Friday, February 22, 2008

Tammy Max Image of Profile

Jim, my roommate for the last three of our college years, arrived for our senior year in 1963 with two new possessions: a beat up red pick-up truck and a Great Dane. Jim and I had become roommates in our sophomore year when we both foolishly decided to live in the fraternity house. We both worked in the kitchen- Jim on dishes, and me on pots; jobs we would keep for the duration.

The pick-up was certainly a welcome addition to our meager existence. It had experienced better days. For example, it refused to stay in third gear, so Jim, being an engineering student, had attached a chain-spring gizmo to the floor that held the lever in gear, leaving our hands free for more important duties. It was unclear to me then, or now, why Jim thought a dog was a necessary addition to our senior year.

His name was Tammy Max Image of Profile. He possessed that impressive moniker because of his exceptional bloodlines that clearly had not taken intelligence into consideration. I have owned very smart dogs and dumb dogs. Pro, as we called him, slid off the scale on the stupid end of the chart. He was goofy too, like a big dumb teenager. “Big” perhaps did not do him justice. Even for a Great Dane he was huge, being the approximate size (and color) of a mature white tailed deer.

For our senior year five of us had rented a ramshackle house in Collegetown just off the Cornell campus. Jim and I would share the largest bedroom on the second floor. Most of our furniture and wall hangings were constructed from salvaged doors from the boy’s freshman dorms. These hollow, laminates failed to survive the predations of angry and drunk freshman and were being replaced by more substantial solid doors. We bought the cast offs for $.50 and turned them into desks, beds and canvasses for our crude, lewd impressionist art.

In those days, dogs freely roamed the campus. It seemed every one of the sixty or so fraternities, sororities and group housing establishments owned a dog. Rumor had it that an eccentric, dog-loving woman had given the university many millions with the stipulation that dogs be given free reign on campus. Maybe. But, in any case, dogs wandered freely and could be found in the classrooms, the student union and even in the cafeterias. Pro, as we called ol’ Tammy Max, joined these wandering packs of mongrels and pure breeds that roamed the campus.

Pro liked to ride in the truck and preferred to sit in the middle between Jim and me. With his butt on the seat and his feet on the floor, he had his huge muzzle pressed against the windscreen on which he deposited copious amounts of slobber. Like all Great Danes, his greatest skill was drooling. When he took off with his gangly lope, gobs of this goop could be seen flying in all directions.

Squirt guns were the fad of our senior year and squirt gun wars common study breaks. Sneak attacks on our studying roommates also provided a welcome diversion. Pro became a frequent target. He’d be sitting there staring at you so you’d hit him with a couple of shots square in his huge muzzle. He’d just sit there with water running off his nose with a puzzled look on his face. After a while though, it started to really piss him off and he would aggressively go after the transgressor. He became so annoyed by squirt guns that if you made a “tsk, tsk” sound, imitating the noise of a squirt gun, he would awaken from a sound sleep and run around barking, looking for the culprit.

Other than drooling and sleeping, Pro’s greatest skill was farting. Jim fed him scraps from the kitchen where we worked, and the gravy and meat scraps had a profound effect on his digestive system. Of course, with a beast that size you also had quantity as well as potency in his deadly emissions. Jim and I frequently evacuated the room in haste when Pro released one of his silent killers.

Pro had bad timing with this skill. One evening Jim and I were entertaining a couple of young ladies in our room. We were sitting around chatting and drinking very bad, cheap wine while Pro napped in the middle of the room. One of the gals commented on the good looks of the magnificent beast before her. Pro, apparently hearing himself complimented, woke up. He rose up on his toes and then stretched his paws out in front of him, raising his ass in the air, aiming his butt directly at Jim’s date. He then emitted what I called the “fluttering death” fart. It was not silent, but rather had tonal quality to go with volume and potency. One of his better efforts, as I recall. The scramble for the door was reminiscent of the run for the lifeboats and pretty much brought the evenings festivities to a close. Part of the problem may have been that Jim and I beat the girls to the door by a good five feet.

For all his goofiness, the beast did possess a decent sense of smell. When classes let out, hundreds of students would be criss-crossing the quads on their way to the next class. Pro would be romping on the grass with some other mutts while either Jim or I attempted to sneak across. He would stop what he was doing, raise that great head and sniff the air. Gotcha! Catching our scent, he would come bounding over like an overgrown kid. It seemed as if he was saying, “Hey, Dick, howya doin’? Goin’ to class? Chemistry? Boy, I love chemistry class. Great! Let’s go!” He’d bounce around you and there was no getting rid of him. So, off we’d go to class together where he would usually just sleep beside you. Sometimes the professors were exceptionally boring and we’d both catch a little nap.

Occasionally, Pro’s visits to class were not uneventful. On one visit with Jim, Pro fell asleep head down on a sloping auditorium aisle. When class ended, everyone crowed for the exit, Pro at the forefront of the pack. Apparently, the head down position had adversely affected Pro’s touchy digestive system and he deposited a copious quantity of vomit right in the doorway. Students skidded and stumbled through the mess swearing all the way. Jim pretended he didn’t know the dog.

Jim and I both signed up for The History of Western Civilizations, a required class, so plenty of students. Classes were held in an auditorium with a stage containing only a lectern and a blackboard. We called it the “book of the week club” since it seemed that we had to read one each week. The professor may have had a personality, although we never got a chance to find out. He arrived promptly at the top of the hour, opened his notes and spoke for 50 minutes, whereupon he closed his notes and walked out. The book for the week was written on the blackboard. Since he gave no clues as to what would be on the tests, we pretty much wrote down every word out of his mouth.

Pro followed us to history class one day and slept in the aisle. Except for the scratching of pens and the drone of the professor, the place was dead quiet. Jim looked up and Pro had gone. He looked on in horror as Pro ascended the stairs and walked onto the stage. Although he was impossible to ignore, the professor never missed a beat. By now, many students had spotted the dog on the stage. Pro sniffed the blackboard, moved over to the professor and sniffed his twiggy tweed coat. At this point, everyone was watching Pro. He sat down beside the professor, gazed out at the audience and….. gave a huge yawn.

The place erupted in a roar of laughter, for that yawn reflected our collective sentiments of the professor precisely. The prof finally said something that was not contained in his notes, “Get that G.D. dog out of here!” Jim hustled Pro off the stage and out the door while the laughter continued.

Funny, I can’t remember what courses I took that senior year—except history.


Rodney FREED said...

Dick, I enjoyed this very much. Thanks for sharing memories that take me back to wonderful days as a young boy with a fantastic dog. You writing means a lot to me. Keep it up and come home soon. Rod

Patson said...

Thanks for the laugh cuz. It's kinda hard to read when laughing so hard the tears are running off your chin. Keep the stories comming they're great.
Ken P.