Saturday, March 21, 2009

Woman's best friend

I was thinking about my childhood dog last night as I was trying (unsuccessfully) to fall asleep, and I wanted to share his story with y'all.

My mom got a puppy from one of her students, whose bitch had an unexpected pregnancy. She was a registered Australian Shepherd, but the father was unknown. There had been an intact Blue Healer roaming around about the right time, but as the puppies grew up they looked more like lab crosses. I was 6, my sister 5, and the puppy was supposed to be for both of us. As those things, go, though, the puppy (Wyatt) and I really bonded. My sister is more of a cat person, turns out.

I had ridden horses since I was 1 (with lots of help, of course), and when I was 10 I really started riding a lot, being able to be more independent. Wyatt always came along on my trail rides and pack trips. Wyatt, my horse, and I spent a lot of time together. Wyatt slept in my room at night, of course, while the other dogs slept in my mom's room. My parents were divorced, but they stayed friends and split the property to be neighbors, so that it would be easier on my sister and I. Wyatt's home was at my Mom's house (supposed to be, anyway). My sister and I spent equal time at each house, and it didn't take Wyatt long to figure out when I was at my Dad's. He would often come looking for me whenever he got a chance to run off and I wasn't at Mom's. Mom said sometimes he would rub on the coats hanging in the hallway, and knock them down to lay on mine.

When my mom was building the barn for the horses, her and Rae did most of the work on it. I think I was 12 at the time, so I wasn't much help (though I tried). Wyatt, and my Mom's two dogs, were hanging out on the ground while Mom and Rae were working on the frame for the roof. The way my mom tells it, the dogs were all calm while Mom and Rae were up high in the skeleton of the barn, swaying around. I went down to check out their work, climbed up the ladder to the top. And Wyatt went nuts, apparently very worried about me. As my Mom tells it, he couldn't care less if she and Rae were in danger, but as soon as things looked iffy for me, he suddenly cared very much!

I returned his love as much as I could. Even as a child, I appreciated his devotion. Sure, I made mistakes, lost my temper, but he always forgave me and we always had that strong bond. I took him with me whenever I could, and he had a good life. When I went off to college, he was 12, and had slowed down a lot, but was still very healthy. He couldn't come with me, and I missed him very fiercely. No animals allowed in dorm rooms, you know. And I couldn't give him the freedom he was used to at home, anyway. He would have gone crazy, even after having slowed down so much. When I came home for Christmas that year, and the summer after, he sure hadn't forgotten me. Our bond wasn't as strong, but we still loved each other so much.

I was married that summer, between my freshman and sophomore years, but my husband went back to Iraq, and I lived with my mom. I tried taking him on trail rides a couple times, because he wanted to go with me so bad. But halfway through the trail ride, he always slowed down and couldn't keep up, so I gave up. He always barked like mad, though, and I felt bad leaving him behind. Our last trail ride together I remember vividly. I went out for a trail ride alone, and decided to take Wyatt with me. We had to cross a busy road to get to the trail, but Wyatt was very good at sit and wait precisely for this reason. My mom and I were very careful with that, since we couldn't exactly keep our dogs on leashes. I always brought both horse and dog treats on trail rides! Halfway through the ride (I was doing fast trotting), I couldn't see Wyatt anymore. I called and called, but he didn't come. I thought he maybe had missed one of the turns I took, and went home early (unfortunately, that sometimes happened, although rarely). I was very worried because he had to cross that busy road on the way back. I rushed back across the road, no Wyatt. I ended up beating him home, and he was fine. I had stopped to talk to a neighbor on the way home (after checking the road), and there came Wyatt 5 minutes later, while I was still there, walking very slowly. That's when I knew that I couldn't take him on rides anymore. I couldn't put him in danger like that anymore, no matter how much he wanted to come on the trail rides. Used to be that he could always keep up, and was with me when we crossed any road, so that I could control when we crossed, and do it safely.

When Wyatt was very young, still a puppy, really, he used to run off a lot. He fathered at least one litter of puppies by the time he was 6 months old! We quickly neutered him, but for a while he still ran off. He soon stayed at home for the most part, but started running off again when he was older. My mom has 40 acres, and takes the dogs with her outside when she's outside. She can't keep an eye on every dog every time, and doesn't want to keep one locked up all the time. So sometimes he ran off, and there wasn't much we could do about it. He always came home safe and sound.

Diasaster struck our family in quick succession. We lost two dogs in a row, including Wyatt, a month and a half apart. First, my mom lost her dog, a bitch named Sasha who was very special to her. I was home for that one. I went back to school at the end of September, and a little over a month later, October 29th, I got the call from my mom as I was getting ready to go to polo practice. Wyatt was dead, hit by a car. Looked like a quick death. Just like Sasha, about the same place on the same busy road. I had said my goodbye, because he was old, albeit healthy, and I never knew when he might go. I had been especially sensitive because we had just lost Sasha. So I had said my goodbye, but I wasn't ready, it was too sudden. My childhood friend, who had been with me for everything, was gone. It's more than a year and a half later, and I still have a hard time not crying just thinking about him.

I'll probably post more stories about him in the future... most notably one involving a porcupine... but that's enough for now. Here's a picture of him about a year before he died:

Not bad for a 12-year-old, huh?


  1. He is very handsome! you almost made me cry! Animals can be so special to us...

  2. Thanks! Yes, he was the first animal I really bonded to so strongly. Makes him even more special. I think it's hard for me to move on because I haven't been able to get a dog or cat since then. Not to replace him of course, but be able to move on and start making more happy memories.