The 40’s were famous for radio series programs, especially situation comedies. One of the more popular shows was “The Life of Riley”, a meat-and-potatoes story of about a Brooklyn family living in California. Blundering Chester A. Riley, was a wing riveter at the fictional Cunningham Aircraft plant in California and his frequent exclamation of indignation – “What a revoltin’ development this is!” became one of the most famous catchphrases of the 1940s.
The radio series also benefited from the huge popularity of support character, Digby “Digger” O’Dell, the friendly undertaker. Chester A. Riley was a sort of lay about, blue-collar worker who always managed to do everything with the minimum of effort, just getting by. Riley managed to change any ant-hill of a problem into a Grade-A disaster! For 8 years, Riley’s weekly mishaps included Digger O’Dell. Riley was constantly getting himself into trouble and Digger was constantly “trying to help him out of a hole” as Digger would have put it. Digger was known for his oft repetitive lines, including puns based on his profession. His signature sign-off, “Cheerio! I’d better be shoveling off” was renowned throughout radio land. And although “The Life of Riley” has long been off the air, buried deep in the annuals of radio sit coms, Digger’s spirit lives on.
Yes, Digger lives on! He lives on in Dolce, channeled into a canine proclivity to dig and bury. Unfortunately, Dolce has inherited Digger’s fondness for, well, for digging. And for burying.
It started as a puppy. Small bushes and plants would be discovered on their sides, roots uprooted, deep holes in the ground found next to their curled up leaves. Dolce’s little snout would be covered with evidence, fresh soil clinging to her nose. Her dirty paws were proof enough she was the culprit, the excavator. Digging replacement plant holes would unearth previously buried treasure; bones, shoes, rag toys, socks, even her precious Kong.
We knew we were in trouble when the graveyard started to grow, when the burial plots started to multiply. What we had thought were gopher holes were in fact Kong entombments. What we believed to be left over potting soil from our garden work was actually a small bone mausoleum. We learned Digger O’Dell lived on.
As Dolce grew older, her dirt crypts grew bigger. Now she hollowed out cavities, body vaults. During the hot summer months, she would snout shovel a small cave to cool off in, her paws furiously digging a sizable hole she could burrow into to escape the day’s heat. We would fill the hole, Dolce would dig another one. We would stuff the crater with rocks, Dolce would find another patch of barren soil to unearth. We would pack the void with brick and debris, and Digger O’Dolch would start again. We would sprinkle cayenne pepper in the soil. She would sniff, sneeze and shovel all in one breath. Our canine grave-digger kept at it.
The dog pen is riddled with graves, burial plots and land mines. Pits and caverns. Holes and voids. It has turned into an ankle-twisting death trap. Malcolm grumbles about buying dirt to fill-in the holes when we live in a desert. Bags and bags of dirt. Used to fill the divots littering the pen. Used to pack in the exposed Kong graves and the bone burial plots. Bags of dirt that gets dug up over and over, again and again.
Yep, Digger O’Dell’s humor might still be able to produce a laugh and a chuckle under today’s comic relief, but it’s Dolce that has the last laugh.
Cheerio! I’d better be shoveling off!