and kept on drivin’,” Daddy continued.

“Really, Robert?” Mother pivoted toward him.

“Yup. Phoo,” he spit tobacco. “Really.” Head high, Daddy traipsed back up the hill, dropping Thelma’s collar by one of his Jeep’s rear tires.

I wish Daddy had a dog to help him cope with the many unknowns that lie ahead. I know how important Obi is to Mother, now more than ever. Perhaps Winston will grow more attached to Daddy since he has retired. Singing “Don’t Cry for Me Winstontina” in the shower might be a good first step.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Ashley Pearce Smith permalink
    April 14, 2012 5:13 pm

    Bobbin… I truely enjoy reading your collection of family stories…. They make my day!

    • April 15, 2012 5:04 pm

      Thank you, Ashley! I have a lot of fun writing about my dad.

  2. Timber permalink
    April 22, 2012 8:04 pm

    I think I liked Daddy’s singing about Thelma Peron more than I cared about the dog herself!

  3. April 22, 2012 8:51 pm

    I might agree. I don’t remember much about Thelma except that she was a good-looking dog. I guess Daddy’s song helped elongate her legacy.

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