Friday, December 30, 2016

THE DOGS I HAVE LOVED—FLEAS AND ALL

My mind is on dogs because of my newest book THE TRUE STORY OF JIM THE WONDER DOG.  It’s about an amazing—perhaps clairvoyant—Missouri Depression Era hunting dog.  Yes it is!
I love dogs and can’t imagine my life without them.  They are truly our best friends and perhaps, except for fleas, in many ways superior to humans in their capacity for love and forgiveness. Another amazing Missourian, Mark Twain, once said, “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”

In this blog I want to celebrate the four dogs that have graced our family’s lives.  But, I don’t want to be too hagiographic.  I’ll also celebrate their foibles.

Zelda (named after Zelda Fitzgerald) was our first dog.  She was a gorgeous Samoyed. Samoyeds are also called the smiling breed, and Zelda seemed to smile all the time. We bought her when my husband was still in law school.  She was my buddy and went everywhere that I did—she loved Big Macs and jogging.  We bred her and she delivered puppies on New Year’s Eve.  Zelda was with us until my first child turned one.  She died in an accident and left a hole in our hearts.

Foible:  Zelda loved Bic ballpoint pens.  She ate them, but never seemed to suffer any ill effects.  I found their corpses in the yard and throughout the house.  I guess that was the pen my husband used for his studies, but somehow she always got them.

Uncas (named after Fennimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans) was Zelda’s grandchild.  Our neighbor had bought one of Zelda’s pups and bred her.  We were able to add another wonderful Samoyed to our family in less than a year after we lost our beloved first dog.  Uncas was my daughter’s favorite.  A calm, wonderful pooch, he was probably the most beautiful dog we ever owned.
Foible:  We never had Uncas neutered.  That handsome devil made many escapes over the fence or through the front door during his life looking for love.  Only problem was that he could never find his way back.  He was so good looking that he attracted attention and kind people always called (our number was etched on his tag) when they found him. We were lucky.

Duncan (we just liked the name) was a dignified Scottish terrier with a killer sense of humor.  After Uncas died of old age our Samoyed dynasty ended. We decided to try a terrier.  Duncan was short and black and loving.  But, like all terriers, always seemed to be snickering to himself—muttering, “You really think I’m going to do what you say?”  He was my son’s favorite dog and would constantly nag that teenage boy to come out and play.  Duncan could dribble a soccer ball across the yard at lightening speed.

Foible:  When we brought little puppy Duncan home he immediately went over to an electric light cord, bit it, and got shocked.  It was on a Sunday.  I went to church and reported to another member of the congregation.  She said our dog would probably lose his teeth because of that.  That upset me and I felt new dog owner guilt—why hadn’t I kept my new little puppy safe from harm?  Of course, she was wrong.  Duncan sported beautiful, rather intimidating big terrier teeth his whole life. 

Scarlett (named after Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind).  After Duncan went to dog heaven we decided we loved the sassiness of terriers and acquired Scarlett.  She was incredibly gentle and loving with every one of our five grandchildren.  Scarlett was the official dog for three families.  I think as dog owners we evolved and made fewer mistakes with her.  She lived 12 and ½ full and happy years years and we treasure our memories of her.  


Foible:  We found out that Scarlett loved pumpkin—especially in a pie. Our wonderful neighbor who bakes the best pumpkin pie gave us one for Thanksgiving.  All our dinner guests enjoyed the main course while Scarlett slept on her rug beside my husband’s chair.  (Perhaps he bragged too much about her controlled, reliable behavior during meals.)  The desserts were on the kitchen table.  When it was time to cut the pie I discovered the crust had been licked clean and Scarlett had a suspiciously gooey moustache.  Lesson learned, now pumpkin pies are kept high and safe from the long paws of any Airedale.

Hawkeye (named after Natty Bumppo in The Last of the Mohicans) is our newest furry family member. We love Airedale Terriers but decided that acquiring another female would invite comparison.  So far this rambunctious terrier is his own man.  We are thoroughly enjoying the adventure of raising a new and wonderful puppy.

Foible:  He is too cute.  I must not spoil him!!


Dogs to me are a blessing.  They have enriched my life. Mark Twain also said, “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's.”  Well, I might not go that far, but if there is a heaven and I make it there, I hope my dogs are included.

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