Gandalf on the Love Seat at Crow's Cottage
January 19, 2010
Pile of Puppies.
Monday, January 25, 2010
I'm sixty years and they're eleven weeks. It's a good balance. Crow's Cottage rocks with new life and awesome bursts of animal energy.
Three puppies! It's hard to imagine, easier to accept. Compassion got the best of me at the moment of acquisition.
True enough, we needed a greater dog presence here at the hacienda. Buck's death at the end of August had left us without a fulltime canine companion. Yes, grandog Athena visits several times a week and spends the night now 'n then, sleeping at the foot of the big bed. But she belongs to our son Marcus. Her allegiance lies elsewhere.
Our three puppies joined the family on December 14. They are the inevitable positive answer to a season of quiet prayers. We knew the right dog would arrive. We just didn't know how or when. But three?
Who Needs a Friend?
My sister-in-law Brenda set the trap, sending me photographs and a plea: "Do you need a new best friend or know of anyone that does? The mother and her eight puppies are living under a slab of concrete near the railroad track crossing at Frenchman's Bayou. The puppies are very friendly." The message was dated Thursday, December 10. Four days later I was motoring east to join the rescue team.
The three-hundred-mile journey from the western reaches of the Ozark Mountains to the Mississippi River delta on another side of the state allowed for some thoughtful introspection into why dogs are so important to me. I'll forego the details of that particular thought stream and go directly to the conclusion: I like life with dogs better than life without them. They are strength, solace, diversion, reward, and love.
Arriving at Frenchman's Bayou about noon, I found Brenda hard at work, feeding the dogs and trying to impose a sense of order onto their makeshift camp. The litter of eight slept and hid with their brave young mama in a cave-like space under great slabs of reinforced concrete, which had been tossed willy-nilly into a jagged pile between the railroad tracks and U.S. Highway 61. The puppy lair lay a few dozen yards off the dirt road leading to a handful of farm homes that make-up the tiny hamlet. With a railway, highway, and farm road on three sides, the pack of pups held a precarious position.
Isis on the Love Seat
January 19, 2010
The pups were unsteady on their little legs. Some sidled up to bowls of food, others hung back near the entrance to their cave, while the mother raced in protective circles around the territory she had claimed for her family. She was very young, not yet two, and couldn't conceal her sweet and gentle nature beneath the loud barking and wary demeanor.
The First Pup Is Snared.
I sought out one particular pup, most likely the runt, who had caught my eye while I was studying the photos Brenda had sent. In his eyes I could detect high intelligence and deep curiosity. He was cautious, too, but I managed to snare him after a while. His mama followed me, barking and jumping, all the way to the vehicle. I placed the pup gently in the tub we had outfitted with a soft blanket and then closed the door. He would become the dog named Ulysses.
Just then my old pal Peyton Speck arrived in a mud-splattered pickup truck to join the expedition. Peyton's son Cain joined us a few minutes later. A third-generation family farmer and United States Marine, Peyton obliged my request to help see if any of the pups scurrying on the ground were female. Two dogs are better than one, I said. They'll keep each other company. If one of these rascals is a female, I said, I'll take her.
Brenda's friend Courtney, a rescue shelter volunteer with a hankering to become a veterinarian, arrived next, about the same time as Peyton's pal Freddy, who had stopped to see what all the commotion was about. It was becoming one of the biggest events at Frenchman's Bayou in recent memory. The six of us were busy catching pups and inspecting their gender identifiers, and the mama was darting about the group barking her alarm at our rudeness, and I could hear little Ulysses wailing in his loneliness back in the vehicle.
Handing me a black and tan pup, Brenda said, "This one is a female!" I turned the little one over to Peyton and asked him to hold tight while we made sure none of the others were sisters. I suppose I was hankering for a choice.
"This one's a boy," someone said. "A male." "Another male." Eventually, our thoroughly unscientific search indicated all the scurrying pups were males 'cept the little lass clinging to Peyton's huge hands and one very wary blue-gray member of the litter, who hovered just outside the entrance to the lair. Whenever any of us approached, she, or he, would dash to dark safety in the unreachable recesses of the concrete cave.
Choices, Decisions, Destiny.
