Last night, as many nights, I slept with a small dog snuggled up against my behind and a tiny dog snuggled up under my chin. Both of them have slept with me from the day I they came to live with me. When I got Gabriel he weighed maybe a couple or three pounds. Maggie may have weighed a whole pound soaking wet. Both of them left a mama and brother who they snuggled with. They got cold at night by themselves. Each was so tiny that I kept it close to my chest or chin because I worried it would be squashed if I turned over.
That made me begin remembering a whole string of dogs going back through 60 years.
My first dog was Skippy. I’ve written about her before. Dad picked her up at the shop where he worked. She was scrawny and covered with mange. He brought her home and took care of her, treated the mange until she was a pretty little terrier type dog. He conned my mom, who grew up on a farm where dogs were dogs and stayed outside catching rats and mice, into keeping her by saying the baby would like her. That baby was me and I DID like her.
Skippy was our house dog for many years until I was about 10 maybe. Then she got hit on the road. (I didn’t know that for many, many years) After Skippy, we got another house dog, Penny. She was a little Chihuahua-terrier type dog. Someone at work had either given or sold her to Dad. Dad’s family had always had terriers and he didn’t feel content without one. Penny came to live with us when I was about 11. We had her until I was 15 when she developed cancer and had to be euthanized. Broke the whole family’s hearts.
After she died I got Cindy for my 16th birthday. She was another tiny dog. Dad used to say he paid a dollar and ounce for her. Twenty dollars for a dog about a pound and a quarter. She lived until I was incollege when she dropped dead with a heart attack.
During those first ten years though, Dad acquired two black and tan coon hounds, Midnight and Blackie. I don’t know if Blackie was really his or if he was just keeping her for a friend. At any rate we only had her for a few months and she went to live with someone else. Midnight stayed with us until the day she died I don’t know how many years later. Dad used her for hunting foxes and coon. Daytimes she tracked foxes. Nighttimes she chased coon.
Before she died Dad came home one day with a big tri-colored coon hound named Dick. He was a good dog and let the little boy who lived next door eat dog food from his pan! Yeah, well. The dog was good. The kid could have been brighter.
We had a couple beagles over the years. One just showed up at our house and stayed a while. We called her Queenie. She had an ingratiating habit of raising her lips in a kind of modified growl effect like she was smiling. She did it when she was happy to see us. Dad kept asking around to find out if anyone owned her. He finally found the guy. The man said he’d lost a dog that ‘smiled’ when she first saw you. He’d hunted for her for weeks before he gave up. All the time Queenie was safe at our house. She went back home.
The other beagle was Tuffy. I think he originally belonged to Dad’s friend, Walker. As Walker got older he was less able to hunt and take care of Tuffy so he gave him to Dad. From then on, Tuffy lived a life of relative ease and only went hunting often enough to keep him happy. He was the dog who impressed my brother for something entirely different from his hunting prowess. We had butchered a cow and Dad said to give the kidneys to Dick and Tuffy. On his way to the barn, Buster gave each dog one kidney. Tuffy grabbed his and swallowed it whole! That was pretty impressive-beef kidneys are good sized and Tuffy wasn’t such a big dog. Even better though, when my brother came back from the barn, Tuffy had barfed the kidney up and was chewing it! Now THAT was remarkable.
Dick, who was very traffic-wise, was killed on the road just below the brow of the hill where he couldn’t see the on-coming car that hit him. Tuffy died of old age.
About the time Tuffy died, my Dad was visiting the neighbor man who had a beautiful Keeshond in a pen at his house. He noticed a neighbor kid poking a stick through the pen wire and yelled at him for teasing the dog. The neighbor said it didn’t matter because the dog was vicious anyway. Dad said of course the dog was vicious with those kids teasing him all the time.
The neighbor said, “You think you can handle him, he’s yours.” And Dad came home with Misty. I think Misty bit every one in the family before we learned to handle him and he learned to trust us. My brother bought a Keeshond female to mate with him. Her name was Pooh, really Princess Little Bear, but we called her Pooh. After he married he took both of them with him when he moved to Newark. I don’t remember what happened to Pooh, but Misty died when Buster leant him to a friend for breeding and the stupid guy tied him so that when he jumped off the roof of his dog house he hung himself. Stupid people!
Dad lived with only his cat for a while then my brother bought a farm and rented his house in town to some people with a young Labrador Retriever. They kept him in a pen behind the house.
One day there had been a window peeper in the neighborhood and when he came to their house the Lab had jumped his fence and took out after the guy. He left blood on their front porch and a trail of drops down the street. The police caught him by following the blood drops.
Stupid people were afraid of the dog for protecting them! They were going to shoot him or some such, but my brother talked them into giving him the dog. And he eventually gave the dog to Dad. His name was Boy. The first time I met him was when I came to visit from college. We pulled up at Buster’s house and I got out of the car without a second thought. Boy jumped on me and grabbed my arm in his teeth. I don’t know to this day if he was attacking or greeting me. But I said, “Well, hi there, Boy” and
scratched his head with my other hand. I didn’t know that was his name, but he thought I must be a friend and decided not to bite so hard.
Years later, when Louie and I were living with Dad, I was home alone with Mom and two toddlers when some guy came hiking up the drive. I don’t know what he wanted but Boy didn’t ask any questions. He had been lying in the shade by the garage door. The first I knew the man was around was when he yelled and went tearing across the yard with Boy hot on his heels. We had a steep bank along the roadside of our yard. I saw the man jump over the bank and, apparently, run off up the road. Boy stopped at the top of the bank. He’d done his job.
We had Boy for probably 10 years or more. He lived in the house and went out as he pleased… He was getting old and ran directly in front of a truck one Sunday when we came home from church.
