Category Archives: Zant family

Ughy — My Ur Dog

Dad with me, Peter and Ughy.

Dad with me, Peter and Ughy.

My father courted my mother with puppies.  The first was a mixed breed called Pot, who was summarily run over. The second was a black cocker spaniel  named Ughy.  Ughy arrived on the scene four years before I was born, at a time when Mom and Dad were both married to other people, but clearly gearing up to bolt – you don’t give just anybody a puppy, not in my family. And Dad gave Mom two.

My mother’s childhood dog  was Poochie, a terrier who spent his dogs days asleep in the sunny middle of the street in front of their house in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Unlike Pot, Poochie died in the fullness of time and of natural causes — for the dozen or so years he was on this Earth cars just edged around him.  If this seems extraordinary, consider this: my grandmother never learned how to back up a car.   She didn’t need to.  She only went two places — her beauty salon and  the grocery store — and both her hairdresser and the boy who bagged her groceries were more than happy to turn the car around for her so that she could drive herself back home.  That’s the kind of town Stillwater, Oklahoma was — women could drive cars in one direction and dogs could sleep undisturbed in the middle of its streets.  Of course, if you were a black man and dusk was approaching, you would have been wise not to count on the same degree of insouciance.   We’re talking Oklahoma here and some things don’t  change.

People assign names to dogs; their dog names emerge with time.  Thus Bill’s Fancy became Mary Frances; Luv (allegedly Danish for Lion) became Lovey;  Tennessee’s Waltz became Tenney, which also happened to be the name of the circle we lived on. Ughy’s given name was, improbably,  Lord Ogilthorpe, thence Oggie, thence Ughy, a.k.a, Boodle Dog.  My Grandfather Zant always called him, “Black Dog.”  “Hi, Black Dog,” he would say.  “Come here, Black Dog.” Ughy adored Grandaddy, perhaps because Grandaddy recognized his true essence.  He was, after all, a black dog.

Ughy watching over my bassinet . . . or was he?

Ughy watching over my bassinet . . . or was he?

My mother told the story of how Ughy would drop his toys into my bassinet. She maintained that this indicated a desire on his part to share his toys with me.  I think it’s more likely that he was actually trying to take me out from the air. Then again, he used to bring Mom mice that he had killed and how can that be interpreted other than as an act of largesse?  In his seventeen years, Ughy only bit me once and that was because I stuck my face in his food dish.  I would do the same to anybody who stuck their face in my food dish.  Consider that fair warning.

Growing up, I was convinced that Ughy could talk; I figured he was just holding out.  On weekends, my father would take me and Ughy along on various errands and, while he was in the Hostess Outlet Store or at the roadside corn stand, I would edge closer to Ughy and whisper in his silky ear, “It’s all right.  He’s gone.  You can talk now.”  That’s when parents left kids in the car and no one thought a thing of it.

Golden Retriever with false teeth.  You get the idea.

Golden Retriever with party teeth. You get the idea.

Ughy had two tricks.  He could sit up on his hind legs for hours  while wearing one of my Dad’s white t-shirts, and he would happily circulate amongst party guests, gag teeth clamped  between his jaws, for so long as people applauded. He taught himself those tricks in his spare time, which was copious.

Ughy buried bones in the carpet.  He would dig and dig and dig, creating no hole whatsoever, then deposit the bone in the no hole  he had dug.  There it would remain until someone glanced over at it, at which point he would promptly dig it up from the no hole and bury it in plain sight somewhere else.  Once a kid on our block dared to call Ughy fat and I beat him up.  He was the only person I have ever beaten up and I never felt a shred of guilt about it. Call my dog fat: you’ve crossed a red line.

Ughy was my first dog –  the original dog; the archetypal dog; the Ur dog.The worst thing I could imagine, apart from the death of my mother or father, was Ughy’s demise.  I would lie in bed at night and try and imagine what a world without Ughy would be like.  But then I’d have to stop myself; his loss was too painful even to contemplate.

The last year of his long life, blinded by milky cataracts and wracked by cancer, Ughy was falling apart the way old dogs do: at the seams. During that sad period Dad carried him tenderly up and down the stairs as required.  My husband and I can relate. For the better part of three years we hefted our aged and enormous Golden Retriever up and downstairs, hoisting him into cars and airlifting him onto beds. Recently a fit-enough looking neighbour  told us he had been forced to put his Springer Spaniel down because she could no longer climb stairs.  As soon as he was out of earshot, my husband and I looked at one another, aghast.    “He couldn’t carry a Springer Spaniel up and down stairs?” we asked.

