A few years ago, as I was finishing up with barn chores, a neighbor hollered at me, saying how much he liked my newest little dog. Puzzled, I asked him, “What new little dog?” He turned and pointed to the scruffy tan dog behind him.
As I approached, the little dog wagged her tail and tried to walk toward me. Tried, but failed. It turned out she had a badly broken hip, probably, the vet said, from being thrown from a vehicle. She was the latest dog to be “dumped,” this time literally, at my property on a rural gravel road here in Boone County. She went to the vet in Hallsville that very morning and, after surgery, spent the next month or so cooped up in a kennel while her bones knitted together. Scout Finch, as she came to be called, was a Border Terrier, who joined the family about a month before Linus James, a miniature Schnauzer, died during an interminable night.
After another interminable night, Scout died last week. And, oddly enough, about a month earlier, another dog arrived in a similar fashion. Late one night, the barking chorus led me outside, flashlight in hand, to see if a varmint was trying to destroy yet another bird feeder. It wasn’t a varmint. It was a dog—or at least it might have been a dog. It looked more like a pelt over a skeleton, so skinny was this little thing. I put out some kibble, hoping that in the morning, I could persuade the poor scrap to come in and get more food.
In the morning, the dog was gone but a couple of days later, I saw movement around my machine shed. I began to leave kibble, drenched in milk, twice each day. It disappeared like clockwork. The dog, which began to look more and more like a dog, refused to approach but would slink up to the overhang of the shed after I moved away, to wolf down the food. After three weeks, the dog, who seemed to fit the name “Paco,” and was now plump and fit, wagged his tail one day. Three days later, after tail-wagging each day, he approached and licked my hand. That day, he decided he could live at the house and has been there ever since. Paco, who was approved by Scout––but still has to gain the approval of Xochi, a probable Golden Doodle, dumped on the road several years after Scout’s arrival––appears to be part bassett hound and part pit bull.
I’m sure Paco will have his own story one day, but it will be stiff competition to live up to one episode in Scout’s life…
In our house, Thanksgiving has always been an opportunity to invite others to celebrate over good food and good conversation. One Thanksgiving several years ago, although the guest list was small, it was going to be filled with laughter and conversation. Those invited included two professors at MU, a friend and colleague from the Public Defender System, my Mom, me, and of course the dogs—at that time Scout, Montie (a part German shepherd and part something else) and Xochi.
My Mom was a brilliant woman but, to be blunt, she couldn’t cook. She was unclear exactly why that room called the kitchen existed. But as I was trying to get everything ready for our guests’ arrival, she helpfully asked several times, “What can I do?” But when I responded “nothing,” she didn’t give up. Finally, she announced that she would put the cranberry sauce on the table. Still, a bit later came another, “What can I do?” This time she announced she would put the butter on the table. And the rest of the story, as they say, is chronicled in family history.
You see, for a little dog, Scout was incredibly athletic. She could get on any table and could remove any item she wanted with surgical precision. You guessed it. Soon after Mom had put the butter on the table, I saw Scout, with a stick of butter between her clenched jaws, high-tailing it out of the dining room, through the kitchen, into the family room and out the doggie door—with the boys—Montie and Xochi—in hot pursuit.
I chased the group, screaming “No, No, Bad Dogs!! DROP IT!!! DROP IT!!” with absolutely no effect. I finally cornered Scout in the yard, and pried her jaws open to pull the rest of the stick of butter out of her mouth. (No, I didn’t use the butter in the meal, since it didn’t meet the 15-second test.)
As the guests arrived, the naughty dogs were still in the proverbial doghouse and, despite pleas that they be allowed in the house, they spent Thanksgiving dinner in the yard––the dogs, not the guests.
After dinner was over and the food placed out of harm’s way, the herd was allowed to return. To my horror, when I looked down at Scout, I saw what looked to be partially dried blood on her side. I thought, “Great! One of the boys smelled the butter and bit her. Now I’m going to have to call the vet and ask who is willing to come in to tend a puncture wound on Thanksgiving Day.” Before I made that phone call, I figured I should at least clean up the wound to see how bad it was. So, I wet a paper towel and picked her up to assess the damage. As I dabbed at the “blood,” I realized, and, unfortunately, said aloud, “This isn’t blood. This is CRANBERRY SAUCE!!”
And, yes, I realized, as did our guests, that in the process of stealing the butter, Scout had checked out the cranberry sauce too. She had done what any self-respecting dog does when it meets up with something smelly, but inedible––she rolled in it. You could see everyone in the room—except for one guest who didn’t like cranberry sauce—turn a little green and utter a collective “bleah.”
So, the newest addition to the family––Paco––in creating his own legacy, will have to live up to “The Great Butter Caper.” Because he is so short-legged, and even now does a “Tigger Bounce” to see over tall grass, I suspect he won’t be hopping on tables like Scout did. But, undoubtedly, he will find his own way into family lore.
While I wish that people who don’t have a use for an animal wouldn’t use a county road as a dumping ground and suggest that instead, they take these animals to the Central Missouri Humane Society, my life has been the richer for the additions of those who have been dumped: Scout Finch, Montie, Xochi, Holly, Max, Houdini, just to name a few.
Spay. Neuter. Protect.