1. Rip: Yes, that really was his name. (I did not name him!) He was a German Shepherd. Strong and fiercely loyal and protective. A bit too fiercely protective, on occasion. Some of my earliest memories were playing with Rip, and he was always super gentle with me. There is a story of me playing on my tricycle, and not being particularly mindful of my mom’s admonitions to stay in the driveway, away from the street. But, me being me, I decided to ride my trike towards the street again. Rip, knowing from my mom’s tone, that this was “bad”, gently grabbed my shirt with his teeth, and pulled me off the trike. I heard that he barked at me, until Mom came out and took charge. But, in all his gentleness with me, he sometimes took the protection too far. I recall how he attacked a friend of mine who was playing, in Rip’s view, too rough with me. Rip tackled the boy, and put a mouth on his arm. It was not a real bite, but it scared the bejeesus out of my friend! (The next day, that same boy made me cry, threatening to take Rip to the pound.)
2. Sasha: She was a neighbor’s dog. She was not in my life for very long, but I do remember how playful she was — both with Rip and me. She was SO sweet. My main memory of her was chasing and barking at me, while I rolled down our hill in a cardboard box.
3. Blackie: Only knew this stray mutt for a few days. He came wandering by, and I “adopted” him. The only thing I recall of Blackie was the morning that I had to give him up. Mom and Dad were insistent that they did not want another dog. So, they called the pound to come pick him up. (For all I know, it could have been an arranged adoption, but I recall it being the “pound.”) I sat on our front porch with Blackie and cried for about3 hours, waiting for his departure, and then as he left — and for a while afterwards.
4. Sunshine: Sunshine was a border collie mix. She was my brother Dave’s dog. I believe she accompanied him when he arrived at our house in Monroe City, MO – a stop along his vagabond path. Dave and Sunshine lived with us for about a year. Sunshine adored Rip (who was getting older and more mellow). And I LOVED Sunshine! She was so sweet, like most collies. I looked forward to getting home from school each day, so I could play with her and Rip. I would not have liked it if and when she left with Dave, on the next leg of his indeterminate path. But, tragedy cut her life short. She was struck by a car one night. I don’t recall the details, but remember her mangled body. And, remember the sound of the shot, when David put her down with Dad’s 22 rifle. We buried her in the human graveyard just a mile or so from our house.
5. Sooner: I don’t really recall Rip’s death, but I know that soon after Sunshine died, we were dogless. One weekend when my sister, Mona, was home from college, she and I talked my Dad into getting another one. We pleaded and plotted, until he relented. He brought home another border collie pub, this one brown-and-white vs Sunshine’s black-and-white. We named him Sooner, after our favorite football team. He was MY dog! I raised him; walked him; picked up after him; fed him. He and I were best buddies — always together, unless I was at school (or delivering newspapers.) He would sit under my legs when I read on the porch. Mom did not let dogs in her house, so he could not sleep in my bed. But not infrequently, I would go hang out with him in his doghouse. (It was always a bit crowded in there, but he did not seem to mind.) While he was much more gentle than Rip, he also was protective of me. One time, Mona was home again, and we were walking Sooner. She and I were giving each other a hard time, and she got too rambunctious for Sooner’s taste. He did not growl, or threaten — he just got up on his hind legs, put his paws on Mona’s chest, and basically told her to back off. Sooner was my love! But I broke his heart. When I went away to college, he never really understood. He was always SO excited to see me when I came home for a weekend, or for vacation. But, while Dad took good care of him, he was never the same playful pup. His person had pretty much abandoned him. It is one of the greatest regrets of my life!
6. Tanqueray: Yes, like the gin. Obviously, she was a frat dog. I am not quite sure who brought Tank to the Sig House — I think it may have been Marty. But, she quickly became queen of the house. She was always watchful, barked at any delivery man or other passerby, and even once jumped out an open window to put chase to a (turned out harmless) “stranger” in our yard. Everyone on campus knew Tank, too. She would go with various brothers to class — sometimes the professor would even let her stay. Most times, however, she would just wait outside the building until class was out, or see another brother walking along, and go with him. I recall one time when the campus security guard’s car pulled up the house, and when he opened his door, Tank jumped out. We were worried that we were in trouble for letting her roam free. But, no he said, she was just done with her duty of doing rounds with him. One day in the summer, Tank disappeared. The brothers living there over the break looked everywhere for her. We put up fliers in the neighborhood, checked the pound, etc. About a month and a half later, another brother (home for the summer a couple hours drive from the house) was at a ballgame, and there was Tank! He walked up to the man with Tank, and asked how he got her. Turns out, he bought her from someone else. (We always suspected that a member of a rival fraternity had kidnapped her.) He was not happy about letting go of Tank, but after some discussion, he realized that she already had a home, and many people who loved her. I was not still in school when Tank passed, but I’m sure she died amongst MANY people who loved her!
7. Annie: Annie was a Golden Retriever. My (not yet) fiancée, Katie, and I adopted her as a puppy. She was our first child! She lived with us in Norman, OK, Dallas, TX, and then two homes in Colorado. She was not a typical golden. She was never really that friendly, did not like kids, and hated the water! But, we loved her nonetheless. Many fond memories with Annie, but one sticks out: Katie, Annie, and I were camping in south central Texas, at a place called Enchanted Rock. It was a hot Texass summer day! Annie was gung ho for a hike at first, but she soon tired. It got to the point where she would go between tree and the next tree, and stop in the shade of each. She basically refused to go on. So, I picked her up, and fireman carried her over my shoulders — for about a mile. She was humiliated, but happy all the same, not to have to walk.
