Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Other Saint in the Family 1967-1975

Lansing, Magoo. CDB, Me Iowa, 1968

In a letter to Uncle Saint from January 22, 1968

Sam wanted a dog for Christmas and we now own a St. Bernard. Thank God she didn't want a car. The mind boggles. Well, this dog, Hannibal Sidney Greenstreet Magoo (H.S.G. Magoo) is now 10 weeks old, weighs about 25 lbs. His father at 19 months weighed 270 pounds. Fuck, I don't know what we're going to do with it, but by that time we'll work it out. He is a delight. Chunky, lambswool, panda bear that he is. All teeth and jowls. At 6 months they can pick up a football, I'm told. God knows he can already close his mouth around my calf and I can hear his teeth lock.

Magoo grew to be the size of a lion. A slobbering hairy mass of affection. When Dad would sing the Chet Baker standard "My Buddy" to him, Magoo's tail would wag so much leaves would flutter half way across the yard.
He truly was the Bryan family dog. But the winter Dad spent teaching at
The University of Wyoming, Magoo snapped. God knows why. But he bit my four year old sister in the face.
(Amanda said she didn't know what happened. "Suddenly it just got very dark."). He came to his senses immediately and released but Sam found Amanda covered with blood and crying. Magoo sitting quietly next to Babe the poodle.
Stuck in Wyoming, where he was teaching and finishing up Friendly Fire, Dad made a difficult decision that would certainly be hardest on Sam.

Magoo, Lansing, me and Babe the poodle
Home Movie still from 1974, Guilford, CT

January 18, 1975

I don't think we have any choice but to put him to sleep. I've thought about it and thought about it and I've felt that it is simply not a decision you should have to make. Magoo, whether it was intended or not, is my dog.
He may do it again, he may tear someone else's child up, he may kill someone and we have to be absolutely cold blooded about it. If it were someone else's dog we would, without hesitation, recommend that the dog be put down. The fact that he is our own and because of the circumstance of my being away and that being the cause of it, makes the decision all the more difficult because of our emotional involvement. But we must do it. And do it knowing that he has had a wonderful life, that it has been filled with love and joy and companionship, that probably no other St. Bernard has even been so indulged and pampered and loved and that he has had a full dog's life. He is getting old, obviously temperamental and I take full responsibility for the decision and leave you , to my dismay , and sense of inadequacy from afar, to do the ugly deed. But do it. I weep as I write it myself.


  1. It’s very painful to put the life of our pet in our own hands. I feel for you. I also went through the same, I had to decide ending my saint bernard's life because of his heart problem. Well, he's old and can no longer take any procedure that will be done.

  2. Never an easy choice. Thanks for reading