Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dogs

My life has always been focused around animals. Dogs, cats, horses, chickens, rabbits, pigs, cattle, hamsters, ferrets, and bearded dragons have all been sheltered under my roof at one time or another. As a child, we mostly had dogs, cats and horses, plus animals for eating, which are not pets, although the lone rabbit that survived the first winter with us that we finally released from the hutch to live under the box car for the next ten years migrated from food to pet. We would catch her in the wood pile next to the box car and run our hands over her pelt several times a month, which she tolerated for the free carrots and goodies from our garden. She was finally killed by our neighbors dog early one fall morning and buried out back.

Anyway. We always had dogs, cats and horses. The dogs and cats kind of moved through our lives on a rotating door, due to the street out in front of our house and the people, who thought driving hell bent for leather at incredible speeds was a good idea, who made their life span a lot shorter. I also think it solidified the idea that animals were for life and should be kept safe inside. We used to do slide shows on a projector with pictures taken when I was a kid. The comments would go along like "oh look, there's a picture of  __________, he got ran over by a tractor" or "oh, yeah, didn't that cat get eaten by a coyote?" I guess that is one of the differences between life in the city and life on the farm. The number of animals we went through boggles the mind, in retrospect.

There are a number that stand out, though.

We had a dalmation dog for a couple of years, that adopted us. He followed our car home from his house and never went back, despite attempts to return him. We clocked him chasing the car at over 30 miles an hour and he loved to run. He stayed with us for a little over a year, I think, then one day he took off after another car and went home with them. According to his prior owners, that's how he ended up living with them. I guess he was a "grass is always greener" kind of dog. He heard through the grapevine that he stayed with his new owners about a year, before moving on. Got to admire his commitment to never staying in one place very long.

In 1976, the dam constructed over the Snake River called the Teton Dam (built before regulations or oversight) collapsed and sent a fuck ton of water down the Snake river. It flooded our small town, putting the main part of the town (which had been built in a flood plain) under water, including the High School. All of the canals were filled to overflowing and our basement and well flooded. (Note to self, when your well floods, do not just add grape kool-aid to the water to make it taste better.) During that disaster, rescue workers found a litter of pups, half Saint Bernard and half Great Dane. We brought one of the pups home. He was colored like a Saint Bernard, but with a Great Dane structure and short coat. We named him Dopey. He was an amazing dog.

My brother trained him to sit on command, while one of the other of us would put on a heavy down coat and run away from him across the lawn. My brother would give the word and Dopey would lope after us, taking one of our arms in his mouth and "escort" us back to my brother. By eight months old, his back was as high as my waist and he was very impressive when hackled and barking. People would refuse to get out of their car when he was outside. He was so sweet and kind, but could be really intimidating when confronted at night, in the dark. He also had narcolepsy. He would take off across the yard at a dead run and fall asleep in mid-stride, tumbling bonelessly into the grass where he would sleep for a short time before getting up again. As far as I can remember, he was shot by a neighbor who took offense to him sleeping in their garden.

The summer my parents got divorced, a friend of my mom's went on vacation and we took care of her husky mix. She was Siberian in appearance and her name was Jessie. I seem to remember she was part wolf, but don't quote me on that since it might have been something I wanted rather than the truth. I stayed home with my mom that summer while the sibs went to my grandparents place in southern California. She became my constant companion and trailed Queenie and I every where we rode. Some days we would be out for hours and on our way home I would slip behind the saddle and she would jump up in front of me, sitting sideways across the saddle, her body braced against mine. She slept on the end of my bed or on the floor next to me. We were so connected that a look could tell her what I wanted. She would tail me out in the fields moving pipe, her tail waving above the stalks of wheat so I knew where the pipe needed to be laid (trust me that job really sucked - I was moving irrigation pipe from one place in the field to the next. Sometimes twice a day. The pipe was four inches in diameter and needed to be moved from one row in the field to another row 45' away. Potato fields were the easiest, since you could walk across the tops of the rows and the plants were short. Moving pipe in grown wheat was hard work and no fun.) One day, toward the end of the summer, Jessie's owners pulled up in their mini van, opened the door and Jessie was gone. I didn't even have a chance to say goodbye.

My next dog was when I was nineteen and living on my own. She was a sweet Malamute-Wolf mix with bright blue eyes and strong markings. I got her at eight weeks old and she was maybe three months old when I moved into a house where we had a small fenced yard. She loved being out in the yard during the day and then slept on my bed at night. One day I came home and she was on her side in the yard barely breathing. I carried her into the house and bundled her up in front of the heater. It was almost midnight and I had no way to get her to the vet, even if I had known where to take her at that point in my life. She never regained consciousness and died a couple of hours later, with some bloody froth at her lips. I buried her in the yard the next day. About a week later I heard from a friend that there had been a rash of poisonings in that part of town. Almost thirty dogs had been killed with meat laced with rat poison thrown into their yards all in a ten block radius.

It was a long time before I had another dog.

We started with Joey after I received a threatening, untraceable phone call and then was told by the police to either buy a gun or get a dog. We opted for a boxer. Then I got stupid and bred her to a dog without a written contract with the male dog's owner, had three pups and then got sued. We opted to keep the pups, so ended up with my boxer rainbow.


Things I loved most about them:
  • Spike loved rocks. Big rocks. The bigger the better. He would find a rock buried in the ground and work at it until he got it free. Then he would attempt to pick it up and carry it around. We would go to the dog park and the other three dogs would be tearing around like mad and Spike would be playing with a rock right next to me.
  • Red was T's from the moment she was born. He was only four, but he picked her up in his hands, kissed the top of her head and said "this is my little redhead". She was super gentle with him, never offered to bite or snap, and played with him all of the time. She was the reason we went to court: we wanted her to be our dog.
  • They were one of the big reasons the Dead Indians liked to visit. They would be laying in the bedroom and the Indians would stick their heads out of the wall and tease the dogs. The dogs would suddenly burst out with the patented "woo-woo-woo" and take off down the hall, like a dog river. 
  • Spike would chase a laser light in circles until he fell over. I took him outside one night in the snow and raced him up and down the sidewalk, until I realized he had destroyed the nails on all four feet on the concrete beneath the snow. 
  • Guinness knew she was J's and if I gave her a command she would look at J for confirmation before doing whatever I told her to do. Pissed me off.
  • They loved camping. Loved it. They would run and run and run until they couldn't move any more. 
  • At the dog park, when it was time to leave, all I would have to say is "let's go, girls" and they would stop whatever they were doing to meet me at the gate.  
  • They would shake when they needed to go outside. They would yip when they expected to be fed. Guinness taught that language to the new pups when we brought them home.
Then they were gone. And J and I couldn't imagine a life without at least two dogs. So we brought home Lily and Skittle.

 They are such a joy.

One of Lily's fave games. Skittle will attack her from the top of the bag and they will fight through the cloth. This happens with blankets on the bed, as well.

Lily the snuggle bug.
She is also the protector. And funny.

They do great in the car, but have an issue with going potty on leash. We usually have to find a dog park to let them run when we are traveling.

They love to play. (I don't even remember why Lily has the shirt on). 
The house is scattered with toys.

It's amazing to me how many people who are horse people are also dog people. Or maybe it's just that we are animal people in general.

3 comments:

  1. We recently added a second pup to our family, and I've loved every minute of it <3

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  2. I lurve boxers! I grew up with them and lucky me, my aunt and uncle have had boxers well into my adulthood so I could continue to enjoy the lovable goofs even if I can't have a dog right now. Lovely dogs.

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