I was terrified of dogs until I was ten years old. I always wondered why, and one day, several years ago, I asked my elderly mother what she thought the reason might have been. She considered the question for a few moments, and then told me it might have been something that had happened to me when I was about a year old. My parents had taken me to visit some friends of theirs who owned a big German Shepherd. They had left the room for just a few seconds, when they heard me wailing and came into to find me flat on my stomach with the big dog’s paws on my back. The dog was either being playful or (more likely) showing this little “scene-stealer” just who was boss. Naturally, ever after that I gave dogs, big or small a wide berth. Until I was ten years old.
By the time I had my tenth birthday, my father, a naval officer, had been posted to Aklavik in the Northwest Territories. The home we moved into there had a dog and a cat whom we “inherited” from the family who’d just moved out. They were moving to the “outside”, as people up there referred to anywhere south. Just about everywhere was south of Aklavik which is on the Peel channel of the MacKenzie River, about fifty miles south of the Arctic Ocean. Since I had to cohabit with a cat and a dog, I had to get over my fear quickly. “Corky” was a golden haired cocker spaniel with a very gentle disposition. As a matter of fact, the poor fellow was harassed by PussPuss, the cat, into grooming her whenever she wished. If he refused she would swat him with her paw. Occasionally, she would even ride around on his back. I think he was much relieved when PussPuss had to be put down after contracting distemper. I really came to love that dog. He seemed to know how to comfort me when I was upset and he loved chasing a stick. He also joined in the husky howling chorus when the evening curfew horn sounded. Sadly, we had to leave Corky behind when we were posted out of Aklavik. He would never have been able to adjust to traffic after living in the north.
My next close encounter with a dog was when my husband and I lived above a garage north of Toronto. “Shandy” came into our lives accidently. We had been hearing a whining noise outside our apartment. Bud went down to investigate and found a dog, about a year old, that looked a bit like a German Shepherd, but was a slimmer build, blond in colouring with black around her ears, on the tip of her tail and around her mouth. We kept her overnight and then searched the newspaper ads for lost dogs. Finally we took her to the local dog shelter and asked them to call us if anyone claimed her. After a sleepless night, we gave Bud’s father a call and asked him if he would be interested in owning a dog. He’d had a wonderful dog called, Rinty, growing up and so he was very interested. We then returned to the shelter and paid for the dog’s keep. I named her on the way home, not realizing how appropriate her name was until later. “Shandy” evidently refers to a lively, mischievous character as well, of course,to a combination of beer and gingerale.
Shandy had an unfortunate habit of chasing cars, probably because a car had let her out and sped off. It happens often, sadly, because some ignorant and cruel people seem to think that farmers have a continual need for stray pooches and that dropping a dog off on a country road is preferable to leaving them at an animal shelter. Obviously, some people forget that cute puppies eventually grow into adult dogs. Eventually, we broke Shandy of her car chasing and took her home to Bud’s father, who just loved her. She was a good companion for Bud’s parents and lived to the ripe old age of 13.
Bud and I were not in a position to own a dog until we had our own home in the country. Again, we became dog-parents accidently. We had two little boys and another baby on the way. I used to walk our sons down to the local cheese factory to buy treats (and cheese of course). There were apartments above the cheese factory and one of the renters had a lovely border collie dog who had just had a litter of puppies. Boys and puppies have a natural attraction to one another. We were invited to “see” the puppies who were the offspring of “Sparky”, the mother, and the dog that belonged to the owner of the factory. One black puppy, the rascal of the litter, took a particular shine to me and the boys. He began following us down the road when we made the return trip home.
Mama Sparky came right after us, grabbed the pup in her mouth and marched him right back home. It became a game for the pup and each time we went to the factory we would be followed part way by the pup and mama. Finally, with Bud’s agreement, we brought “Jet” home with us.
Jet was a great playmate for the boys, but he was also, as they called him, a “berserker”. Jet would tackle any animal that invaded our property, especially groundhogs. He had one fight that was very violent and I had to ask a neighbour to help me get them separated. Jet had a very badly slashed nose as a battle wound. Another time he chased a groundhog up a tree. He chased squirrels, mice, cats, anything that would run or fight. He even attempted to face down some escaped horses and a few dogs larger than he was. Doing so on our property was one thing, but on someone else’s property was a whole different story. You see, he had inherited one bad trait from his father, he liked chicken. That habit, you see, brought about the death of his father. We didn’t want Jet to expire from a bullet. Once he trotted back home with the carcass of our neighbour’s chicken. Another time Bud went to find him in the neighbour’s feather-covered yard just as Jet rounded the corner of the barn with the chicken in his jaws. It took him awhile to get over the shock of being discovered red-pawed, but Bud persuaded him to break that bad habit. Jet lived to be 15 years old, died of natural causes and was buried in our home pet cemetery.
It took us quite awhile to grieve over Jet, but I was looking up ads for dogs a long time. One day, our daughter, came home with the news that her friend had just got a border collie pup from a farm about thirty miles away and there was still one left of the litter. Of course, we went to see it. The address was a pretty farm that was a few miles west of a kennel that raised black labs.
