My first dog was a springer spaniel called Winston. I was three. My parents moved into my grandparent’s house, the very house my father had been born in, and my mother was pregnant with my little brother. My parents both could not imagine being without a dog so off to the Humane Society they went and found Winston. My mother, being a real dog person, recognized that this abandoned puppy was a pure-bred Springer even if he had no papers and no one had any idea how he got there. Angels that wanted a dog to look after my family I was certain. I still think this.
My father named the dog after Winston Churchill. I had no clue who that was and for a long time I thought my father had named my dog after a cigarette brand. This was the seventies and my father was a writer reduced to writing advertisements and jingles and such so I simply thought maybe my dad had written the jingle “Winston tastes like a cigarette should” and decided that was how the dog got his name.
He was a sweet and very loyal dog. It was before leash laws and before the city encroached on our property. Everywhere my brother and I went in our long childhood, so did Winston. Later there was a little mutt called Pooh (after Winnie the Pooh) that tagged along as well. We were forever having to shoo Winston from the local pool. Lake, pool, creek, it did not matter. Winston loved the water so rain, snow, or shine, he enthusiastically followed us out into our hundred-acre wood. He could snatch a duck without the use of a hunter. When he pointed, it was such a beautiful thing. He hunted whether we did or not.
No one was afraid of Winston, that sweet face, but if something or someone threatened us, he turned warrior. My brother and I were forever fighting over who Winston would sleep with until my parents banished him to the front of the house at bedtime. Winston had learned from the best, so as soon as my parents retired, Winston would sneak into my room. He was my entire childhood.
When I was nine, my maternal grandfather died. I had never seen my mom cry so hard. That is not until Winston passed away when I was a sophomore in high school. My mom wailed as if her heart had broken clean in two when he laid down in our drive way and simply drifted away. Probably chasing ducks in heaven.