For as long as I can remember dogs have been a part of my life. I cannot specifically remember a time when the dog role in our family lineup lacked a member. Always has been and hopefully always will be. In truth, dogs are a way of life for me and for us as a family. Playing with a puppy, or better yet, a whole litter of clumsy, rambunctious pups still makes me feel like a six year old and ranks very high on my list of wonderfully simple delights. Much can be learned by training dogs and watching them grow into respectable members of the family, the hunting force, or just dogdom in general. Dogs, like people, have very different temperaments, and personalities. To highlight these differences and to honor the dogs (past and present) that played a part in my family’s history I present the following canine bios.
In the farthest reaches of my memory I can conjure up images of Dusty, a yellow lab. I possess very little to no specific memories of Dusty’s life, just his death. I do somewhat remember his maverick attitude though. Unfortunately this attitude played a significant part in his demise. He had been running in the woods during deer season and got himself shot. Hunter claimed he mistook him for a deer. Talk about positive target identification. Regardless, the dog was in the wrong place at the wrong time and that’s just the way the tree fell, to borrow the cliché. The death did not leave much of an impression on my five or six year old mind, though I distinctly remember Dusty’s faded orange, plastic-coated collar residing in the toy box for me years hence.
The legendary giant of our canine history came next. Oochy, Oochie, Uchie, or Uchy (never could figure out how to spell it, and we didn’t name him) was a three year old black lab mix that Dad picked up at the local dog pound. Without any papers and very little known history Oochy took and defined the role of family canine. Without the inhibitions of a chain or kennel he roamed free virtually all the time. While we lived in Conneautville we took numerous family trips, some lasting for four weeks. Oochy’s countenance always fell whenever he witnessed the packing and RV loading, but he always guarded the homestead and exuberantly greeted us upon our return.
The old guy never required much. A warm dog house though he rarely used it. Fresh water though local ponds, creeks, and puddles worked just fine. Cheap dog food though rotten deer and woodchuck carcasses were also regular fare. A brushing of the thick coat during shedding season. An annual license. An occasional (very occasional) trip to the vet who always praised his excellent health…no thanks to us. That was about it. Baths consisted of dips in a pond or creek. He was very overweight, and really quite ugly despite his regular personal exercise. Yet he loved us and we loved him. Though never an overly affectionate dog his loyalty was second to none. We were his family. He adopted us as much as we adopted him. I know many yuppie animal lover types would probably decry his conditions as inhumane and decrepit, but I honestly believe that Oochy would have hated life any other way. Might I mention that he lived for about 16 years? Not bad considering the average dog’s lifespan.
The old miser went out hard. In his last few years his hearing went from bad to nearly non-existant. His age-weakened hips allowed only short walking distances. His general coherence also declined. But still he hung on year after year through bitter winter and blazing summer. Finally we made the hard decision for him and last year sometime a legend’s life was ended. However, like all legends, his legacy still lives.
Our current family dog, while still a mutt, is the first female in our family dog history. Dakota began establishing her reign sometime during Oochy’s last year on the throne. We adopted her as a pup from a neighborhood variety litter (predominantly Blue Heeler with Schnauzer, Lab, and probably a few others thrown in the mix). Again, no papers and very little known history, but that fits. She is one of a kind in a league of her own. I never in my life met a more dynamic dog than her. Her emotions can range anywhere from obstinate to submissive, playful to placid, pouty to engaging all in the span of one hour depending on the circumstances. However, her normal infectious happiness usually presides.
Like Dakota’s predecessor Oochy, her loyalty is outstanding, but she differs from him in her unreserved revealing of her many emotions. When excited and delighted she wags her whole body and not just her tail. When sad and repentant her head and tail droop to amazing lows. When comfortably sunbathing she lies on her back with her feet sticking straight in the air. When angry the hairs on her back rise, her eyes glare, and her teeth glitter. When being petted she habitually (sometimes irritatingly) licks the hands and feet of her master. Her attitude toward life is really quite inspirational. Although she is only two years old she has already strongly established her position in our family. Hopefully for many years to come.
Personal News Bulletin: I spent yesterday biking with my co-worker’s youth group. It was actually a bikeathon fundraiser thing, but I just went along for the kicks of it. After biking 27 miles I pretty well rejected all notions of biking back to the starting point, but after waiting around for two hours or more while people and bikes were transported I tired of killing time, hopped on my bike, and one hour and forty minutes, a bottle of Gatorade, and two fatigued legs later I was back at the trail head. I don’t mean to brag or anything (of course not, never, perish the thought) but I beat the motorized ride by about five or ten minutes.
Coming Soon: Canine Chronicles: Part 2- My dogs