Tony's breed can best be described as part small curly sheepdog, part terrier, and, part hellhound. His coat was dirty gray and though my grandparents kept him spotless, he always looked like he had just bathed in a mixture of mud and fireplace ashes. As a child, my sister and I would stay overnight with our grandparents once every few years. Though Tony had known both of us since birth, he looked at both my sister and I with extreme suspicion and would bark wildly until my grandfather calmed him down. Tony was a misanthropic dog to the core, but he loved my grandparents. I always wondered if it was because my grandfather carried dog treats with him in his pocket.
For some reason known only to my them my grandparents did not have Tony neutered. Walking around my grandparent's neighborhood, you could see future generations of little Tonys snarling and skulking about. Tony was an expert skulker and would suddenly appear out of nowhere, growl, and disappear again. I don't know what the mouth- to -teeth ratio was on that dog, but I can never remember seeing him with his teeth bared to some degree.
Tony had problems, he had caught some strange skin disease that left patches of skin raw and very smelly and his digestion was never very good. Despite his ability to appear suddenly, his presence was given away by that horrible combination of gas and open sore. My grandparents took him to the vet regularly and fussed over him, but Tony's problems were a mystery.
During the summer, my uncle and aunt would invite the whole family to visit their cabin on one of the San Juan islands about two hours north of Seattle. In my family, dogs were always a part of that invitation. Driving up there with my grandparents for the Fourth of July, my sister and I sat in the backseat in their huge station wagon. Tony sat in the huge flat back next to coolers of food and bundles of sweaters alternately howling, snarling, and passing gas. Even when my grandfather handed us treats to settle him down, Tony would not relent. When we got to the beach, Tony spent most of his time hiding under the house when he was not looking for a dead bird or seaweed to roll in. I can remember as a child that for a while I didn't know his real name, but thought it was, "Darn it Tony!" When he came back from his adventures, Tony was subjected to the humiliation of being sprayed down with the hose to remove whatever offal he had picked up.
I wondered later in life what Tony's offspring were like? Had North Seattle been invaded by generations of howling. skulking, stinky dogs or had they overcome their genetics somehow.
I like animals, dogs, cats, pretty much anything except spiders and snakes. But I can honestly say, that Tony was the only dog I never liked much.