Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Sometime after 2000, Katie found herself being escorted from the bus each day by a bird dog. For lack of knowing to whom she belonged, we called her Tilly. She only came to the house in the afternoon, walking alongside Katie. When school let out that year, we saw Tilly rarely. Then my brother came to us one day and said "Your dog had puppies under my house...." I was puzzled. We had no dog. When he described the dog I told him that she wasn't ours, that we'd only ever seen her in the afternoons, after the bus and never at any other time.
One morning we came out to find upon our front porch a fat puppy, obviously a bird dog, obviously Tilly's. We later discovered that Tilly had been distributing her puppies to households in the neighborhood. My brother, we, a house up the road all had puppies on their doorsteps. John warned me we weren't keeping her, couldn't have a dog and by any means do not feed or pet her. The puppy wailed and whined and wailed. I ignored my husband's instructions and when he came in that evening, he found me on the front porch feeding the puppy milk soaked cat food and calling her Daisy. Daisy wailed all through the night, keeping the household pretty much awake. I checked on her, fed her, petted her and attempted to do what I could of housework the next day. About mid-morning she stopped crying. I went out to check on her and found that there were two fat puppies. Daisy never whimpered or cried again.
When John came in that evening, he surveyed the two puppies, looked at me and sighed. "We'll call this one Trudy, I guess," he said. "At least she'll keep Daisy quiet." So we had two dogs.
A few days later, as I left the driveway, I was stopped at the end of the road by a Forestry Service truck. The rangers said "There's a puppy in the ditch up here." I explained that a stray dog had had puppies and had been delivering them to what she felt were suitable homes. I told them we'd already been the recipient of two and I could not possibly take on another. They nodded and said they'd rescue the pup. When I came home that evening there were three doggies on my front porch. Katie claimed her and named her Ruthy. John shook his head when he came in from work but didn't say a thing more than, "Three girls...we'll have to call the vet and have them fixed."
Katie taught them to go up and down the steps. I can still see her teaching them to jump the small drainage ditch. One plump little girl with long hair flying out behind her leaping over the ditch, then standing opposite the dogs and calling them to jump too. And they did. Three plump little puppies, with long ears flying out behind them would leap joyously to the other side and repeat the game for as long as Katie could last.
So we had three. "The Girls" we called them collectively were as different as they could be in personality, but only looked slightly different in actuality. Daisy was boss, the leader of the group, the one who determined their daily activities. Trudy was a follower, a quiet dog, not assertive in the least. She was what might be called a 'get along' doggy. Ruthy was the beauty of the group with an oddly independent way about her for all that she willingly went along with the other two. Ruthy soon refused to come when called...unless we said "Woofy" at which point she came running.
The dogs were happy here. They wandered and roamed over the land, swam, played, slept, ate. One day a Basset Hound showed up here and stayed. We dubbed him Buddy. He and Daisy began to take off on their own. One day they didn't come back home. I looked and looked for them, but I never found them. A couple of months later, we were headed to church. As we drove down the major highway, we found Woofy lying at the side, apparently having been hit by a car and dying instantly. So there was Trudy, the quiet dog, the home body.
On her own, we feared she'd be lonely, would grieve over much, would be lost without companionship. Au contraire! Trudy chose this time to bloom.
Trudy was all personality, simply waiting to be noticed once no longer eclipsed by the other two dogs. She was sweet and good and never a dog to strow trash or tear up things. She coveted the warmth of the sun in winter as her fur was never really thick. She could sleep through most anything at all. She once slept no more than three feet from a 3 1/2 ton truck backing up next to her, unloading heavy equipment and never lifted her head. She barked plenty. At shadows of leaves on the lawn, at rabbits, deer, branches that waved in the winter wind, but never at people. Twice when we had strangers here and it was raining she didn't bark at all, but she did climb into the truck with them! Though she never was on a leash, we had only to clip one to her and she'd walk sedately to the car, clamber in, ride to the vets office and walk in like she did it every day. Yes, Trudy was personality plus.
She loved to eat, but was never fat. Her love of eating whatever she chose however, almost proved her undoing a few years ago when she ate some poisoned food. Two long weeks passed before she so much as lifted her head. I wept like a baby the day she put her nose down in her dish and snuffed up a few drops of milk toast. The siege was over. Trudy recovered well after that with no obvious lasting harm.
She loved us all dearly. I think she felt we failed her only once and that was the day we brought Maddie home. Trudy sulked for a month. She wouldn't look at me, would turn her back on us, refused biscuits. One day, Katie glanced out the window and whispered "Mama come here!" Trudy ran towards Maddie, 'tagged' her and ran away. Maddie gave chase and they played. The moment we opened the door, Trudy turned her back on us, acted as though Maddie didn't even exist.
Eventually Trudy forgave me. She came over one day and laid her head upon my knee, rolled her brown eyes up at me and looked for all the world as though she were saying "I know you're sorry...I forgive you." lol She began to teach Maddie. Trudy, who never was Alpha dog even when alone, suddenly became the disciplinary dog, the sober older dog, a good balance to Maddie's sort of hyper personality. She tolerated Maddie's possessiveness and allowed her to push her away when Maddie wanted the attention. But Trudy also learned to push back, to growl warningly at Maddie when she needed attention and then would lay that head of hers against my knee and demand the ear rubs she coveted. If I stopped before she felt she'd had enough, she raised her giant paw and dragged her nails down my calf.
Maddie respected Trudy and obeyed her. She was not above teasing her at times. Sneaking away a treat that she'd watched Trudy carefully hide. Snitching her blanket if she ventured too far from it. Oh Maddie was a tease all right but Trudy was boss and when she'd had enough, Maddie would let her be.
We saw the gray hair creeping around Trudy's muzzle and eyes these past years. Now and then when we'd return from St. Augustine we'd notice it more than ever, that she was almost white in those dark areas. She felt the cold more as she got older and we discussed buying her coats, but supplied her plenteously with blankets and towels. We'd dry her off carefully when she'd been in the fields walking in the rain. We fed her a little more when the temperatures dropped. This year, as the autumn cold settled in, Trudy shivered mightily. I would check on her a lot during the day, and cover her if she was on the porch. She'd sigh deeply and roll her eyes up at me, with obvious gratitude, then she'd snuggle in and sleep. She ate less, came to the back door less often for biscuits, slept more. Sunny days she'd choose a sheltered spot from the wind where the sun hit her fully and would sigh contentedly as the sun warmed her.
I noticed this week that Maddie was often looking at Trudy, ears back a little, a worried expression on her face. Trudy would stop to rest halfway up the hill and Maddie would sit near and wait patiently. I knew the end was nearing. Trudy wasn't ailing in any way, just slow and tired. I tried to tease her appetite but yesterday morning, I noted that she simply put her nose to the special food, inhaled deeply and then lay her head down beside the bowl. We checked on her throughout the day, even through the evening. She was fine, just sleepy.
I found her this morning, lying on her side in a soft spot of green grass. My good sweet dog, gone home. We laid her to rest in her favorite sunny spot, sheltered from the wind.