The little lass in Peyton's hands would become the dog named Isis. But at the moment, her fate hung in the balance. Courtney said she thought the blue-gray pup in the den was a female. If that were the case, I decided, then I'd take her home with me and leave the black and tan behind. I couldn't resist the shy one's striking merle markings. But we needed to catch the critter soon. I was eager to get back on the road for the six-hour drive to the mountains and wasn’t willing to wait much longer.
"It's too far back in there," Freddy said as he crouched at the entrance of the lair, shining the beams of a flashlight on the reluctant pup. Just then I noticed the mama dog, running in circles around my vehicle, jumping and barking in an attempt to rescue the male pup I'd already claimed.
Peyton and I walked over to the road to comfort the mama dog and chat a bit amongst ourselves, trying to catch up on one another's recent life story. We commented on the feisty spirit and handsome appearance of the mama. "Why don't you take her, too," Peyton chided.
Then we heard Brenda shout, "I've caught him!" The merle pup snuggling in her arms was a male. I took him from her and, caught up in the event, the peer pressure for an expanded rescue crashing-in upon me from all sides, I said, yes, I'll take him. And the black and tan female. I'll take her, too. They'll be a good pair. "You can take the mama, too," Peyton chuckled.
The shy little merle would become the dog named Gandalf. But his sudden status as the male half of the pair of new pups meant I couldn't keep the little one already in the vehicle. I'd have to pull him out of the tub and drop him back into the diminishing litter.
Peyton and I walked toward the car, each of us holding a pup, the mama dog nipping at our heels, Peyton laughing with friendly gusto, Brenda and Courtney behind us tending to the left-behinds, me pondering how heartless it would be to reject the little guy and send him back to his uncertain fate. What the heck, I said to Peyton. I'll take all three of 'em. I can find a home for the extra one when I get back to the mountains.
I did, too. He's sleeping at my feet this very moment.
Ulysses on the Love Seat
January 19, 2010
P O S T S C R I P T :
When we carried the Puppies Bowles in their little tub to the veterinarian for their first round of vaccinations, Dr. Evans and his assistant Lena identified them as Australian shepherds. How could that be? I asked. They're so different from one another. How could a breed have so many variations in appearance? "They look like Australian shepherds to me," Dr. Evans said again.
Back home, I began my research. I found a spittin' image of Isis on several Aussie websites: an exact match. Ulysses fit the profile, too. His markings reflected those of several dogs pictured on webs devoted to the breed. As for Gandalf, he is a fine example of the merles that are a hallmark of the diverse Australian shepherd family.
The day after I drove away from Frenchman's Bayou with my new pile of puppies, Brenda and Courtney gathered the remaining pups and their mama into the cab of a pickup truck for transport to an animal shelter in north Mississippi County, Arkansas. Not long thereafter, Brenda wrote to announce that all of the pups had been adopted. She said the mama was still looking for a home.
I'm very glad that Gandalf is a boy. If he weren't, I wouldn't have the company of precious little Isis.
Notices announcing the publication of each Letter from Crow's Cottage are sent by e-mail express to my list of family, friends, students, and fellow travelers. If you've come here by some other means than an e-mail invitation, and would like to receive notices, please write me so I can add you to the list. I share the addresses with no one but Godzilla the Atomic Road Lizard, who can't type and doesn't do e-mail.
form the narrative "Travels with Godzilla."
The Journey Ends:
Bye, Buck Bowles.
Monday, August 31
By the Hand of Man.
Thursday, August 27
Shy and Wonderful:
Of the Wild Image.
Wednesday, August 26
It Wasn't the Flood.
Tuesday, August 25
So Many Mountains
Giving Some Up.
Monday, August 24
Pay Is Pay
Saturday, August 22
Counting the Lanes.
Friday, August 21
An Easy Puzzle:
Flat and Tidy.
Thursday, August 20
A Fine Old Motor Vessel
Makes a Smooth Crossing
from Jersey to Delaware.
Wednesday, August 19
Sandy Pine Barrens
On a Road to Heaven.
Tuesday, August 18
Sugar Hollow Road:
Not too Far
down the Way
Friday, August 14
Thursday, August 13
Off Balance, Agitated.
Tuesday, August 11
Success and Fear
On the Sly Peripheral.
Monday, August 10
You Want to Take Forever.
Sunday, August 9
Carry Me Home.
Saturday, August 8
Friday, August 7