My Friend Christy


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My friend,Christy 

I used to live in Long Beach, California in a wonderful old salt-box style house.  It looked like it belonged in New England, not California.  And, making it even more special, it had a large backyard with a detached garage and workshop and a tool shed.  Most people do not have much space in Long Beach, but this house was built in 1905 in what would have been considered to be out in the country at the time.  We loved the space.

House in Long Beach

House in Long Beach

Here you can see the back of the house.  I was having work done on it.  This gives you a sense of the backyard.  Behind you would be the garage, workshop and tool shed.

One evening in November I was cleaning up after Bar-B-Q ing ribs on my Weber grill.  To light the coals I had run an extension cord out of the workshop and across the yard to the grill and used an electric starter.  Now it was dark.  I coiled up the extension cord and headed over to the workshop.  The door was slightly ajar and, it being dark, I could not see.  I stepped inside and flipped the light switch.

“Nothing.  Damn!  The bulb must have blown.”

Now as I stood there I began to make out what appeared to be two wide-set red eyes looking at me, something in the corner.  The street light cast some light through the workshop window and it was being reflected.  The eyes were wide apart.  I didn’t move.  What ever it was, it was big.

I called to my wife, “Bring me a flashlight, please.  Quick!”



The beam of light fell on  what I considered to be the ugliest dog I had ever seen, a pit bull, cowering in the corner, obviously sick.

Now that was just what I needed, an ugly, sick, large dog.  The year before, my sister-in-law moved to the east and in the process gave us her fifteen year old Australian Shepard, Lady.  She was a wonderful dog, but I didn’t need another.

I wasn’t certain what to do.  If I called the SPCA, it would be a death sentence for the animal.  After some hesitation, I took the dog over to the tool shed and threw some blankets down for it to sleep on and gave it food and water.  I figured to get it well and let it wander off.  The next day when I left for work, I left the gate open so it could leave.

The dog stayed several days in the tool shed as it got better.  I began to think about it.   On the third day I told my wife, “If that old dog is here when I get home from work I think I’ll keep it.”

When I got home, the dog was gone.

“Well, good!  We really don’t need another dog”, I thought to myself.  But then I got to thinking,“What if the dog was picked up by the SPCA?”  If so, it was not likely anyone would take an adult pit bull, especially one that looked like this one.  I decided to go out to the pound and check it out.  Sure enough!.  There she was, in a cage.  I later learned that the dog had wandered out into my front yard and my neighbor, alarmed, had called the dog catcher.

I told the attendant that I wanted the dog.

“Well”, he said, “You gotta wait 10 days.  The rightful owner might claim it.”

So that is what happened.  I went over to the pound several times during the waiting period and talked to the dog.  When the ten days was up I claimed the dog and took her home.  When we got home I sat in a chair in the yard and she crawled up into my lap, all sixty pounds of her. Just like in this picture.

Christy in lap

Christy in lap

Since it was close to Christmas, I named her Christy.  And, that is how my friend, Christy, came into our lives.

And, you know she got better looking.  In fact after a period I came to think she was down right good-looking, with that brindle coloring.

Christy was strong and smart.  She was not aggressive with people or other dogs.  And she was protective.  Her one fault was that she didn’t like cats.  She did away with several over the years.

The first one I knew about cost me a bundle.  When we went to work we used to leave Christy in the backyard tethered to a ring in the center of the yard.  That allowed her the freedom to move around but kept her in the yard.  However, my neighbor had a cat and this cat would saunter slowly along the top rail if my fence and tease Christy.  It would always be just out of reach.  Used to drive Christy mad.

Christy chained

Christy chained

I don’t remember why, but one day I repositioned the ring to which Christy was tethered.  I moved it over ten feet or so.  The next day the cat came along the fence.  Christy, enraged, lunged at the cat which was now reachable because of the ring having been moved.  At the end of her leap, Christy snapped the chain, hit the fence, knocking a hole through it and dispatched the cat.  It wasn’t funny, but it was.  It reminded me of a cartoon in which a person runs through a wall making a hole in the shape of their silhouette.

I, of course, had to go to the neighbor and make amends.  But my other neighbor was concerned that the fence was not strong enough. They had children and were not too happy to have Christy living next door. It turned out the fence was rotten in several places.  It was likely thirty years old. Replacing it cost me over $4000.  Damn expensive cat!

When we left Long Beach for San Francisco I boarded Christy with a local kennel for what I expected to be a short stay, maybe two months.  But things did not come together as well as we hoped and two months stretched into five.  Then I took a new position in Florida and five months stretched into nine. Christy was fast becoming the most expensive animal I had ever owned.

When we settled into West Palm Beach we retrieved Christy.  She was very useful as a watch dog.  When someone approached the house she would come tearing to the front door barking.  She never did anything but she looked so intimidating!

Early on there were some men who were reported to be casing houses in our neighborhood, potential robbers.  They would come to the door and ask if you wanted your car washed or some such thing, while trying to get a sense of your property.  When they came to my door I  held Christy by the collar, jerking it back and forth to make it appear I was restraining her.  Never had any problems .

When we were ready to move into our home I was getting home owners insurance.  The agent and I were finishing up when he asked,  “Oh, do you have a dog?”

“Yes, we do.”
“What kind is it?”
“Uh, It’s an  American Staffiture Terrier
“Oh, OK.  That’s good.  Some people have , you know, something like a pit-bull.”

My West Palm Beach neighbor had cats.  Oh no!  I decided to have a dog run built in the back yard to insure Christy did not “go through the fence” again.  Had it installed by Sears, a sturdy run made of cyclone fencing.  When the workman was finishing up I asked, “Where is the roof?”

“What do you mean, a roof?  You don’t need a roof.  That would cost a lot more.”
“Well she might jump out.”
“Jump out!  That cage is 8 feet high.  She isn’t going to jump out of that”.

He left.  Thirty minutes later there was a terrific clap of thunder.  It sounded like it was directly overhead.  From standing still, Christy jumped out.

I put a roof on it.

Later, my vagabond life took me back to Arizona and Christy spent another couple of months in boarding.  By this time she was afflicted with arthritis and she responded to the dry heat of the desert.  She loved it.

Her final trip was to come back to West Palm Beach, Florida.  I don’t know how old she was when she died.  She was grown when she came into my life and we had her for fourteen years.  That is a lot for a large dog.  Just let it be said that I miss her.


Books by Thomas L. Tribby Available
Click on title below to preview

Works on Paper

On The Waterfront

Impressions of Florida



New Limited Edition Croquet Prints

Waiting for Turn

Waiting for Turn

Click to see

The Watched Shot

The Watched Shot


About Thomas L. Tribby

Professional artist: painter, sculptor, print maker. Maintains a studio in West Palm Beach, Florida
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