Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dogs and Names

jc likes to say that our little Shadowhead is his shadow. She really does follow him around a lot. His comment on her name got me thinking about all the dogs we had growing up.

Happy: Mother and Father bought the house they still live in to make room for a second baby when the Baptist Nun was born. Big M was devastated by the idea of the move. He was really attached to the little upstairs apartment in Port Matilda that he'd called home his whole, short life. As a sort of bribe or incentive, Mother and Father promised that he could have a puppy at the new house. Big M didn't really go for it, but they got a collie puppy anyway. She was a friendly, pleasant dog, and I don't remember her causing any more trouble than running off to roam the woods, occasionally for a few days at a time. She was bitten by a copperhead once and the flesh on the bitten leg shriveled. One day we came home from somewhere and went around the side of the house to find Happy's body. It's one of the few times I've seen Big M cry. I think it's safe to say that he wound up liking her better than the apartment after all.

Bandit: I don't remember much about Bandit, our new sheep dog, primarily because she was a One-Man Dog. She was devoted to Big M and they seemed inseparable, but she was barely civil with anyone else. I vaguely remember that she didn't like Father much at all. One day we were driving the mice out of the straw mulch in the potato patch and ending their lives with softball bats. Paul Fisher was there with us, standing at the end of the patch, bludgeoning mice. Bandit must have taken it the wrong way and decided to bite him. That's an unforgivable offence where we come from, and Bandit got a death sentence without benefit of a jury trial. It's what we called "putting her down", but just amounted to Father shooting her. At least that's what I remember.

Deputy: I don't know exactly what breed of mutt Deputy was. Grandmother got Ringo from the same litter, probably from some local farmer. Deputy's besetting sin was chasing cars. That must have been around the time that Father put up the fence around the yard. I think Deputy was finally hit by a car, but I'm not really sure.

Lady: After such bad luck with dogs in a relatively short time, we got a puppy from my cousin's dog. Father postulated that she might grow up to be a nicer dog if she had a more pleasant name. He thought maybe Deputy and Bandit had turned out so badly because of the cowboy names Big M had come up with. So the new puppy was named Lady in hopes that she would be ladlylike. One day Lady treed a raccoon. Everyone knows that 'coons that come out in daylight are likely to be rabid, and there was a possibility that Lady had bitten the 'coon. Father worried about the possibility of rabies and decreed that Lady should be quarantined. He built a long narrow pen with wood floor and wire fencing for walls and put the doghouse at one end. Even after it became obvious that Lady hadn't acquired rabies from her alleged 'coon-biting, she was still confined to the pen. She didn't have much reason to be friendly. Finally Big M took Lady with him to his new house. She died naturally at an advanced age. We found her lying out in the cold rain, but at least she didn't have to die in that pen.

Frohlich: When I moved to Utah, I got a puppy. I wasn't allowed to have an indoor dog where I lived. I don't know if I had shaken the conviction that animals should be kept outdoors by then or not, but Frohlich lived in the fenced yard. She whined and cried so much the first night that I took my sleeping bag outside and slept beside her. She was a Sheltie/Dalmatian cross. She loved to ride in the car, and when she got a chance she loved to run around the neighborhood. The best way to get her to come home was to get in the car. We went for walks and hiked the canyon together. One day when I was climbing rocks, she left the friends who were watching her to follow me and got lost. She survived a week in the wild canyon with no noticeable harm and was finally returned to me. She went back to Pennsylvania with me. One day a neighbor, driving too fast down our narrow lane, hit her. Sometimes I still miss her.

Big M has two new dogs now, one of them an indoor dog. I have my kitties. I don't think the names we give them matter that much; I think the love we give them is more important.


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