8. Grace: Grace was anything but — she was named ironically. She was abandoned in our front yard in Dallas when she was a puppy. They even left her food and water bowl. (I’ve always speculated that the dad was sick of her, and wanted her out, but the kid insisted on leaving her food bowl.) I first saw her when I was doing some gardening in the front yard. She was so eager to be around a person. She kept running up to me, but if I bent over to pet her, she ran off. This went on all days. Finally, Katie and I decided to let her in the back yard, to see if she and Annie got along. Well, they were best friends! So, Gracie moved in with us. She was not particularly well trained, so she slept in the small sun room, that was just big enough for an old love seat — that served as a luxurious bed for Gracie the mutt. She was such a fast dog, and a little bit of a “bolter”. If she saw the front door open just a bit, she would bolt out, and run into the neighborhood. And no amount of yelling or cajoling could get her to come back. She came back when she wanted to. One time, I got completely frustrated with her. So, I picked up a small rock in my driveway and flung it at her. I never expected to get close, as she was 50 feet away. But, the rock hit her square on the rump. She whelped, and came right back. Somehow, her dad had spanked her from across the street! From then on, she was a much better listener.
Gracie died in my basement. We believe she had an obstruction in her bowels. One morning, I went down to get her, and she was just dead &msash; and Annie was laying next to her. I was a wreck. I went upstairs and woke Katie, just wailing out “She’s Dead! She’s Dead!” Not a very friendly waking. Annie died about 6 months later — I will always believe out of loneliness for her bestie.
9. Buddy: So, it was now Ben and Katie’s turn to conspire against me to get a new puppy. (It all comes around, doesn’t it?) They chose to get a pure bred Australian Shepherd. They drove down south to near New Mexico I believe to pick him up. He was a beautiful black tricolor — such a little ball of fur. The two of them could not decide on a name. He was Romeo before Buddy, and something else too. But eventually, he became Buddy. And, inevitably, he eventually became my dog. (I have always said that Kids and Dogs love me; Adults not so much.) That dog was SO fast! I often let him run at the nearby schoolyard, and I once saw him catch a fox — who had a 50ft headstart! That dog had a whole other gear for foxes! When Buddy was 5, I found out he had lymphoma. I recall lying down on the kitchen floor with him, and crying my eyes out. Buddy had been my confidant through a very hard divorce. And my Dad had died just a month before the news. It was a really hard night. But, I was determined to give him a good ending. I spent around a thousand a month for chemo, at a university veterinary oncology center. Buddy and I had a great summer — did lots of hikes, spent all our time together. Then, one day, I came back and he was just not good at all. The chemo was losing its edge. The vet said we could try other chemo therapies. But, I figured that he and I had our summer together. It was time to let him go. I buried another dog.
10. Cocoa: Well, of course, my kids soon teamed up against me, and soon (a few months) after Buddy died, we had another dog. Cocoa (so named by Ellie even though she was black not brown) was another Australian Shepherd. She was not a pure bred, but she was just as sweet if not more so, than Buddy. (Although, Cocoa never had Buddy’s wheels.) Cocoa was a great companion, to me, and to my sister Mona’s dogs. She and her “cousins” spent many good times together. Plus, Cocoa had a friend at home. About a year after we brought her home, we adopted a kitty, named Chloe (also by Ellie.) They were both black with white shields, and gotten along very well. (Chloe always pretended to be annoyed by Cocoa, but also always missed her when she was away.) Cocoa was with me for almost 11 years. One evening in spring, she started acting weird — would just stand there and look at her water. The next morning, she seemed fine. So, I figured I just watch. The next day, we had a huge snowstorm (almost 3 feet in 24 hours.) Cocoa was not good that morning. She would struggle to get up off the ground, but always try when she saw me. (She was a daddy’s girl.) Finally, she just laid there. It was nearly impossible to get around town, and most places were closed. But I found an emergency vet that was opened, and talked to them. I determined to wait an hour and if she was not better, to brave the weather and take her in. She died within that hour. I have never had a dog die in front of me before. (All our other pets were “put down” at the vet behind closed doors — except for Sunshine.) It was actually kinda peaceful. She and I just sat together and I watched her take her last breath. I laid down with her for a while. Then, called Max down and let him know. I am not afraid to show emotion in front of my kids, but I still do not cry in front of them much. But, I did that day with Max. I told him that pets are a blessing in my life. But, when you have pets, you understand that you will outlive them — all but the last one. It is bittersweet — but the love is so worth it.
11. Maggie: Now, to my current (and likely not last) puppy. Maggie was NOT my idea! Ellie was not in a good way. She was in the middle of a lot of heartbreak after breaking up with a long-term boyfriend. She needed Maggie! She wanted so much to have a “dog of her own”, that would be just hers. She picked out this German Shepherd puppy. (It is all full circle now.) All the way home, Ellie sat in the back seat with Maggie and cried. How could a Dad refuse that? Ellie was pretty involved with raising Maggie — for a while. But, inevitably perhaps (and deep down, not a surprise to me), I became responsible for her. And was a LOT! She was singlehandedly, by far, the most destructive dog I’ve ever owned. There were many times I seriously considered giving her away. Let’s see — couch destroyed; chair torn up; matching ottoman to the chair; two living room chairs; garden pond including pump; tomato garden; piano bench. I’m sure I’m missing something. But, now (after 2 years), she is my buddy! She is around me all the time (sound familiar). I work from home, so she has me around a lot. (Of course, Chloe is still puttering around too.) She is my first real hiking buddy too — been on a few camping and backpacking trips already. I look forward to spending many fun years with this girl!