Texas is home to famous fictional dogs, Hank the Cowdog and Old Yeller. And speaking of Old Yeller, if you have a dog, keep your fur buddy up on his or her rabies vaccinations. Texas also has the one of the worst reputations for rabies outbreaks. Nobody wants to have to put a good dog down.
Texans have special relationships with dogs, probably because we’re a sentimental people. And we almost always have a dog story to share.
To refer to a person as a dog for the way he or she behaves often is an insult to dogs. Aside from the fact that their culinary choices are rather edgy, they consider rolling in a rotted carcass the equivalent of applying haute couture perfume and they have a habit of getting a little too familiar when they first meet you, dogs are an honorable lot.
Dogs love unconditionally. Texans appreciate that.
My husband, Frank, and I have three dogs. Miko is an American Kennel Club registered black Labrador Retriever; Fidel is long-coat Chihuahua, and Daisy is a miniature Dachshund. We had a fourth dog at one time. Mary was part beagle and part sneaky neighbor’s dog which earned her the moniker “boggle.” When anyone came to visit us, Miko, Fidel, and Daisy barked and Mary shrieked and then did that beagle bay for which they’re famous. The reception sounded like, “Woof! Woof! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! AARROOOOOOOO!!!! Woof! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! Woof! AROOOOOOO!!! Woof!”
Dogs can make you feel like a rock star. If you closed your eyes and listened, Mary sounded like a teen-aged girl at a Jonas Brothers concert. Mary died a couple of years ago. Coming home hasn't been the same since.
When they were kids, Daddy and his brothers had a terrier-mix mutt named Cagey. He was ugly as sin and terribly smart. Of all the dogs my father told tales about, Cagey was number one.
Cagey survived snakes, spiders, playing dress up with my then-six year old aunt and table scraps only to be poisoned by a neighbor who wrongly assumed the dog was responsible for killing some of his chickens.
Ruff was another family farm dog who was fondly regarded and remembered. Ruff looked like the love child of a German shepherd and a 75-pound dust bunny. He liked to chase cars, particularly convertibles because they couldn’t get up much speed on rural dirt roads and he could get up close and personal with the drivers.
My parents favored German shepherds. Hoot was our first. They had him before they had me.
Hoot fancied himself a lifeguard. When my mother’s brothers came to San Marcos to visit my parents, they spent a day swimming in the Blanco River. At least, the boys tried to swim. Hoot kept jumping in after them and “saving” them. He’d grab their T-shirts by the collars and drag them back to shore.
Ilsa was the first female German shepherd we had and was famous for her “green dewclaw” (dogs don’t have thumbs). Daddy brought home some bois d’arc apples with the intent of planting them in the backyard. Ilsa thought they were balls, kept one, gnawed it, shredded it, then buried it and “watered” it herself. Her tree still stands nearly 30 years later.
Chance was among the last German shepherds my parents had. He had a cleanliness obsession that bordered on an obsessive-compulsive disorder. When he wanted a bath, he’d drag out a No. 10 washtub and sit in it, waiting for my father to come out. He also loved having his fur blown with air from a hose. He’d grab my father’s air tank by the hose and drag it around the backyard until he got satisfaction.
Hope, another German shepherd, was Chance’s own dog. My parents acquired her in the “hope” that Chance would have a playmate to keep him occupied (a bored dog is often a destructive dog). She, too, had a quirk in that when she got excited, she’d bark at the ground.
If dirt were to break into the house, I suppose Hope would have defended us valiantly.
I’m a cat person, but I have had some good dogs in my time, too. Maggie was a Whippet/Labrador retriever mix who came to live with me when she wandered up on my back porch and mooched a hamburger from me during a cookout. We ended up spending ten years together. When I cried, she’d lay her head in my lap and try to comfort me. I never knew any other dog to do that.
Snoopy was a Chihuahua/Schipperke mix. For the record, I didn’t name him. He had been part of a pair of dogs, the other being his littermate who was named Charlie Brown. Snoopy had some issues when he came to me; he’d been pretty badly abused by the husband of his previous owner. Snoopy never let a man into my house without inspecting him thoroughly and showing him his teeth four or five times first. He was eight pounds of raw courage and never hesitated to defend my honor.
Dogs aren’t people, but they sure merit respect, as have many of the animals I’ve known and loved in my time. I honestly don’t understand people who don’t like them. To be honest, I prefer dogs to people when it comes right down to it.
I remember, as a child, sitting in church and listening to a sermon during which the pastor said animals didn’t have souls. I was horrified. Why would God make a living thing without a soul?
It was then that my father leaned over and whispered, “Brother Paul must’ve never had a dog.”