Ughy contemplates his Christmas stocking

Ughy contemplates his Christmas stocking

Every night Dad fed Ughy his green cancer pain pills, stroking  his throat to make him swallow, as he sang:

“Green pills, they taste so good/

when doggies eat them like they should./

Green pills, they taste so nice./

They taste like they’re made out of sugar and spice.”

He sang this to the tune of Green Sleeves.

Then one day it happened — Ughy was gone.  A chasm opened up in the earth and in we fell, only to struggle out, not twenty-four hours later, with the parti-coloured ball of fur and bad news who would become Crocapuppy – the infamous Frances of the Socks.  If Ughy was a true gentleman — and he was — Frances was bitch incarnate.  Life goes on and new dogs come on stream — one after another. And then they die, and you feel like you’re going to die, and then you don’t.

. . .

And then you do.

The Angel Moroni and Joseph Smith

The Angel Moroni and Joseph Smith

My father had a ginormous number of cousins – his father had come from a family of thirteen and his mother from a family of ten.  One of these was Cousin Faye, who converted to Mormonism when she married her husband Gil.  I’ve always found religion of any description intriguing, so, when I was thirteen and Cousin Faye came for a visit, I let her try and convert me, thereby earning the thanks of a grateful family. They retired to the living room to drink and otherwise blaspheme, while a woefully decaffeinated Faye and I stayed behind in the family room, poring over the Book of Mormon, which I found secretly hilarious.  For starters, there’s the name of the angel who served as God’s emissary — Moroni.  What kid wouldn’t find that funny?

Back in those days, Mormons were the great genealogists.  One of the core tenets of that creed is that the dead can be baptized by proxy into the faith post mortem – this solves the messy problem of what to do about all those unlucky ancestors who happened to be born before Moroni clued Joseph Smith in on the location of the  Golden Tablets or who otherwise didn’t get the memo.  To do this, however, the Mormons had to determine just who those hapless relatives were.  I mean, you couldn’t let just anybody in.  Hence the great Mormon genealogical project.  And they meant business.  The original records, preserved on over 2 million rolls of microfilm containing 2 billion names, are locked away behind fourteen-tonne doors in the Granite Mountain Records Vault, a climate-controlled depository designed to withstand a nuclear attack.  Think Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Only in Utah.

Thanks to Faye’s considerable efforts to trace our family as far back as Mormonly possible, we have a family tree that goes all the way back to 1605 and one Anthony Hardy. It was his son John who first came to the New World, settling initially on the James River in Virginia before hauling up stakes and moving to Chowan in Bertie County, North Carolina, where the family was to occupy property demarcated by such landmarks as “the middle swamp”, the “rooty branch” and “the Great Beaverdam” for the next two hundred plus years.

Plaque on the Jerusalem Lutheran Church at Ebenezer

Plaque on the Jerusalem Lutheran Church at Ebenezer

My mother’s family also traced the Zant and Loving families (her father’s people) back to their European roots, only without any help from Mormons.  I have in my possession a much faded mimeographed copy of that family tree.  What is new and kind of amazing is how the Internet allows us to fill in some of the blanks as to who those people were.  For my last blog post – Ruminations on the Confederacy —  I noted that my great – times six – grandfather Solomon Zant married Elizabetha Keiffer in 1767 in the town of Ebenezer in Effingham County in Georgia.  I googled ‘Ebenezer’ and found that it was established in 1734 by 150 Protestants expelled as heretics from the Catholic Archbishopric of Saltzburg – they envisioned it as a religious Utopia on the Georgian frontier, a fanciful notion if ever there was one.   Construction of  the town’s Jerusalem Lutheran Church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, began in the year of Solomon and Elizabeth’s marriage.  As it turns out, both Soloman’s mother and his wife were from Saltzburg. Wowza! My ancestors were religious refugees and wannabe Utopians.  I did not know that.

Ultimately Cousin Faye not only baptized by proxy some thirteen plus generations of Hardys, but also sealed them in celestial marriage for eternity to their respective spouses.  This upset my older brother no end; he saw it as tantamount to tying cats up in a bag, only forever – in his case, this would prove to be a number of cats.  Did her Mormon magic work?  I hope not, because 1) the idea of a non-alcoholic Heaven isn’t my idea of a Hardy Family Reunion and 2) if I’m to be sealed for eternity, I much prefer my second husband to that other one.

Cousin Faye, the Angel Moroni and the Saltzburgers