Monday, January 3, 2011

Heart Prints

Every dog I've ever had has left paw prints on my heart, going all the way back to the stray that showed up when I was a little girl and I wheedled my mother into keeping.  (Mother was not an animal person.)  When my Kids were small, a dog who lived across the street came over to play.  Then she would stay all day, and then started following the Kids to school, and finally would spend the night on our porch, going home only to eat.  The Kids adored her.  During this while, she found time to entertain gentlemen callers and was in "a delicate condition."  One day the owner came over and said, "Well, it's pretty obvious Muffin would rather live with you than with us.  If you want her, just give me pick of the litter, and she's yours," and the Kids had their first dog.  (Make that "dogs," because she had three puppies within a week.)  Muffin was a perfect James M. Barry Nana of a dog.  I never had to worry about the Kids roaming the hills of Chino because Muffin was their protector.  She couldn't bear to see a sibling squabble and would get in between the combatants.  Muffin was a funny looking, long-haired, short-legged terrier mix with a bulbous black nose that she would press hard against your leg when she was feeling needy.  If that didn't work, she would hold up one paw and limp until she got the attention she wanted.  Muffin was born to be a mother.  We kept one of her later puppies, Frannie, and when Frannie had a litter of her own (no one was as conscientious about spaying dogs back then), Muffin took over the care of the puppies, making Frannie get in the box when the babies were to be fed, then chasing her off while she cleaned and cuddled the little ones.  Frannie, relieved of all responsibilities, remained a blithe spirit throughout her life.

Gildas, called Gillie, was a Welsh Corgi with a great sense of humor.  At a tiny two months old, she came into our lives and immediately herded Muffin and Frannie into a corner and made them stay.  She developed a taste for beer and would suck spilled booze out of the couch cushions, and no one could pass gas and hope to blame it on someone else because Gillie would stand behind the offender, pointing like no bird dog could.  When a guest arrived, Gillie would come running, flip on her back and slide all the way to their feet, belly up and waiting for a rub.

Chauncey, a huge English sheepdog, made the fourth dog in my household after the kids had left home.  Muffin and Frannie thought he was a handsome dude, but he lost his heart to Gillie.  There was great disparity in size and their love was never consummated (thank goodness!), but it wasn't for lack of trying, and he never strayed to another.

Dogie, the throw-away dog who was left here when her owners moved, was in a class by herself and is worthy of a book of her own...a story for another day.  She never walked; she had a high-stepping prance, and when I think of her, it is always as "my little dancing girl."  Dogie was one of those once-in-a-lifetime dogs.  She is still here on the farm, wrapped in her favorite blanket, with milk bones and her favorite hedgehog toy, and she is always in my heart.

The photo is of Bessie Anne, my constant companion, and it is how I see her.  She is a watch dog.  Not a guard dog, necessarily...she just watches.  It was a drizzling rain day, but she sits outside the fence, rain or shine, while I'm tending to the goats, and she watches.  She will sit at the end of the deck or on the porch step...and watch.  I so often wonder what she sees and what she's thinking as she looks out over her domain.  Years ago, there were cartoon characters, a sheepdog and a wolf/coyote, and I think their names were Sam and Ralph, and they would punch a time clock as they started their day sitting on a hill.  I think of them when I see Bessie Anne, watching.  She is with me always, asleep behind me right now, gently snoring, patiently waiting until I move to the next room, the next chore, and she'll be ready.  I just can't imagine life without a four-legged friend.

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

You make your wonderful 4-leggers come to life. I can't IMAGINE that there are people who don't love dogs, but I know there are. My grandmother used to tell the story of Ruff, a Belgian Shepherd type. He was not exactly a throw away dog, but more like a boomerang. It was in the late 1930's and Ruff's owner, for some reason, had to give him away, and apparently he didn't take to his new family, because he found his way back to his previous apartment, discovered that his beloved owners were no longer there, and he was in mourning. My great aunt had rented the apartment and luckily for everyone, my grandmother figured that this wonderfully well-mannered gentle soul would do well in their home with the 10 and 14 year old boys. And I have to laugh, Bo, because my grandmother used to say that she could always tell when Don and Jack (the boys) were tussling because Ruff would come to the kitchen and hide under the stove (which, in those days, was on tall legs), because he couldn't bear to see them squabble, and of course couldn't take sides. Sounds like Muffin and Ruff were the best of the best!!