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Spunky was a mess. Fur matted with mud... and blood. Rib ridges showing where fur was missing. Hip displaced and a leg fractured. He'd been found in a roadside gutter, victim of hit and run. He didn't even have a name.
Forlorn and ugly, he was on 'death row' at the city's animal control facility when Kevin showed up looking for a dog. His heart went out to the small, helpless fur ball with the dim, but beseeching eyes.
"I'll take him," Kevin said.
"We can't release an animal in this condition," the ACO stated frankly.
"What will become of him?"
"Cost too much to fix him up... we'll put him down... in the morning... as soon as we can."
"I'll take him just as he is. I'll pay a vet to fix him. I want him. You can't put him down."
"We have to. No choice. That's the rule. He'll probably die tonight anyway."
They argued back and forth.
Finally, frustrated and exasperated Kevin said "Okay, but by tomorrow I will have a letter in all the local papers and this story will be on all the local radio stations. The whole town will know that you would not let me save this poor creature and love him until he dies of old age."
Finally the ACO gave in.
"Thirty five dollars for one day's board and care. You pay. Take 'im, then. And be gone."
Kevin was a circus clown. Before he fell in love with the small, mangy, injured dog he had been looking for a mutt in animal shelters in towns the circus passed through. Circus clowns are fun to be, but circus clowns with small animals or a little circus dog get more pay.
The cost of rehabilitation was not cheap, but the small dog was... well... Spunky.
As he was cared for Spunky soon realized that Kevin truly adored him... that he was not just clowning around. He could be trusted. And Spunky soon worshipped Kevin. He would do anything his master asked of him.
Kevin had been around the world learning how to be a clown, then teaching others how. Japan, Russia, Europe... and along the way he honed his animal training skills.
When Spunky was once again healthy and fit Kevin taught him the ways of a circus mutt... and Spunky did anything Kevin asked him to do. He paraded, he flipped, he jumped through hoops and the crowd loved Spunky, the Wonder Dog. For almost three years he entertained in rings, under the big top, all around America. Then one day he trotted into the ring as usual, with his master not far behind. He lay down on his side and began to tremble. His head shook and his little legs vibrated and he could not get up.
The crowd was distraught. They thought the dog feared the clown. They hissed and booed. They begged him not to beat the little fellow. Kevin's heart was heavy as he scooped his pet up into his arms and shuffled out of the ring... away from the angry crowd... back to their quarters.
Once they got home Spunky the Wonder Dog revived. His recovery was miraculous... he flipped, he jumped, he did anything his master asked of him. And Kevin the clown was relieved. Whatever had befallen his cherished pet had passed. He was well. Life could go on. He ran Spunky through his paces and they went back to the big top for the second show of the day. Kevin was a happy clown as Spunky trotted to the center of the ring. But his glee was short-lived as he watch his dog fall over and begin to quiver as he had done in the early show.
Back in quarters, Spunky recovered quickly. The scenario was repeated the following day... in another town, with another crowd, at both the early and late shows.
Kevin was baffled. After trying one more time for the early show the next day, the clown decided it was all over. If Spunky would not perform, neither would Kevin. He apparently had done it for Kevin, whom he adored... who had saved him from death row and nursed him back to health. He had entered the ring on a daily basis and did all that his master would ask of him. But how long must you go on repaying a debt of gratitude?
Kevin boxed up his oversize shoes and turned in his red ball nose and now travels a couple of weeks ahead of the circus as advertising advance man. Spunky goes along because Kevin is dedicated to him. During circus season they travel from town to town and live in a small fifth wheel recreational vehicle. And, at home, the little dog will do anything his master asks him to do... because he is Spunky, the Wonder Dog.
© 1998 Fran C. Crawford
We'd like to say thank you to Spunky and Kevin and the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus for the free passes when the circus visited Live Oak.