Wednesday night, #RallyCat shared the spotlight. Wednesday night, we were all cat people.
But...in general, that has not been the case. Dogs have been the critters in our family pictures…Nip and Tuck and Skaggs on one side...Frisky and Silver on the other. Of course, Millie has always had chickens and my dad had cattle as soon as he had pastures for them. Laura and I were proud owners of Brownie, but even though she was named, it was strictly a business relationship. Nip and Tuck were the Labs that flung themselves, slobbering and barking, upon our Dodge Dart when we pulled into the driveway at Granny’s house. They greeted us in the same way, tackling us with their giant paws and giant jaws as soon as we stepped out the back door of the car. It was always a terrifying experience.
Compared to Nip and Tuck of memory, Juno, our first dog, was as gentle as she was large and calm despite her Doberman/German Shepherd heritage. She loved Blake and became the consummate farm dog companion when she was transplanted from the duplex we lived in the last year of college to a life of pickup seats, wide open windows, and standing on the tool box in the back with her ears streaming behind her. As far as I know, she only fell off once and climbed out of the ditch and jumped back into the truck with more damage to her dignity than injury from the tumble.
Juno’s great doggy friend was Barney, Nancy’s beagle. He was a wanderer, traveling from farm to farm to visit and staying until Nancy physically hauled him back to their house. Even after they were both old and gray, Barney would find his way the six or seven miles through the country to our farm to visit his friend. He would stay for weeks while we enjoyed the sight of the two old dogs napping companionably under the shade of the elms.
When the girls were old enough to be enamored with pets, we tended to acquire puppies in pairs. Tommy and Holly, two black and white mutts with mirror image personalities: Tommy never knew a stranger and would roll over for a scratching before he was introduced, but Holly, who had been hit by a pickup early in life, was cautious, aloof, with sad black eyes. Tommy and Holly and I had a love hate relationship during their puppyhood. Every time I planted something in the yard...a tree, a shrub, a rose, a perennial of any kind, they found it and dug it up. We made our peace, but I spent an intense and angry spring chasing them through the yard, screaming imprecations that they couldn’t understand, and attempting to flail them around the ears with whatever desiccated plant carcass they had literally unearthed.
During these full house years, word evidently went out on the doggie grapevine that we were soft touches when it came to canines. Every dog dumped heartlessly along our gravel road made its way to our dog dish. And some lovable scamps they were: Frisky, a beautiful black puppy with a penchant for pulling clothes off the line; Mister, a raggedy long haired black and white critter with a desire to dance; and Bob, an enormous well mannered giant with a passion for fetching fireworks. All three passed through giving us at one time or another, a population of five dogs on the farmstead along with the unnumbered unnamed cats; no wonder any stranger to our farm tended to wait in the car.
The very last stray appeared, like Mary mother of Jesus, pregnant in the deep of winter. She was a cautious quiet nervous black dog, that we found hiding in the straw in our old shed very near Christmas time. And, sure enough, she delivered her puppies in the barn….eight of them...and thus she became Mama Dog for all the rest of her life. The puppies ranged from cocoa to chocolate to black and were cute as could be. Ann and Matt fell in love with a chocolate male, and Ike was their faithful, loving, though finicky, family member before Aaron, before Lizzie and before Josh. Peanut wound up staying at the farm, spooky, gargantuan presence under the front porch; like her siblings, she had personality quirks and a thyroid problem to boot. Mama Dog was a good friend, following us out to the greenhouses to work, though she was far too nervous to nap inside. During the summer hours though, she would come down to the mum patches and and rest in the clover nearby, keeping watch over her people as long as we were out of doors.
Like the lyrics from a Lyle Lovett song, these are but a few of the furry friends that spent time with us. Chickens from Grandma Millie. Fish that lasted longer than anyone had a right to expect after their people decided cleaning the tank was too gross. Bubbles, the head butting bottle calf. Cats like Magnum, PI, the only pet Blake ever brought home, and Pumpkin, an enormous...yes, you guessed it...orange tabby. Finally, Baby, the last named and most loving cat ever, who would climb upon my shoulder and curl herself around my neck, giving me both a purring massage and a fur stole.
“And there are more I remember
And more I could mention
Than words I could write in a song..”
Lyle Lovett, Family Reserve