In search of a real dog

Been a little preoccupied with thoughts of dogs lately. In spite of the fact that I have one too many right now, I can’t help wishing I had something bigger and more real. Except for a brief stint right after I got married, I have always had at least one by my side. The present one, however, – well, let’s start at the beginning.

In the final days of my sainted Black Labrador, I was adopted by another great one.  He was big and sleek, and would protect me with his life.  I remember him facing down my dad once in the garden, spitting Jack London snarls, because Dad approached me from behind with a hoe in his hand.  That sandy colored dog wouldn’t have anybody, even someone in the household, approaching his girl.  Dad wasn’t impressed at his loyalty or amused at what the showdown looked like.  “Oh, buddy, leave Dad alone” was enough to put the big dog back to soaking up sunshine on the grass behind me, while Dad uneasily turned some dirt.  I never thought about it until now, but I didn’t get much help with anything in those days….

Of course, I don’t miss the day I had to answer the insurance adjuster inquiring about a claim that my dog had tackled a lady on the sidewalk in front of the house.  The lady was carrying a yapping, miniature devildog at the time.  At least the beastlet sounded like a dog, but it bore a striking resemblance to one of Alvin’s Chipmunks in its orange sweater.  When it aggressively approached, my 100 lb. Lab went to investigate, which frightened the skittish owner.  She ran away down the street with the little vermin still hurling insults over her shoulder.  I never saw the incident in question, although I remembered all the details.  It was strange, though, that the insurance adjuster said the lady didn’t have a mark on her, but she herself was rubbing a nasty little bite on her ankle as we spoke.

My all-time best beau was the one who spent twelve amazing years by my side.  He’d pin the mailman to the wall behind the screen door, and retrieve the fluttering “attempted delivery” notice on the days he ran past rather than risk his life.   Yet the huge Rott mix wouldn’t step over the decorative 18″ garden edging that marked the limits of our front yard.   He chased creepy bad guys from our garage at midnight and  leaped the Dutch door in a single bound to rescue the baby from the pool before she ever hit the water.  I never missed a minute of sleep as long as he was by my side.

There’s just something about a big dog that speaks calm to me.  Fido has all the externals handled and I can focus on my own duties.

My current dog does not qualify, in my mind, as big. I got up this morning to let him out for air.  But as I opened the back door, all my hens rushed to greet me, wondering what tasty goodies I might offer them.  The gutless cur backed warily away from the opening, dread in his eyes.   What a chicken.  His predatory instincts have been selectively bred into insanity.  I cannot believe this is one of the few dogs I actually paid money for.

This is the same dog that will take on a full size bull, running circles around and under him to move him off our lot while dodging kicks, head butts, and charging.  He is fast enough to outrun a speeding bullet, agile enough to trip up an antelope, and smart enough to anticipate my next command all at once.  As long as I don’t step on the baby’s missing squeaky toy, of course, which would transport him instantly under the desk, leaving his empty pelt behind.  I had heard that purebred Border Collies could have eccentricities, but I thought that panic attacks when the toaster popped would be rare.  I was wrong.

The bicolored prince at my feet is pretty good, though, as long as my top priority is to keep the children rounded up in a neat flock while never alerting strangers to his presence.  I’ve found him hiding behind the chimney while the cat growled down a coyote.  That’s sad; I’m deciding which sign would be better on the front gate, the one that says, “Beware – Guard Kitty” or “I can make it from the gate to the house in under 2.5 seconds; can you wait that long?”

But I must admit, I did not buy him as a guard dog.  I’d hoped he’d step up to the plate occasionally,  but didn’t actually include it on his job description.

I bolted off the couch one night to hear yelping in the front yard.  Before I could reach the door, it was hit – hard – by something outside.  I hesitated before opening it, not sure what I’d find.  I found my very scared mutt, his beautiful white tresses covered in blood spatters, scrambling to get inside.  I went for the hose, wondering what could’ve happened to him.  It must have been traumatic and very close for him to look like this.  A few minutes later, a stray that’d been hanging around trotted up happily, half a rabbit in her mouth.  Oh, I’m seriously embarrassed now.  He was squirming every which way, trying to get away from her and that disgusting thing.

And then my brother called to tell me how his dog saved his life from a feral hog one night, requiring several thousand stitches and dollars to put back together.  Bro himself was unscathed and had sausage and chops enough for his entire family for a year.   “Old Yeller’s worth his weight in gold, I’m convinced,”  he said.  I threw a glance at YellaPanties and congratulated little Bro on a fine dog there.  I pray I’m never confronted with something that dangerous.  They’ll find me in a thousand pieces, scattered through the branches of a dozen trees.  But Sheepish will be catching his breath back at home in front of the fire, with my son stroking his head and feeding him bites off a fresh, homemade cookie.

Yep – a good dog, who can find?  His worth is far above rubies, that is certain.  The worth of a dog can never be measured in coin. If so, I could congratulate myself on the one dog I paid for. He has carefully groomed bloodlines and exquisite good looks.  And should I ever need a flock of sheep rounded up, or a specific doe cut out of the herd, he’s my dog.  I’m just fresh out of sheep and goats at the moment.  I need a big, black, alley-bred beast who’s probably unwanted in any civilized suburban neighborhood. One that can watch the yard so Princey-Poo can go back to his place on the couch.


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