I have recently been corresponding with Maria Matthews about dogs. She has a Norwegian Elkhound, Bob, which looks much like our Akita-mix, Bella, other than the coloring. I have not featured our dogs in a post, though they show up in photos here and there. Time for critter stories.
For the first decade of our marriage, we lived in a condo in Alexandria, VA. We built our cabin in West Virginia on the weekends. Between work and travel, having pets would not be fair to the pets. Outdoor time would be limited. Linda is allergic to cats, so a cuddly fur ball with claws would not work either. After moving to the country, we considered getting a dog, but our hours away from home (often 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.) would only allow us to have an outdoor dog that could tolerate winters in the Appalachian mountains. We filed the idea away. Meanwhile, the opportunity came up to reduce our work days to four per week, giving us more time at home in the garden.
A half-dozen years ago, we visited a neighbor on New Year’s Day. She works in a vet clinic. Her home was a stop-over for numerous abandoned animals. Some were literally left in front of the clinic door. Others were left for care, but then not picked up, often because the owners did not have the money to pay for the treatments. That day, she had a fuzz ball of a puppy. It had been found by someone in the military who was home on leave for Christmas. He found the puppy on the side of a road with no homes or farms in sight. He brought her in, paid to have shots and check up done, but could not keep her because he was returning to Iraq in a couple of days.
Walking home, we looked at each other with the same question, “What do you think about that puppy.” A phone call back to our neighbor sealed the deal. We were dog owners. Of course, we had about as much experience with raising a dog, as most young couples have with rearing children. That is not saying much. Some couples get a dog in preparation for parenting. We had skipped parenting, so had not learned how to train a dog. Maybe we were exceptional dog owners, or Belle just had a really good disposition in spite of us. Other than some chewed up furniture legs and rug corners, she grew into a mellow dog, except for that Alpha-Dog streak that comes out around when friends bring pets to our farm. It is kind of like the bumper sticker, “My B student beat up your Honor Student”.
Being an Alpha-Dog, Belle needed no other companions, beyond us. However, our same neighbor’s dogs had an oops-litter of ten black lab-border collie pups. About three years ago, we added Tippy to our yard. Belle is not exactly happy, but does tolerate her. Anyway, Belle likes to push her off the side of the road, kind of like a hockey player checking someone into the boards, then looking at the ref, “Got a problem with that?”.
Tippy is the most graceful dog running through the woods that I have ever seen. She could care less about the deer bounding in front of her, or squirrel escaping up the tree. They are just reasons to run. As if gravity were not an issue, she flies across the leaves, hurdles over downed-trees, and makes 180* turns around saplings. Our usual walk is one mile along our dirt road. She runs ten to our one. She is a goof-ball though, and wakes us all up at 3:30 a.m. to go chase the cats prowling in the yard. That does bring up the subject of cats.