As I was writing on Tangled Highways this morning, I thought that I’ve written almost nothing of our dogs and other pets here on Chosen Highway. Those pets have been one of the biggest blessings in my life. They have taught me patience. They have taught me faithfulness and they have been a tremendous example of obedience to our Heavenly Father.
My very first pet was a little terrier-mutt dog named Skippy. From what I remember of her and what Dad told me I guess she was mostly fox terrier with maybe a little of something else mixed in to give her the brindle coat. Dad picked her up at his work one day. She was just a runty half grown pup with a nasty case of mange. Do you want to know where I got my love of animals? From my dad. Who else would pick up a dirty sickly pup but someone who loves animals?
My mother grew up on a farm. To her animals had their place and their jobs, either they were raised for sale or food or they had to be vermin catchers or protectors of livestock. They had no place as pets. I think she was a good example of wifely ‘submission’ and love for her husband in that she put up with a multitude of animals being drug, paraded and doctored in her house for her entire life.
Skippy was the first pet in our house. Up until Skippy, Mom had withstood Dad’s fondness of pets. But Skippy came home just a few weeks before I was born and Dad used the excuse that the baby would need a pet. (Oh yeah, Mom was a push over.) The first thing Skippy got was a good bath, but even that and good food didn’t fix the mange problem. At that time, nearly 70 years ago, there was no sure-fire cure for mange; at least none that Dad knew. And a veterinarian was out of the question.
He talked with everyone he knew trying to find a treatment. Skippy ate well and gained a little weight, but her mange got worse. Naturally, he wouldn’t expose a baby to that condition. Finally, in desperation, he decided to try the solution someone had suggested. He gave the dog a bath and mixed up a solution of carbolic acid and something else… I don’t know what. . . to pour over her. The carbolic acid was the only thing that stuck in my head. ACID! What in the world!?
But it worked. She didn’t seem to mind the treatment at all and a few days later all of Skippy’s hair fell off! Dad said he wondered if he had helped the dog or killed her. Then she healed all pink and brown healthy skin. He hoped wouldn’t have a permanently bald dog. Pretty soon the hair began to come back in. In a couple weeks she had her smooth brindle coat back! Now today there are good treatments for mange (Keep in mind: I don’t know what that solution was. I only remember the shock of the words ‘carbolic acid’) so don’t ever try this on your dog! But happily it worked. You might get it wrong.
By the time I was born, even Mom liked Skippy. Of course she was a house dog. Could my father have had anything else? She told me over and over how fascinated I was by Skippy. She would tie her to the door knob beside my highchair and I was content to sit propped up there forever and simply watch her. Later, when I was old enough to sit up by myself and drop pieces of bread or cereal, I could occupy myself for longer periods of time. And of course, when I could walk Skippy was right on my heels. The source of goodies by the hour! What else could she do but follow me! We had her until I was probably in fifth grade. She was just gone one day. I never knew what happened until years later when Dad said he had found her dead on the road. She was a good dog.
From that time on we had a series of little terrier dogs. None of those shaggy little rug rats for Dad! He had spunky little shorthaired fox terrier types that thought they could fight wildcats. They would go in a groundhog hole and bring the ground hog back out with them—or at least give it a good try!
When I was grown and living at home with Dad after Mom and Louie died, we had a whole herd of Toy fox terrier-Chihuahua crosses. Everyone was well loved and trained. Some slept with me, some with Rachael, some with Notah, some in the stairway where they had their own boxes. One day there was a wild rumpus in the front yard and we all went running out to see what was the problem.
Here were Cookie, Spider and Billie-dog with a groundhog they had harried down out of the pasture field! Now of all the dogs who I would have picked to attack a groundhog, those three were the bottom of the list! Snuggles, Fidget, Trouble, yeah. They were tough but not those three little girls! They had harassed the groundhog until it was suffering and Dad took his pistol to put it out of its pain.
Billie was the only one of the three who had any injuries. She had several bite marks on her neck and shoulders. But then she had a tummy full of puppies about ready to be born! She couldn’t move as quickly as the others!
If those little dogs had the heft to back up their courage they would be something to deal with. They would make all the muscle dogs, the pit bulls and Rottweilers and Dobermen look like wimps.
As the years passed after Dad died, the little dogs passed away, too. I lived without one for a few years when I moved to Winfield. I didn’t realize I missed them until the people across the road got a fox terrier who looked and sounded like my Trouble. I heard him barking and could see him behind the house. (They kept him tied out!! Horrors! Our terriers were never tied outside, even when we had eight of them!) Then I began to miss having a little dog. That is when Rachael and Michael decided to get me another one but they didn’t tell me that.
They read the Bargain Hunter every time they came down to see me and one day in March said that Michael wanted a little dog so I had to go with them to find one advertized in the paper. Evidently Rachael, who grew up with fox terriers, couldn’t pick a good one. Yeah. And I fell for it.
We drove waaay out in Amish country and found the farm that had the fox terriers advertized. R & M went in the building where the kid kept the dogs. They came out with the last two pups. They said which one was the best looking little fox terrier. I held them both and then chose the one that best fit the fox terrier standard. As I was holding it, Michael said, “Happy Birthday, Vondi!” How happy was I!!!
That was Sebastian. Of course, he didn’t have a name yet. He was supposed to be my dog, but with dogs, they choose their owners. The owners don’t choose them. And Rachael and Michael bought both pups! As it turned out Sebastian chose Michael and Gabriel chose me. By the time we got home they had their names and I had a little dog.
And now I have them both! Sebastian decided when I moved in with R & M that he wanted to stay down with me. So there they are… snoozing on my bed.
Little dogs will probably always be part of our family. Notah and Kerra have Chloe; we have Gabriel and Sebastian.