Growing up, the only pets we ever had were dogs. For whatever reason, Mom didn't like cats, so dogs it was! We went through quite a few of them. They tended to disappear though. Some got run over by cars, others were shot by irate neighbors or hunters. So we learned to enjoy them while they were around but almost never got "attached" to them. Of course, we were saddened when they were gone but another dog was there to replace them almost immediately. The two that I remember most during my high school days are Lady and Missy. Lady was a dachshund and Missy was a mixed breed. After I left home and while in the Navy I didn't have any pets. It wasn't until much later in my life that dogs became family members.
About 1981, my sister got Buster. I think he was a mix of poodle and some kind of terrier. Not tiny, but he was a small dog. He was also a fierce protector of my nieces. When my sister moved to Florida in the fall of 1988 she left Buster with one of her neighbors. Due to unforeseen circumstances my nieces came to live with my mother and me. They immediately asked if they could get Buster back. We checked with the neighbor and she agreed to let us have Buster and that is how he came to live with us. By the time he passed away five years later, he was blind and could hardly walk. We came home one day and found him dead.
In the previous year, 1987, my mother and I had purchased a vacant, old, run-down farmhouse. It was a fixer-upper but the price was right and it came with two acres of land. Almost immediately, we got dogs. They were drifters, just passing through, or dropped off by motorists. They didn't stay long though. We decided to get our own dog hoping it would stay around for a while and keep the strays away. Thus, Rover, a German Shepherd was given to us by a co-worker. He was only a couple of months old and kind of a klutz. He never did grow out of the awkwardness. About this time we also took in my brother's dog, Bootsie. She was about two years old and was a mix of Springer Spaniel and black Labrador. Though older than Rover, Bootsie was still kind of a klutz too. She had spent much of her day-time life in a cage. So she really didn't like to be confined.
So now we had three dogs! And wonder of wonders, they all got along pretty well together. Buster stayed inside most of the time while Bootsie and Rover were outside dogs. We kept Bootsie and Rover on chains most of the time. We'd let one of them loose at a time so they could run but if they were both loose at the same time, they'd sometimes be gone for days. They loved to run. Rover was the plodder and Bootsie was the graceful dame. She loved to sit on top of her doghouse. She could jump on top of it with the greatest of ease. All Rover could do was get his front paws on top.
One summer Bootsie was diagnosed with heartworm and we had to keep her and Rover separated while she underwent the treatment. Bootsie was moved down to the barn and Rover was kept up by the house. It was just awful, like a couple of kids crying constantly. Night time was the worst though, they sounded like wolves howling. It was funny and sad all at once.
We decided to put in a fenced area so the dogs wouldn't have to be chained. Great idea, right? A five-foot high fence was installed around a large area, 30x60 feet and their dog houses moved inside. We should have known it wouldn't work. We kept seeing Bootsie outside the fence when no one had let her out. One day I happened to see how she did it. Amazing really. She'd get a running start and jump, getting her front paws just over the top of the fence, then using her back paws and the wire fence push and claw her way over the top to freedom. So we sometimes just let her go but when we needed to keep her in the dog run with Rover we'd chain her up inside. If she wanted to get away from him all she had to do was jump on top of the dog house!
Rover made it through about three years. He liked to chase vehicles and one day got too close to a tractor pulling a plow. He made his way back to the house where we found him, still breathing but not long for this world. I stayed by his side until he passed away. Bootsie came up a couple times, sniffed and walked away. It was like she knew. We buried him out back behind the barn, where a few years later Buster joined him.
After Rover died, Bootsie pretty much stayed around the property so we took down the fence and just let her run loose. She also started spending the nights in the house. Bootsie had done a great job of killing the ground hogs and other vermin and liked to bring "trophies" home to us. One time I saw her across the field dragging something along. It was almost as big as she was and she was having one heck of a time pulling it across the field. She finally gets it up to the back steps and just plops down, exhausted. Really gross. The head and part of the carcass of a calf. We contacted our farmer-neighbor not quite knowing what to think. He laughed when we told him what Bootsie had done and then told us not to worry. For whatever reason the calf had been killed and the carcass had been dumped on the field along with manure for fertilizer. The remains of the calf were buried after Bootsie finished wallowing in it. The smell was horrific. And Bootsie got a bath.
For a while we thought we were going to have to have Bootsie put to sleep. She was having trouble walking and climbing the stairs. She slept upstairs in my room at night. In a visit to the vet we found out she had hip problems. He thought he could fix her up without surgery, which was a relief. I don't remember how many shots she had but he gave her something that was normally only used on horses, but it fixed her up and she was better than ever after the treatments.
When we sold the farmhouse in the fall of 1997 and moved to a subdivision near Columbia City we took Bootsie with us. She was fine with the move but because we were living in a more settled area, dogs were not supposed to run loose. She had to be kept on a leash or chained up while outside. And, of course, she didn't like that. She also didn't like loud noises, like thunderstorms and fireworks. The week of the Fourth of July the following year about did her in. She'd climb up on my lap, mind you she was a fairly large dog, and just lay there and shake. There really wasn't anything I could do to help her. Mom suggested giving her a sleeping pill thinking it might relax her. I called the vet and he said half a pill wouldn't hurt her, so with half a sleeping pill every night that week she endured that Fourth of July.
Another year went by and it was getting harder and harder to get Bootsie to go outside. She'd go on the leash if we told her we were going for a walk but she barked constantly when chained up. During the day, while I was at work, she spent most of her time in the garage. She wasn't eating much either and she started snapping at passersby. So it was in June of 1999 that I took Bootsie to the vet one last time. I couldn't bear to see her put under so just left her with the vet. As she was walking away she stopped and turned and looked at me with those soulful eyes. She knew. I was fine until then. And then the tears came, as they are now, while writing this, nine years later. I was supposed to go in to work that day, but didn't. I just drove around, crying. All day long.
Every once in a while Mom and I would talk about getting another dog, but we never did. The house has been sold, and now, living in an apartment just isn't conducive to pet ownership. I was never into birds or cats or fish. Someday, maybe I'll have another dog...
This post was written for the 50th Carnival of Genealogy whose topic is "Family Pets!"