That’s a fine-looking dog you have there

I’ve always said money may buy you a fine dog, but only love can make it wag its tail. —Kinky Friedman

Walking along Avenue B in Galveston’s Strand District one afternoon last week was a sensory sensation of food, music, and wares adorning windows in the 19th Century Victorian commercial buildings. A setting sun’s rays provided the crowning touch of warmth painting late afternoon shadows to brighten up what had been a cloudy afternoon.

The brief change of pace after a day of business meetings on the other end of the island was refreshing. Pieces of dark chocolate for my sweet tooth and another cool Hawaiian shirt for my collection scored, it was time to return to the hotel. “It just doesn’t get any better than this,” I thought.

That’s when I saw shadowy outlines of what looked like three guys sitting in chairs up against the building under the shade of the large canopy.

Weathered faces and gray hair suggested this might be a retiree’s retreat likely meeting at this same spot on a semi-regular basis to swap stories, watch people and maybe drink an occasional cup of coffee.

It was another shadowy outline, however, that really captured my attention. One of a magnificent specimen of a dog relaxing with the trio and tethered on the end of a leash. Sitting on stubby legs and the profile of long droopy ears were dead giveaways. This was no ordinary dog, it was a basset hound.

Continuing my stroll toward them, I nodded in a “Howdy” sort of manner and followed with, “That is a fine-looking dog you have there.”

Basset hound on the street

“Thank you,” the gentleman holding down the middle chair and clutching the other end of the leash said.

Some scratching between the dog’s ears and stroking his back a time or two earned me a look of gratitude from sad basset eyes and a slow wag of the tail—certification that we were officially new best friends.

“I had a basset hound like that,” I told the gentleman holding the leash. “He and I were best friends. We went everywhere together. If Max couldn’t go, then I didn’t go.”

“That’s about the way we are,” he chuckled.

I didn’t start out as a dog person. A small brown mutt dubbed, Brownie, was my dog for a brief time in about the first grade. But, it was a basset wagging his tail at me 40 years later that made me understand there’s no such thing as “just a dog.”

Max became my best bud by default after I caved in to the pleas of my kids to adopt the old fellow in need of a new home. He was supposed to be my kid’s pooch, but destiny had other designs. The first night he spent with us, I woke up to the melody of a forlorn basset hound howl. The old dog was alone in a strange place and singing the blues. I went out to the porch to talk to him and we wound up sharing a rug and a pillow dozing until daylight.

The laid-back basset blessed my years in the Hill Country publishing the Boerne Star before we both moved back to East Texas to make more memories there.

Max stories have been documented in more than one of my columns. In fact, the episodes of Max, published and unpublished, would fill a book—one I may get around to writing someday.

“Yes sir, he certainly is a good-looking dog,” I noted one more time bidding them all a good day and waving as I walked on. “Thank you,” the old fellow said again returning the wave.

I smiled at remembering Max. And then smiled even more at how I foolishly thought just moments earlier that the day couldn’t get any better.

—Leon Aldridge

Aldridge columns are also published in the Center, Texas, Light and Champion and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Tribune newspapers.

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