dogs, Writing

Dogs of November – Gray Ghost

WeimeranerMy family history could easily be told from the point of view of all the dogs that have accompanied my kin and their ancestors going back a couple of centuries at least. I have often thought I might write such a book one day.

Early in my grandparents marriage, they adopted a Weimeraner they named Marie. Of course, I never knew this dog, but there was a photo of her standing by my grandparents mailbox at the end of their property. I wish I could find that photo. It was an old black and white thing, cracked and crinkled along the edges.

WeimeranerBlackWhiteMy grandmother adored this dog. She was sixteen when she got married, delivered my uncle soon after, and she and my grandfather fought their way through a great depression. Marie came along with my father as the depression of the 1930s was finally ending, and America entered the fray of World War II.  This type of dog was commonly called “gray ghost” because of its sleek coat and the way it moved with such grace and silence.

Weimeraner2My grandmother described this dog as a very one person dog. If she or my grandfather left their little farmhouse to venture away for any time, they would find her awaiting their return at the mailbox. She would even sometimes follow them to neighboring homes. I remember hearing about Marie when I was a teenager, having tea with my grandmother. When she would speak of the dogs she owned through the ages, I would always see this great fondness for each of them in her eyes, and then the sadness at the loss of them. I pray, in her heaven, she has quite the pack of all her old dogs who waited to greet her.

dogs, Writing

Dogs of November – Border Collie

BorderCollie1My grandmother had a history of rescuing dogs. In fact, she left much of her money to the Humane Society when she died. As a child, family mythology says, my grandmother would go to nearby farms and “rescue” dogs she found there. In the evening, when her father would return from the fields in Memphis, Tennessee, he would make her go and return the 5-20 dogs she had “rescued” that day back to the neighbors.

She never stopped her determination to make sure all animals had a good home. She always had at least three dogs and an array of cats. After I finished school, when I moved out on my own, I frequently helped her with these animals. One day, she found a beautiful border collie called Babette. The dog was the smartest animal I had ever met, and I wanted the animal so badly.

BorderPuppyHowever, I did not have a sheep ranch in Montana. I was in my early twenties, starting graduate school, and living in a tiny studio apartment. Babette was great to take on runs, bike rides, to play soccer at the park (except the part where she would eat the ball and not give it back once she got it).

Here’s the thing about border collies.  They need a job, stimulation. If you don’t give them something to do, they will make something up and you will not like it. After Babette had destroyed all the furniture in my apartment, eaten or soiled all my shoes, I realized I was not a good owner for this animal. My best friend, another avid supporter of the canine, thought her parents could take the animal. They had a lot of property.

But no sheep. So by and by, we found Babette a dairy farm and that was the ticket. Border Collies are great dogs, especially if you have a farm and preferably lots of sheep. Her new home had cows and goats, and on follow-up, the farmer said she was the best herding dog he had ever had.  I still have visions of getting a castle with a moat, ample grounds, and sheep so a border collie might join my pack.

dogs, Writing

Dogs of November – German Shepherd Dog

GSD1The German Shepherd Dog is a heroic breed. This dog can be a fabulous and inquisitive companion as well as a partner and do a better hard day’s work than many able-bodied humans. They have worked fields, do rescue work, are fabulous detectives, guard soldiers in and out of battle, and have a courage few can match.

GSD2I would include a GSD in my pack if ever there is a castle to guard. I wonder if the dog can be trained to guard a library and assist a dragon in guarding a moat? I suppose anything is possible. A young police officer lives in my building along with his canine partner, a very beautiful German Shepherd Dog that has better manners than anyone I have met in an age.

dogs, Writing

Dogs of November – Mean Jo

MeanJoThe first story I ever published was called “The Killing of Mean Jo”. I was seventeen and it was based on the true tale of mangy, flea-bitten stray that changed the neighborhood’s worst bully into a pretty decent kid.  Here is the true tale as best I remember it.

Puberty was still in the future. I ran with a rough pack of dogs and kids, the only girl to be found in that stretch of my woods. We were always helping the local animal shelter find strays and place them in homes. It was not something we even thought about much, but there was this one stray, a mutt that looked a rough cross between shepherd and collie. It was the meanest dog, and we could not catch it.

In the group we ran with there was also a ragged boy who had a mean streak like a viper, the son of a cruel man that was given to beating his boys.  He was a terrible bully, always trying to intimidate younger kids to his will. It mostly left him alone in the neighborhood. How it went for him in school, I have no idea.

We did not know any of the horrors going on inside the bully’s house. He made up elaborate stories to explain every cast. Anyhow, this stray took to attacking lots of the other dogs in the neighborhood until this one boy decided to take him on. The boy and dog became inseparable. He named this dog, Mean Jo after a famous football player. Finally, this boy had something to love and that loved him in return. It is the miracle of dogs, that bond they can form. The two became pack and all of us boys and dogs became the larger pack.

Suddenly, Mean Jo and the bully began to play with us and our dogs, became one of us, although highly disruptive, even more so than my springer, Winston. Then one day, Mean Jo ran after a ball, a squirrel, something and was hit by a truck driving way too fast on our country road by two teenagers out for a joy ride. In my story, the bully put Mean Jo down in an act of compassion, but that was not the truth. In reality, one of the neighbors happened to be a vet, came down to the road with their medical bag and put Mean Jo out of its misery while we held the bully back as he wailed and raged. It damn near broke this young man. He never had a dog again, not during our childhood anyhow.

dogs, Writing

Dogs of November – Springer Spaniel

SpringMy 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.

Winston2My 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.

WinstonHe 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.

 

 

 

dogs, Writing

Dogs of November – Irish Wolfhound

IrishWolfhoundI always wanted an Irish Wolfhound. I was going to call him Rufus and we were going to get us a castle, an old style castle – you know with a moat and a draw bridge and possibly a dragon. These are super sweet dogs, but they are also very large dogs. And as such, they don’t typically live as long as smaller breeds and they do need a bit of space to stretch their legs. They are a coursing hound and can gain great speed over short distances.

Irish2Their history is fascinating. As their name implies, they were once used to guard against wolves which overran Ireland in the 15th century. They did their job too well and hunted wolves almost to extinction. They themselves were endangered for a time from having no more use.  That kind of makes me sad for both wolf and hound.

wall architecture castle england

The saying about this hound is gentle to the stroke, fierce when provoked. A great dog to be sure. Especially if you have a medieval style castle somewhere in Ireland.

 

 

dogs, Writing

Dogs of November – Australian Shepherd

 

AussieMy daughter was four when I volunteered with a dog rescue. On the first adoption I worked, I could not find a sitter for my kid so she came along. We had about five dogs that needed rescuing and a bunch of cats. It was easier with the cats, far less maintenance. One of the dogs had come to the rescue because its people had died. The son of these people brought the dog in and said put her down. He didn’t have room. It was a beautiful Australian Shepherd called Lady.

Aussie2My daughter fell in love with that dog at first sight. We adopted her though I had little room and not much bandwidth for a dog, but we got both a dog and a cat. I didn’t volunteer for rescue adoptions anymore. I did not have room for the farm’s worth of animals that would likely come our way.

Lady helped me raise my daughter. As we had no sheep, Lady took to herding my kid and her friends. She ran with me in the mornings, accompanied us on our trips to both the beach and the mountains. She tried to keep the beavers that claimed the back of our property away and was bitten in the leg by a particularly mean one that stole a good portion of our backyard fence. She guarded us like nothing else could. Fourteen years at our sides through thick and thin.

If I ever have opportunity to have. property with a yard and the time, I would love to have another Aussie.