I can’t really remember a time that I didn’t have a dog. My mom had a small, white poodle when she got married and after I was born, it was the first dog I was around. If I remember right, Poodle disappeared out of the back yard and soon we had Frazzle, a Cairn Terrier. Scruffy and small as well, he got out and that was that. We moved and soon had a dalmatian, Daisy. I loved the idea of a dog that rode with firemen. I thought she was so cool and loved showing her off to my friends when they came over. She nipped someone, though and went to live on a friend’s farm. Then came Luke. He was a beautiful, silky English Setter that slung slobber every time he shook his head. He was a Christmas puppy and I took him to obedience school to turn him into a super dog. He stayed home when I left for boarding school but I got to hug his neck on holidays.
When I graduated from high school, I lived in the city and had to get my “dog kisses” when I went home. There were all kinds of animals to squeeze and pet. Raccoons, cats, dogs, horses. In my mind, I had to live in town though, in order to be a part of the social scene that was of top priority to me at the time. A dog in an apartment was not going to work.
A few years later, a friend’s dog had puppies and I got Nicolaus, a very formal name that soon turned into Nicki. He was the kind of dog that would wear glasses and a hat and walk around, not trying to take them off. He rode in the ski boat every summer and was my first dog to follow me horseback. Good old Nicki, I loved him to pieces.
Then came Veronica, aka: Ronnie. Given to me by a horse trainer, she was sleek, delicate and what people around here call a “varmint dog” A hound of sorts with some working dog blood in her background, her genes made her very helpful when I started training horses full-time. She would help me bring along a stubborn colt or hold a horse in the stall while I cleaned manure. She lived to 18 and I thought I would never have another dog. Too painful when they left this world.
Then Punkin showed up at the front gate. I wasn’t going to keep her but fell in love after two weeks and the rest of the story was a 9 or 10 year love affair with the dog that smiled. It’s funny how after Punkin passed away, I knew I needed a bit of time to grieve but was very ready to get another dog. Her companionship had been so therapeutic, that lonesome empty spot beside me needed to be filled.
I had a very definite type of dog in mind. I set about looking for it and spent hours on the internet looking at breeder’s websites and the rescue websites, pouring over photos of dogs looking for homes. I really didn’t want to pay a breeder. There are so many dogs out there to be adopted that to pay for one did not interest me. I knew the dog would show his face sooner or later.
One day, I was out-of-town and sitting in a hotel room looking at dog faces on the computer screen. I came across a female with about 8 pups hanging off of her teats like a sculpture from an ancient Roman ruin.
I had a feeling this was it but I closed the laptop and went to bed. I wasn’t ready to make the call. My husband kept bugging me. Have you called yet, he would ask. I wasn’t ready.
I got off by myself after a few days and listened to my heart. Another dog is a big commitment. When I raise a pup, I do not have a yard to keep it in. It will be exposed to many dangers that go along with being a ranch dog. Getting stepped on by horses, coyotes, bobcats, cattle. He has to come when I call because it could save his life, not just be a convenience to me. He would have to learn to ride in the back of a truck and not jump out while we are moving, he would have to swim and watch out for snakes. He might have to find his way home if he runs off after a racoon while we are out on the other side of the ranch and I can’t find him. A new dog would take a lot of consistent time and training and cooperation of family members. There would be no other dog to hang out with, I would be his pack. Was I ready for it?
I drove to Llano, Texas. There was the pen with a bunch of pups in it but all of the color I had hoped for had been taken. The only ones left were solid black. I walked into the pen and they went crazy…jumping up and down, their little claws scratching my legs as I watched their faces and tried to fend off their enthusiasm at the same time. I looked at the father and the mother. Both hog hunting dogs and wise beyond their years I was sure. Hog dogs don’t live long if they aren’t smart, athletic and obedient. There was one puppy that , in the sun, he looked like he had a little brown to him and he was a bit harder to catch than the rest. He would duck and jump at the last moment making him almost impossible to grab and look at. After several failed attempts, I finally got a hold of him and picked him up. He immediately went still. I held him and he sunk back into my armpit and was quiet. As I talked to the parent’s owner, this puppy didn’t wiggle, whine or try to get away. His chin rest on my arm and I asked him if he wanted to go with me. He looked up at me…his eyes met mine and he really studied me a moment. Then he reached up and licked me on the chin.
Welcome to your new home, Otis.