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Skippy Was Pasternak’s ‘Engineering Dog’

He found him ‘broadcasting’ one day

Retired broadcast engineer Bill Pasternak wrote to me about his former beagle-mix, Skippy.

Bill, who spent more than 30 years at KTTV(TV) in Los Angeles, said his engineering duties took place mostly at the station, where he maintained field recording gear and in-house editing and playback gear for the news department.

Around 1963, Bill Pasternak had been testing a new microphone, and apparently, so was Skippy. He’s writing a book currently titled “Geeks: Parallel Lines Crossing” and is including a chapter on the electronic exploits of his first dog, who had been left behind in Bill’s apartment building when his owner moved around 1963.

Bill writes: “One cold November morning I was going to walk downstairs to buy a quart of milk. As I opened my door, there lay this poor wretched looking dog, curled into a ball, trying to keep from freezing to death.”

Bill fed the dog and he and Skippy became close.

He continues the chapter: “One evening I had just returned home from work when the phone rang. It was old Julie Geller, WA2AND, calling to tell me that a lot of people had intermittently heard a carrier come up on 50.4 MHz. followed by a dog barking. He said this had been going on for over a week and that it had been T-hunted (tracked) to my place.

But the times it was on the air I was at work. I figured it was one of the other hams playing some kind of joke and Julie agreed. Just in case Skippy was accidentally hitting the transmit switch on the 99’er, I powered it off the next morning when I took off for the shop. It was still off when I came home to walk Skippy and feed my face. Nor was it on when I came home that evening. That had to have been it. The dog had been playing with the transmit button.

It was about three weeks later that I began getting complaints again. Just like the first time. A signal would come up on 50.4 MHz, a dog would bark for a few minutes and then the carrier would clear. This would repeat itself randomly throughout the day. I was convinced that my buddy the late Larry Levy, WA2INM, or another of my friends had set me up.

I went to the roof looking for an additional antenna that might have been installed with its coax left dangling to the ground to be connected to a portable transmitter. I searched the alley and the back of the building. I looked but found nothing. So I went back up to the apartment.

As I stood outside about to put the key in the lock I notice that Skippy was barking. Barking incessantly as if someone were trying to break in and he was doing a dogs duty and warning them off. As I opened the door a startled Skippy looked up from the Lafayette Radio ‘JT-30 clone’ microphone. Almost as if he heard me calling him and was ready to come to my beacon call.

I walked over to where the 99’er sat. It was turned on; it was in transmit and both the tiny volume control and the transmit-receive switch were covered with a small residue of ‘dog slobber.’

Bill concludes: “The next morning when I left for work I took the precaution of disconnecting the 99’er from the AC mains. When I came home for lunch and to walk Skippy, I saw that he had chewed apart the plug.”