Jane H. Scarpino, Port Clyde, Maine
A while back, looking through some old albums, searching for a picture of an old friend, I came across a faded snapshot of a Boston Terrier. Printed underneath, in childish hand: “The best dog in the world.”
It took me back fifty years! Old friend, indeed. It was our Lady Campbell. Ah…the memories.
We first saw her when her young master, commanding the USCG Cutter Campbell, was on leave visiting his parents. (Our families had been friends, and we grew up together.) He had bought the puppy for company on the long voyages across the North Atlantic, where the Campbell was on Convoy duty. He gave her the ship’s name, and she was “good luck” mascot for the crew. And this is why.
They saw a lot of action. During one attack, they rammed an enemy submarine and had to abandon ship. In the confusion, the dog was overlooked. Seamen are a superstitious lot, and as they sat in the lifeboats watching their ship wallowing in the swells, they must have wondered about their luck. But the Campbell did not sink, and they boarded her again, to find — still swimming around in the hold — Lady Campbell.
She was four years old when the war was over. Her master was reassigned to Alaska, and could not take her with him. So, Lady Campbell came to us, in her little navy blue coat with the red trim, small anchor emblazoned on the stern end. She had finally come ashore.
The family was delighted to have her; she was good company for us all, but it soon became obvious that her new master, her love, was our eight-year-old son Jon. She slept with him and shadowed him wherever he went. They were inseparable, except when he went to school, and then she would wait for the bus to bring him home. My mind sees them still, walking to the pond, fishing pole over Jon’s shoulder, Cam at his heels. She had the utmost patience and a lot of curiosity about fishing.
Bulldogs are notorious snorers, and our Cam was no exception. After a few nights, we had all adjusted. It was just a kind of comforting night sound, but at one point, my neighbors thought I was keeping another man while my husband was at sea!
One winter’s night, amidst a howling snowstorm, there was a smoky fire in the cellar of our house (spontaneous combustion in an old grass rug). The kids were all just getting over bad colds, and I didn’t want to take them out if it wasn’t necessary. The firemen agreed to let us stay as long as it was safe, so we opened all the windows, settled the children, wrapped in blankets, in the couch, while a little smoke wafted around them. Lady Campbell huddled close to Jon — but no one was frightened. Suddenly, black smoke billowed from the old registers like an acrid fog and two policemen with flashlights appeared.
“Time to go!” they said, picked up the kids, threw blankets over their heads, and started off.
“Where’s my dog?” I asked, not able to see her in the smoke, and surely not wanting to leave her behind.
“Right behind you, Lady,” answered the men, and we made our way out to a neighbor’s house.
When the fire was out and it was safe to return, except for no heat, I left the children with my neighbors and returned to my own bed. Cam came with me, shivering and shaking with fear and cold, but determined. Together we huddled under the covers until morning.
She always had a thing about water, probably from her days of enemy action. One time, an unsuspecting neighbor was watering his lawn, when a small black and white fury attacked the hose, wrestling it away, shaking it, snapping and snarling, and thoroughly soaking him!
When we swam, I had to shut her away. At the sight of us in the water, she was beside herself, jumping in, and trying to herd us all back to dry land and safety. On the other side of the coin, she loved the boats, often curling up in the sun on the stern seat of the rowboat. When they attached the motor, she rode in the bow, head up like a small bowsprit!
One day, several young families and neighbors were at the beach. It was a bit cold, and the kids were building sand castles, the dog an interested spectator. She really thought she was a kid! The parents stood in knee-deep water, just talking. A five-year-old was one of the group of children and had been sternly told NOT to go into the water. To be safe, his Mom had put a life jacket on him. However, warnings don’t mean much to five-year-olds, and it wasn’t long before he was close to venturing in — not his mother, nor anyone else noticing.
A sudden commotion on the beach made us all turn around. Children were yelling, and Cam was dashing, barking madly, down the beach and into the water, towards a small object bobbing face down, his orange jacket holding him that way. He had stumbled and lost his balance, and could have drowned at the back of his mother’s knee had it not been for Lady Campbell!
One night when Jon was away, she quietly pulled her bed over behind a chair, and went to sleep. The silence was deafening and woke us up. We buried her in the morning with tears, and the boys made her a wooden cross that red: “Lady Campbell, the best dog in the world.”
Years have gone by; we have loved other pets, but she remains in our hearts. Always a lady, her heart and courage as large as the men’s she sailed with on her namesake, the USCG Cutter Campbell.
This story, written by Christi’s mother, explains how the Boston Terrier was introduced into the Scarpino family. It is part of a collection of stories published in Wet Pets and Other Watery Tales and reprinted with the permission of the editors from Trafford Publishing. Christi’s mother is also the author of the popular children’s book, l. Christi’s mother has had several retired Whalom Bostons over the years, including Ginger and Sergei.