When Notah was born Louie and I were living with Dad taking care of Mom. We had only Boy inside then. John and Jenny lived outside and Boy didn’t really mind staying out with them. When Notah was about two months old, just before Thanksgving, Grandpa came home with another little yellow Chihuahua named Billie. His friend Jonesy had given her to him. Jonesy was as partial to little dogs as Dad was and he’d made the mistake of getting Billie without first consulting his wife… As a result he had to find a good home for Billie.
Billie loved Notah from the very first minute she saw him. He was in his port-a-crib. I’d gotten it somewhere second hand and it didn’t have the long legs that made it tall enough to be a crib; consequently it was only about six or eight inches off the floor—a perfect height for Billie to hop between the bars and snuggle up against the baby. I never thought Louie would allow that dog to sleep with the baby, but he surprised me. He thought it was cute. :o) He also allowed her in our bed!
Billie became Rachael’s dog when she was born.
When I lived on the mission a acquired Terry Brown’s dog, John. I called him John. I don’t think Terry ever named him. He just claimed him. John-dog and Joe McCormick’s dog got some coyote poison. Joe’s dog died almost immediately. John dog staggered around for a couple more days.
Finally I went out one morning and found John lying in the rain under the drip from the over hang on the roof. I yelled for Terry and asked him why he wasn’t taking care of his dog. He said the dog was gonna die anyway, why should he bother. I told him to give the dog to me, I’d take care of it. So he did.
For a week I bought milk and fed the poor dog. He was skin and bones and wouldn’t eat anything but milk. McCormicks and Terry thought I was crazy for buying milk for a dog. I carried him to the barn every night so he would be warm and every morning he would stagger out to lie in the sun. Over the course of the day, he would move a few feet from here to there and by evening he’d be over by the school house or the mission soaking up the sun. So I’d pick him up and take him to the barn.
Gradually he recovered and got stronger. His coordination was always poor and he walked stiff-legged in front. I don’t think he could see very well because his eyes were set in his head and he couldn’t move them to look around. I don’t remember his pupils dilating or contracting either. I had John till Notah was three or four when he died of old age. He was probably only about eight years old. I’m sure he aged precipitously because of the coyote poison. He was a good dog.
I also picked up a trash dump dog while we were riding the preschool bus with Mr. Tom. We drove through the Gamerco trash dump as a shortcut to the house of one of the kids. Jenny and her sister were probably 10 weeks old or so. They were sitting beside a big box beside the road. Jenny was a pretty sable color with black ticking. Her sister was black. They were both very thin and weak looking. I decided immediately that I was going to come back after school and get them. When I got back, only Jenny was left. I don’t know what happened to her sister. I suspect she crawled of and died, because Jenny was very weak.
It was late fall when I found her. She stayed outside the dorm and I fed her every day in the back outside the kitchen door. One day she could barely drag herself around and she carried her back leg. I couldn’t get her to the vet until Saturday and when I got her there he said that the thigh bone was broken not far from the hip joint and had started to heal already. She would probably walk with a limp but she would be okay. A greater problem was that she had distemper and he said that would kill her sooner than the broken leg.
He gave me antibiotic and advised I keep her warm. If her temp spiked, I was to bring her back immediately. I had no place to put her to keep her out of the weather. It was freezing every night. I put her in a box and put papers down in the little house where Linda and I had lived. I fed her twice a day and cleaned up her papers. She had to be kept clean and couldn’t be left in her own dirt. If it was warm I let her out during the day.
McCormicks had fits when they found out I was keeping her there. Never mind she was hurt and sick. Never mind I was cleaning after her scrupulously. She was a dog. And dogs didn’t belong in the house! So, how to keep her warm and protected.
I ended up parking my Corvair close to the dorm and taking the backseat out. I lined the floor with a heavy shower curtain and covered it with papers. I gave Jenny a box and bought a little Coleman heater to put in the car. That kept her warm during the night and kept her sheltered from the wind. For the next several weeks I took careful care of her and when her temp finally stabilized, the vet said she was good to go. I was able to discard the shower curtain, store the Coleman heater back in its box and put the seat back in my car.
Several months later McCormick confessed. HE had hit her with the school bus one morning as he left to run the route. I thought it petty… devious… I don’t know what word to use. But he was the one who hurt the dog in the first place, then they had given me grief when I tried to take care of it… I had Jenny for about 12 or 15 years.
While Louie and I lived in the little pink house, I had John and Jenny but from somewhere I got another dog that I called Crybaby. She was very timid and cried if anyone moved too quick. She was barely a big pup when I got her but she had evidently been abused enough to make her scared of her shadow. I only had her a little while.
The dogs slept in the barn shed in the winter, but one bitter cold night Crybaby tried to sleep on the step of the house instead and froze to death. I was sorry. She’d had a hard puppy hood and in spite of good care and love as she grew up, she was always afraid. I don’t think she was even a year old when she died.
How many more dogs through the years…. Judy dog, a little American Cocker Spaniel found at the chapter house one night; Specks, the daughter of Judy and Boy; Hungry, Specks and Boy’s son; Fidget, Billie-dog’s ‘hubby’; Snuggles, Tasha, Trouble Spider, Cookie and Aspen, a chocolate Lab who protected me after Hungry died; and finally Maxim who came to live with us after Aspen died with cancer…
Sixty long years. Many years we had more than one, but each one had its special person and was well loved. Some were house dogs and others lived outside on the farm with us. I wish our dogs could live as long as we do. Now I know Gabriel and his brother Sebastian are getting old. Their departure is coming some day before too long. Maxim is still young and so is Maggie. They can carry on when the others have to leave me as so many have in the past.