When all looks bleak, along comes a nutless wonder of a hard-luck basset hound 

Just two months ago, the Jowers' beloved basset hound, Rufus J. Dogfriend, barked his way into dog heaven. My good friend Jean knows me well enough to realize that if I went dogless for more than a week I might just rub myself down with axle grease, climb up on a rusty old tractor somewhere way out in the country and bay at the moon until somebody called the authorities.

Rather than have that happen, Jean, a dauntless dog rescuer, called a shelter and reserved a hard-luck basset hound for me. I recruited daughter Jess, who was home for winter break, to jump into the family minivan and go with me to the shelter. It's a good thing that I took her with me.

For you folks who've never been to a big animal shelter, here's a preview. Every living creature in the shelter — man, beast, squalling baby and hissing cockroach — just wants to get out before the reaper comes. You can tell, because there's non-stop whining, crying, barking and caterwauling. If you took the down elevator to hell, when the doors opened up it would sound just like a big animal shelter.

I know a little something about loud noise. I played loud rock 'n' roll guitar for a living from age 12 until the day in 1980 that Capricorn Records went bankrupt, freeing the Bee Gees to destroy Southern rock like Sherman destroyed Atlanta. Which reminds me: If you have the misfortune of taking the down elevator to hell, the DJ will be playing disco. That's what makes the hell dwellers scream for mercy.

By some miracle, I still have good hearing — good enough to hear the whine of fluorescent lights. Lucky for me, I was able to communicate with the nice lady at the shelter and sign the dog papers on the dotted lines.

While I was doing that, daughter Jess grabbed a leash and went looking for our new dog. A few minutes later, I heard her calling, "Daddy, this has to be our dog! Come see him!"

"Which one is he?" I asked.

"The one with the Dalmatian standing on top of him," she replied. "The Dalmatian's got him trapped. It looks like a giraffe trying to walk over a baby seal."

Next thing I knew, a helpful shelter volunteer had eased the low-slung basset out from under the all-legs Dalmatian. Jess put the leash around the basset's neck, and busted him out of his cell.

That's when the whimpering started. The young dog let fly a series of near-ultrasonic whines that might have broken all the windows in the shelter if he'd whined any louder. "He's making sounds that only dogs and I can hear," I said.

A bit of advice for folks who might want to rescue a basset hound from a shelter: Everybody in the shelter is going to try to rub him, talk to him, or maybe even try to buy him. Bassets draw people. People draw bassets. If you're heading for a shelter to rescue a basset hound, take along a disguise, maybe a toddler-sized argyle sweater. If you're sneaky, you might just get out of the shelter unmolested.

Jess and I gently fought our way out of the shelter, and into the van. Jess sat in the back of the van, and spent a half-hour wrestling with the whining dog all the way back to our house.

"What are we going to name him," Jess asked.

"Well, baby girl," I said, "do you remember when Aunt Ann called our house when you were about 6 years old, and when you answered the phone, she asked to speak to Bubba?"

"I do remember," Jess said. "I told her that we didn't have anybody named Bubba at our house."

"And then I told you, 'I'm Bubba.' "

"And I didn't believe you," Jess sighed.

"Do you remember a few years ago when you said that if we ever got another basset hound, you wanted to name him Bubba?"

"Oh, I get it," Jess said. "I'm holding Bubba right now."

We Jowerses will always miss Rufus, but right now Bubba is a welcome and needed breath of spring. He's a healthy, sweet and energetic pup, a little more than a year old. He's has the run of the house, he's happily nutless, fully vaccinated, strong as a donkey and stubborn as a mule. He leaps through his dog door at full speed, stretched out like Superman's dog, Krypto. He's home.

Email editor@nashvillescene.com

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