Not long after my family moved into the new house on Greenwood Drive (see Part 4) my mother brought home a stray dog which she named Christie. Christie was as sweet tempered a dog as you could imagine, very well behaved including being completely housebroken, and absolutely adored my mother. She was also pregnant.
Christie only broke housetraining once. We had been gone for a weekend and came home to find she had been locked in the house and had lost control right next to the back door. She tried, but not having hands with opposable thumbs she couldn’t manage the door.
My mother set up a box in a corner for Christie. When she went into labor my mother was there and, for the first puppy, she had her head in my mother’s lap. After the first one came, she curled up herself as if to say, as my mother described it, “Okay, I’ve got this now.”
Christie dropped five puppies. In the ensuing weeks, the puppies eyes opened and they started getting up and about and roaming the house. We never had to house train them. Christie took care of that. She would take them outside and bring them back in. She was one smart dog.
In due time, once the puppies were weaned, we offered them for adoption “free to good home.” Four of them were quickly snapped up. The fifth, whom we’d named “Butch”, nobody would take, not even free. He was just too ugly for anybody to want.
And so, Butch became my dog. My mother said he was a “springer spaniel (thus the pic up top) beagle mix”. Maybe. The conformation was similar once he grew and the coloration pattern was similar although white and a very light tan, much lighter than the brown in the pic.
I didn’t think him ugly even as the puppy that nobody else wanted. I loved him dearly. My mother insisted that I be the one to feed him (we fed canned food, Ken-L Ration usually) so he would bond exclusively to me. I have since become big on giving any dog I have basic obedience training at the minimum but we didn’t do that then. The extent of any behaviors/tricks we taught was “beg” for treats and to come when called.
Now, today this would be considered a very bad idea but back then it was fairly common to let dogs roam when not in the house and that’s what Butch was allowed to do. Over the years we lost entirely too many dogs that way and well, we’ll get to that later.
Butch was my absolute best friend. He went with me everywhere he was allowed to be (couldn’t go in stores and the like, couldn’t go with me to school, etc.) and I lavished all the love and affection I had on him.
He was my confidante (never revealed a secret) and, most importantly, my solace when the bullying and ostracism got to be too much to bear.
Time passed and we moved to Ohio, first to Uncle Denny’s, then to the place next to it.
One day while I was out with Butch wandering the neighborhood one older man, sitting on his porch, told me that I should have Butch on a leash. In retrospect he was absolutely right. I should have. However, as a 10 or 11 year old, well, I made some pompous little statement about “freedom” and went on my way.
When my mother took my sister and I back to Virginia during her brief separation from Bruce, Butch did not go with us. I don’t know why we left him behind. Maybe we were too rushed to leave or maybe Mother realized that there wouldn’t be any place to have him when we got back to Virginia. We stayed at first with Aunt Pauline and Uncle George for some time. They had a dog of their own, a Pekinese, and there was no telling if the dogs would have gotten along (Butch would have been fine–he was everybody’s friend–but I don’t know about the Peke). Then there was that cheap walk-up. So, no, we really weren’t in a position to keep a dog.
The interlude in Virginia ended and we moved back to Ohio and Butch was still there. I guess Bruce actually took care of him in the interim (or maybe neighbors did, I can’t say, although I prefer to think that Bruce had at least enough humanity to look after the dog).
So, with the return to Ohio, I also experienced the return to the bullying and ostracism I had managed to escape for a time in Virginia (which explains, perhaps, why despite the years and the rather brief time I had there, I feel more of a connection to Virginia than I ever did to Ohio) and thankfully, Butch was there for me, always willing to let me wrap my arms around him and bawl my eyes out in his neck fur when the frustrations and loneliness, and growing depression, grew to be too much.
In due course we moved to the house near Claysville. Butch loved this. Open fields for lots of running. Chickens to chase (okay, he wasn’t supposed to do that, but he didn’t know that, and we did…mostly…get him broken of it). And groundhogs to fight.
This latter one, I think, is what finally proved his bane. (And, I must admit to misting up a bit at writing this.)
One day, after his roaming, he came home bloody from having been in a fight with something where he came out the worse. We cleaned him up and for a while he stayed close to the house. In time he healed and resumed his roaming.
This next part, I have only second hand account. My mother said that one day, after the fight where he came home bloody, he came home carrying a dead groundhog in his mouth. He dropped it in front of Mother and looked up at her, as she says, as if to say “Well, I got him.” Then he picked it up and went off with it. Mother’s theory is that he got into it with a groundhog and got torn up a bit, which was why he came back bloody that time, then when he healed he went out for a rematch and won.
However, sometime after that Butch was just…not there. He went out and he just never came back. We never did learn what happened to him. My mother thinks, and I suspect she’s right, that the most likely thing was that he got into it one too many times with groundhogs and one eventually killed him. Other possibilities are that he got caught in somebody’s trap (hunting and trapping were big activities then and there) or maybe some farmer shot the “stray dog”.
We’ll never know. And I still miss him today.
Damn onion ninjas.
I am so very sorry, Butch. You died much too young because I was an idiot that didn’t know how to properly take care of you.