Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dogs of Our Lives: ARCO

Dear George,


The most remarkable dog of our childhood didn’t even belong to us, but rather to my Uncle Kent.  He was a huge black and brown German Shepherd named ARCO, and he was like a totally famous dog.  (I should note at the outset that the details of this account represent my best effort to retrieve childhood memories and shouldn’t be taken as literal fact.)  My Uncle Kent was a decorated U.S. Army veteran from World War II.  I think that he attained the rank of captain and was a recipient of the Silver Star, one of the highest military honors there is.  As I recall Kent’s account, he was fighting in the trenches of northern France following the Normandy invasion, when suddenly a huge, snarling Nazi war dog appeared at the top of the trench, baring his fangs and poised to attack.  Kent froze, and he and the dog stared at one another, eye to eye, for a long long time.  You have to know my Uncle Kent to appreciate the intensity of this situation.  He was a very tough, military-minded man with piercing eyes and a forceful demeanor.  If anybody in social circle could dominate a confrontation with a trained killer dog, it was Uncle Kent.  In fact, after several minutes the dog finally did capitulate and slowly climbed down to join him in the trench.  Because of his high military rank, Kent was able to arrange to keep the dog.  He named him ARCO, the acronym for the military unit which was responsible for distributing resources to troops in the field and upon whose actions their very survival depended.  ARCO stood for something like Army Replenishment Company (though I’m not sure about the exact wording).  Kent brought ARCO back to Menominee with him at the end of the war.


ARCO, as you might imagine, was the only bona fide Nazi war dog in Menominee, and consequently he got a lot of attention in the neighborhood.  Kent allowed us to bring him up the street to our house on Sheridan Road to play.  Despite being trained to kill, ARCO was gentle, good with kids, and exceedingly bright.  Kent did kinds of complicated stunts with him  What I remember most vividly is that he built a high-jumping apparatus with two high posts and nails at graduated six-inch spaces so that a bamboo pole could be shifted up and down.  ARCO could easily jump over our heads, and, taking a short run, he probably cleared the bar at six feet or more.


One day years later I ran into a neighborhood kid who told me that ARCO had died that morning.  It never occurred to me that this seemingly immortal dog would ever die.  I ran down to Kent’s drugstore at Electric Square.  Tears were streaming down my face as I came in the front door, though I tried to convince myself that I was only crying because I was expected to.  Kent solemnly confirmed the bad news.  It was my first direct experience with death, and it took some time to get over it.  ARCO had taught me what rewarding companions dogs can be.  It was a valuable lesson.




Email Comments: 

David, Thank you for kind and wonderful message.  Your stories about Menominee (all of which I have now read) brought back many memories (mostly fond).  To my knowledge the account regarding ARCO is completely correct.. Warm regards, Thor

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