After we met the small border collie mother, the owner took us to find the last pup. He was sitting under an old car in the garage. Having seen all his sisters and brothers disappear, this one was not about to share their fate. Finally “Rambunctious”, as they had named him, was coaxed out from under the car. He was a cross between border collie and black lab, though the farmer’s wife said she had no idea how that had happened. Obviously mama had gotten under the fence around the kennel down the road or daddy had managed to get over it. However it had happened, Rambunctious was re-named “Dublin” and came home with us.
Dublin was the most intelligent dog I have ever known. He responded to at least one hundred words and learned how to sit, stay and come very quickly. He was not another Jet, however. Dublin was a lover, not a fighter. He had an on-going romance with the neighbour’s dog,Rip, a jack russell, even after he had his operation. She often stopped by for a dog biscuit. Bud called her the “Toll Queen” because every time he went for a walk with Dublin, she was waiting for her dog biscuit at the side of the road. When it came to showdowns with other dogs or animals, Dublin preferred to exercise the greater part of valour. I think he just figured fighting was a losing proposition and avoidance was his best course of action. As Dublin grew, he resembled a small black lab with a head that was smaller in proportion to his body. However, he obviously used all his brain cells. He learned to go and get my slippers and if he only came back with one, all I had to do was point to the foot without a slipper and he would go get it also. We would hide bits of dog biscuit around the living room and he would find each one on command. He played dead when we pointed our finger and said “pow pow”. Sometimes though his tail would be moving so we would say “hey, your tail is moving” and immediately it would stop. He knew which was his right paw and which his left when we asked him to shake one or the other. He was a great companion and lived for 17 years.
While we had Dublin, when he was about six years old, our neighbours jack russell had puppies sired by a border collie down the road. Of course, we went to see them. One of the puppies was a black and white ball of fluff who kept her brothers and sisters in line. Our neighbour called her the “devil’s daughter” because she was so bossy. I fell in love with her and we adopted “Panda”. Panda was a lovely pup who grew up to look like a border collie with very short legs. I think she was convinced we had “dognapped” her because she continued to visit her mother next door even after all her brothers and sisters were gone. Whenever her mother, Rip, came over for her biscuit, Panda’s deep border collie bark would change to the high pitched yip, yip, yip of a puppy. Poor Rip was half the size of Panda, so when she saw Panda charging joyfully towards her, she backed up with an expression of doggie alarm that was truly comical. She didn’t stop coming for that biscuit though.
Panda was a joy. She was very affectionate and although she still ruled the roost, she allowed Dublin to be number one dog in our house. She and Dublin were a great deal of fun to watch. They often argued over the same toy and vied for our affection and attention. Dublin, however, outsmarted her often, by feigning interest in a toy to distract her from us and then while she took over the toy he would cuddle up to one of us. They would often chase the same stick. One time they grabbed the opposite ends and tried to go around a tree trunk, each coming out with half the stick. We had some wonderful laughs at their antics. Panda, unlike Dublin, was a bit of a berserker when it came to squirrels. She would sit on the living room bay window sill and begin to bark whenever the squirrels dared to climb one of the trees in our front yard. They would scatter when she launched from the front step. She loved playing frisbee and could jump to amazing heights after them. Once she even climbed part way up a tree. We loved that little dog. Unfortunately we only had her for four years. She was hit by a car coming back from visiting her mother one winter night and sadly, Bud found her on the way home from work. We were heartbroken.
It took us a long time to get over losing Panda. Now there were two graves in our pet cemetery. The year of the ice storm we found a jack russell wandering the road. We tried to make enquiries, but to no avail, so we took her in. We named her “Belfast” , “Bel” for short. She was very cuddly, but not a traveler. Whenever she was in the car she got very carsick. Other than that she was a good companion for Dublin. We found her around Christmas and had her all during the ice storm. At night, with electricity, we all bundled up in sleeping bags in the warmest room in our house and the two dogs settled down there with us at night. It got very chilly. At one point when the electricity was restored, our oldest son saw a sign at the local gas station/convenience store which indicated that someone was looking for their jack russell. We sadly returned Bel to her owners.
This experience convinced us that it was time for us to get another dog. We read an ad about a border collie/boxer mix female and decided to go and check her out. She was staying at the home of some people who rescued dogs. She was not a rescue dog, but the result of a “mistake”. Evidently, someone had a boxer they wanted to breed for boxer puppies, but a border collie got to her first.
Those border collies are obviously no slouches when it comes to doggy romance (ambitious too). Anyhow, we fell in love with “Ceilidh” right away and adopted her. I think poor Dublin’s nose was out of joint for quite a while, but he and she eventually became buddies. Ceilidh is a lovely girl, very gentle and playful. She is definitely border collie in appearance with her silky long coat, fringes on her legs and white bib but she is taller like a boxer. She is 5 years going on 6 now and loves to play with anything she can. We had some bumpy roads to begin with as she took a long time to house train, but she seemed to learn how to come, stay and sit by observing Dublin. She’s a good watch dog but uses her border collie bark only when she needs too. We are very fond of her and can’t imagine life without her.
I often think gratefully of Corky. If it hadn’t been for that sweet dog, I might never have learned the joy of canine companions. How unfortunate that would have been.