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Carnett: Recalling the dog days of youth

They were the “Titans of the South” for nearly a decade in the 1950s and ‘60s.

I refer not to a Tennessee football team, but to Cookie, Skipper and Lucky. They ran our Costa Mesa neighborhood.

That neighborhood consisted of the southern half of Fairway Drive, between Monte Vista and Del Mar avenues, on the east side of town. There were dogs on the northern half of the block to be sure, but Cookie, Skipper and Lucky owned the South.

Cookie, a cocker spaniel mix, was a member of my family. Skipper, an elegant, high-spirited collie, belonged to Donnie five houses to our south. Lucky, some strange kind of canine amalgam, was cute and cocker-like as a pup, but grew into a rather beastly lout. He belonged to David.


The trio loved frolicking together.

Skipper arrived on the scene first, probably about 1954. Frisky and as unfettered as a Santa Ana breeze, he was all over the neighborhood. He enjoyed hanging out with 8-year-old Donnie, his master, but was OK with dashing off on his own and ignoring whistles and shouts.

He spent lots of time at our house, and was particularly adept at worming his way into our pickup basketball games on the driveway. We forever had to shove him out of the way as we drove the lane to the hoop, hanging above the garage door.

Finally, he’d grow tired of our admonishments and would bound off to seek further adventures.


Cookie came along a year later, a precocious auburn puffball with floppy ears. He soon became Skipper’s best pal. We kept him in the backyard much of his youth because when he saw Skipper down the street he’d drop those ears and make a mad dash.

Lucky joined the fraternity when Cookie was a year old. His family thought they were getting Cookie II. Lucky looked a lot like Cookie as a pup, but grew into an inelegant oaf.

Skipper loved accompanying us to the Back Bay. He was in heaven exploring the cliffs, trails and gooey mud flats. We took Cookie only a handful of times and had to keep him on a leash. He’d whine and pull us along the trail after Skipper.

We couldn’t trust Cookie in open spaces. We were certain he’d run like the wind and get lost.

In his younger years, every time he got out of the backyard — EVERY TIME! — he made a breakaway. We had to run him down. That dog loved us to bits, but was completely undisciplined.

Cookie perfectly exemplified his name; though he was christened with it at the tender age of 6 weeks, well before his life’s passion had been established. He worshiped my mom and her homemade chocolate chip cookies. He wolfed down marshmallows with almost equal fervor.

He lived to be 13.

He’d sit and beg at our feet at the dinner table as we ate dessert. My brother, sister and I would break chocolate chip cookies in half, toss one portion in the air and pop the other into our mouth.


Cookie would consume the morsel in one deft snatch-and-swallow. I tried to encourage him to chew the cookie in order to savor it, but he never got the concept.

At night, as our family sat in the living room watching “Gunsmoke” or “Have Gun, Will Travel,” Cookie would crawl behind the couch, or under my dad’s favorite chair, and fall asleep. We’d occasionally hear him rooting around trying to get comfortable.

Sometimes he’d remind us of his presence by unleashing a pungent memento. The humans in the room would gasp and hurl unkind insults.

I was no longer a boy when Cookie departed this world. My brother and I enlisted in the service and went overseas. The frisky cocker ceased being our regular playmate.

Ultimately, he began to slow down and became mom’s obedient companion. The front door or back gate could be left ajar, and he’d never run again.

He had it way too good.

I miss my old friend.

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Tuesdays.