NEWS FROM THE HILLS

This is a story of two little dogs—actually three, but that is another chapter.

 

We have always had dogs. As a child growing up in the country, almost everyone owned a dog. There were hunting dogs, yard dogs, and strays that came to live. The one I remember most was ‘Lonzo, a typical hound dog of doubtful parentage. He was the dog of our growing-up years and was always with us children, wherever we roamed. He loved raw apples, and would tear open a gunny sack to get his favorite snack.

We had lots of dogs after we were married. Criss always hunted ‘coons and squirrels, and kept a hunting dog for that purpose. One stands out in my mind, a big red-bone hound named Hooligan. We left for a drive one Sunday afternoon, leaving Hooligan running loose. He tore a hole through the latched screen door and ate the filling from two banana cream pies left cooling on the table. “Nobody eats my pies,” growled Criss, and promptly gave him away.

Smokey was the beloved dog of our own children. Although he was an outstanding ‘coon dog, he was also the children’s pet. He was gentle and loving, and was a member of our family for years. When he died, we wrapped him in our son Mike’s crib blanket and buried him in the edge of the yard. We all shed bitter tears.

We never owned a housedog. In fact, the idea of having a dog in the house was totally repugnant. Then came my 69th birthday. Criss went on a weeklong fishing trip, and while he was gone, I acquired a six-week old French Papillon puppy. He was shipped from Georgia, a tiny ball of fur. He was adorable, and not only was he welcomed into the house, but also in my bed. I named him Louis and loved him dearly.

When Criss came home, the fur did fly—mine. He was a bone of contention between us, until Christmas time came and our son Andy presented Criss with a female Jack Russell terrier puppy. Criss had mixed emotions about her, until she won him over with her endearing ways.

Her name was Melanie on her pedigree papers, but we soon shortened it to Millie, and sometimes a stern “Mildred!” She was housebroken early and soon learned to obey.

We had her spayed (she became a woman (?) early and Patty and I made panties and bought mini-pads for her.) She wore them proudly. When she came back from her operation, she loved to lie down on her back and show off her scar. In fact, she enjoyed a “belly-rub” so much that she would flop down on her back at the slightest provocation.

She was so fond of Patty’s husband Bob that she would almost dance to the door when he came in for a morning cup of coffee. Patty would sneak her a sweet treat every time she got a chance, and she soon learned that.
She loved all of us, but Criss was her idol. After the weather got warm in the spring, he took her to feed the livestock. She began following him everywhere he went. She rode the end loader with him, and the backhoe. She loved heavy equipment.

We bought a RV, one of those farm vehicles with a seat and a top. When we would go feed the steers, she would sit on Criss lap with her paws on the steering wheel. She would have a happy grin on her face, and it looked exactly as if she were steering.

She would follow him to the sawmill, cut across the creek, and go up the bank to tree a squirrel. “Watch for them, Millie!” was the key phrase to set her barking. Mice were her particular nemesis, and she was death and destruction on them. She made her ritual trip to the chicken house and barn twice a day to scout out the rodents.

Criss was getting ready to take her into the woods and train her to tree squirrels (which she was doing already on her own) as soon as the leaves fell, but tragedy struck. About three weeks ago, I had gone to see Mom in the personal care home when I got a frantic telephone call from Patty. She was at the Elk Valley Veterinary Hospital at Elkview.

She sobbed out the sad story that Criss had backed over Millie in our own driveway. He had picked her up and carried her to the porch swing, where he was holding her and crying. She and grandson Josh rushed her to the hospital, and I got there as soon as I could.

Dr. Marshall and his assistants waged a heroic battle to save her, but her internal injuries were too serious. He got her stabilized for a little while, and she fought to live. I rubbed her head and neck while she breathed in oxygen, and wept tears all over her. I wanted her to live so much.

Dr. Marshall wrapped her up in blankets with tender care, while the girls hugged me and expressed their sympathy. I have only the highest praise for Dr. Marshall and the staff there, for their compassionate care and genuine love for animals.

She is buried under the mulberry bush with a little white picket fence around the grave. People might scoff and say, “Oh, she was just a dog.” Well, she was a dog, but more than that, she was a beloved member of our family. We will never forget her.

There is a sad sequel to this story. Louis, our beautiful French Papillon, is looking for a home. A few days ago, he caught and killed one of Criss’ laying hens. Criss found him eating it. That may have been a fluke, but two days ago I saw him trotting down the road with another big hen. I rescued it in time, minus a lot of feathers and shocked out of her skin, but there was no doubt it was Louis.

Criss laid down an ultimatum, “We can’t have a chicken-killing dog.” He is quite affectionate and gentle, but needs placed in a home where there are no chickens. He requires a lot of love and petting. It breaks my heart to give him up, but I haven’t any choice.

We are not alone, however—enter Mini, a four-pound bundle of Jack Russell energy. But that’s another story.

The Waynedale News Staff
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Alyce Faye Bragg

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