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Willie is missing. Never was a dog more loved, or more pampered. He was actually a squirrel dog, and one of the best. But he was more than that. He truly was man’s best friend, and more.

He was mostly a Norwegian, with a little Feist mixed in. He was out of Criss’ squirrel dog, and a Norwegian mother. Criss had promised daughter Patty a puppy, and as soon as he was weaned, she took him. Her husband Bob was not a bit enthused about raising a pup, and short of forbidding her, he discouraged it.

He was a plump, lovable little ball of fur, and in a couple of days, Bob was completely won over. He carried him wrapped in a towel, and brought him whenever he came over to visit. Patty named him “Willie”, as she said, “Will he hunt, or will he not?” He started taking him in the woods when he was so small, he would have to carry him home.

Not surprisingly, he made a number one squirrel dog. They made him a seat on their 4-wheeler, and took him in the woods every day. They taught him to lie on a rug when they brought him in the house, and he knew to stay on it. He may have been Patty’s dog, but he bonded to Bob. He was very obedient, and Patty taught him to play “dead dog” and he would lie immobile until she told him that he could get up.

We “dog-sat” him when they had to be gone. They went out-of-state to a funeral recently, and he actually mourned for Bob. Although we petted him and brought him in the house to lie on a rug, he missed his best friend. He would sit on the porch and look down the road and howl. When they came home the following evening, he was beside himself with joy.

Although he roamed around the property some, he was never gone for very long. He knew when it was time for his snack, and when bedtime came. He was more than a hunting dog—he got a bath once a week and was treated like a member of the family. Bob never had a dog all the time he was growing up, and Willie filled the place of all he had missed.

They are both devastated, and have explored every avenue available. I know what it is to lose a beloved pet—we still mourn for Chloe. The worst thing is the uncertainty of a situation like that. The imagination brings out all the horrible things that could have happened—and you keep looking.

I wrote an article once about the dogs that we had owned and what had happened to them. I received a letter chastising us for the dogs we had lost, and added, “You must be irresponsible dog owners to lose so many.” Hey—we’ve been married more than 59 years and have always owned dogs. In that space of time, of course dogs live out their life span. Whoever heard of a dog living for 50 years?

Anyone who has ever owned a beloved pet knows the heartache of losing one. We can only hope that Willie will show up somewhere. Until then, we go on hoping . . .
I received a delightful letter from Neil Ferrell of Looneyville at Christmas time (I am just now catching up on correspondence) and he enclosed a poem that is appropriate at this time. He added that this past summer he had to have his constant companion of thirteen years put to sleep.

By Rudyard Kipling
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head,
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.
When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But  . . .you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.
We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve.
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?
(Scott—this is for you.)

One of my granddaughters informed us that the robins have returned and were all over her yard. Some robins are here all winter, but when the migrating robins come back to West Virginia (that should be a song!) usually spring is not far behind. From the sound of the latest forecasts, we may be in for a lot of winter weather yet. As Mom used to say, “Spring will come—it always has!”

We received a poem request from Kathy Manley of Logan for a poem her father used to recite. She only remembers bits and pieces of it, including “oysters on the half-shell”—”chicken soup and mutton”—”mulligatawny soup.” Is this familiar to anyone?

We will end with this poem—it’s full of hope.
Hark! The hours are softly calling
Bidding Spring arise
To listen to the rain-drops falling
From the cloudy skies
To listen to Earth’s weary voices
Louder every day
Bidding her no longer linger
On her charm’d way
But hasten to her task of beauty
Scarcely yet begun.
by Adelaide Anne Proctor

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer