Today it’s all about the dogs.
In honor of Betty White’s 100th birthday today, I share a wonderful world that once lived in my young imagination, a world I think that she would support wholeheartedly- I called it ArfLand a country populated and run by dogs.
I created this special place not long after I got my first dog,
My lifelong love affair with dogs began when I was just 6 years old. In the fall of 1961 just as our country was embarking on an exciting new frontier, my own family stepped boldly into the unknown with the acquisition of our very first dog.
Or more aptly, we got wangled into taking home a little short-haired dachshund that leapt not only onto our furniture but right into our hearts.
This 9-month-old wiener dog with the noble name of Prince belonged to the adult daughter of my father’s law partner Moe. Because she was moving to a new apartment building with a strict no pet policy, the dog had to go. Moe was determined that a dog was just what my nuclear family was missing and invited us to take a look. No real decision had been made by my parents regarding this life-altering addition to our family.
On a brisk October evening, we drove to their home in Kew Gardens.
“Just looking,” my mother cheerfully made clear. But with the skill of a seasoned litigator, before we knew it, Moe had handed us not only a yapping dog on a leash, but his metal feeding bowls, a stash of pedigree papers, and a rubber Snoopy chew toy.
Shell shocked we piled back into our large Plymouth and drove home with the rambunctious dog wriggling between my brother and me in the backseat. I was equal parts overjoyed and frightened by this high-energy pup.
Once home, the short-legged dog maniacally raced laps around the house nonstop as though it was the Indy Five Hundred. We all safely sequestered ourselves into our bedrooms. Behind closed doors, my mother was not shy about letting her feelings be known to my father. The not-so-muffled sound of my mother’s displeasure at the swiftness of this decision could be heard over the barking of the dog.
But for whatever reason, he was allowed to stay. Prince, not my father, though that evening either one might have been a safe bet to get booted.
Keeping the dog was possibly the best decision ever made in my childhood. Prince became the center of our lives, as all my future dogs would become.
And a princely life he led. My mother adored him, cooking special meals just for him, and my grandparents babied him as though another grandchild.
But it was my three great aunts who truly doted on this doxie.
“The Girls” as these aunts were collectively known, were three unmarried sisters of a certain age who shared a massive Central Park West apartment in the city who would take him in a yellow checker cab to the Saks Fifth Avenue Dog Toggery. Among the many fine haberdashery items, they bought for him was a belted trench coat with pockets, styled to rival Burberry and snuggly imported pajamas truly fit for a Prince. Even my normally surly brother fell deeply in love with this sweet animal.
Thoroughly besotted, I learned early on from Prince the pure goodness of a dog, their unflinching, unconditional love. The companionship a furry friend provided to a shy, often scared little girl was lifesaving. In a house where there was often profound disruption and betrayal, the loyalty and steadiness of a dog was incalculable.
Prince became an emotional support dog long before that term became fashionable.
We may not have been initially prepared for Prince, but Prince prepared me for a lifelong love from God’s most amazing creatures. Dogs.
A Place Called Arfland
If dogs ruled the world it would indeed be a kinder place.
So it would come as no surprise that in my child’s imagination dogs were worthy of there very own country, a place where they weren’t pets.
A country called Arfland.
And why not? They had a permanent population, a defined territory, a solid government with its capital of Houndog even an ambassador they could form relations with other nation-states.
It appears Arfland had an ambassador to the UN since all animals would have their own country too. I suspect there was a Purrchase for kitties, Squeakhampton for mice and Growldale where bears lived. Cock-a-doodle-dooburg would be populated with chickens and pastoral Moochester for cows.
Founded in my fertile imagination in 1964, I could spend hours drawing in my bedroom plotting up the plans for this newly developed country. Sitting hunched over on my bed for hours the pink chenille bedspread would become littered with dozens of pads, paper, and pencils.
I recently came across these charming drawings and it confirmed to me that my sensibility had not changed all that much in 60 years.
Nor in fact, has my atrocious spelling.
Governors Of The States of Arfland
The collection of states in Arfland included ( with its original colloquial spelling_ Spanial, Boxer, St Bernard, Police of Dogville, Poodleland, Dashunt, Sheepdog, Terrior, Dalmation, Bloodhoundville, Great Dane, Snozer, Chawawa.
Lovely Beagle Island was surrounded by Greyhound River and Wolfhound Bay.
The country featured fine dining. Just as Prince never ate any meat by products from canned dog food Arflandians dined on roast beaf, turkey, chicken and liver.
Arfland’s contribution to Pop culture were the internationally acclaimed “Shagg Dogs” the group responsible for the “Canine Invasion” that hit the U.S. in 1964 causing teenage girls to lose control.
Today, in Arfland I am sure its residents are observing their long-standing national holiday, though with a tinge of sadness.
It’s Betty White Day. A day to celebrate a national treasure.
In Arfland and every land.
Not only did I save the thousands of childhood drawings I created, I still held onto Prince’s original Snoopy rubber toy given to us one fall night over 60 years ago. Though now in my possession, I clearly would not have these “treasures” if my own Betty, my dear mother had not saved them all these years.
Two years ago when I was cleaning out their home as I prepared to sell it, I found Snoopy under my old bed in my bedroom. I’ve no doubt my fastidious mother had vacuumed under my bed over the course of 35 years since the dog passed away. But she chose to leave it as Prince left it, where it was discovered by me when they were all gone, bringing a big smile. Just as she knew it would.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.