TOM BRYANT: Looking Around Old Dog's Kennel Brings Back the Memories
March is a crazy month. I guess the good Lord gave us this special time so we would have an idea about how long infinity might be.
For example, the first of March rolls around and, since hunting season is over, I begin thinking about fishing and getting some of my fishing gear ready. I meander out to the garage. It's relatively mild, maybe in the high 50s. The garage is frosty, though, retaining some of the last evening's cold.
I put up both doors with the idea of letting in some heat, and I pull a couple of rods out to check the line on the reels. I really need to put new line on them. But by now my hands are numb from the cold, and I sure can't put new line on wearing gloves. There's not much heat coming in from the door openings. A cloud covers the sun and the temperature drops another 5 degrees. This is not working, I think, so the heck with it. I'll just go into the den and build a fire.
So that's exactly what I do.
I just get settled in front of a nice warm, cozy blaze when my bride, Linda, walks in from her workroom where she has been sewing and says, "What are you doing inside when it's so nice outdoors? I thought you were going to pick up some in the yard. There's a mess of pinecones out there."
And so it goes. Welcome to March. Will it ever end?
Back outside. Fetch the cart from the rear of the yard and begin the monotonous chore of pickup. I start working in front of the kennel. I miss my dog, Mackie. She's been gone for over a year now, having passed away at the grand old age of 14. I can remember the day she came to live with us. She was a little bitty thing, 8 weeks old and as cute as a puppy can be. I got her from a working kennel out of Georgia, and her breeders were well known for hunting and field trial Labs. Mackie was no exception. She loved to hunt and we had many successful days afield.
Mackie's kennel faces east. The sun had moved overhead so there was a shadow on her doghouse. I could barely see inside. Cedar shavings that I had used for bedding were spread over the floor of the kennel, so I decided to rake them up and get her old place back in order.
Dogs, I thought. There have been only a few years that a dog was not part of my daily routine. I stopped raking and sat down on Mackie's old water bucket. If Mackie were still here, we would be down at the dove field scouting around rather than picking up pinecones.
It's funny what you remember when you're sitting in an empty dog kennel. I remembered not only my past canine heroes but also some of my friends' furry partners that have gone on to their reward. There were Smut, Paddle, Sandy, Gillie, Princess, Honcho, Dick and Shug, just to name a few, and just recently, Allie and Bean.
All great dogs that have left an indelible mark on their owners' lives.
We love our neighbors, and they have some great dogs, too. There's Little Anne, a border collie, who lives across the street and is as sweet a dog as you'll find. Then Mercedes, a West Highland Terrier, who's queen of the household where she lives. And Sophie, a Catahoula Leopard Dog. I've never seen a better-mannered animal. Around the corner there's Corona, a Yellow Lab, and her partner Guinness, a Black Lab. And at the end of the street is Baxter, a great Pyrenees. As big as a small bear, when Baxter is taken for his morning walk, it's hard to tell who is walking whom. They are our greeters every morning when Linda and I walk past their house.
My dog list wouldn't be complete without Babe, a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, and Tam, a huge, young English Setter. They belong to one of my hunting buddies and make duck hunting so much more fun. And then there's Nestle, a Boykin Spaniel. I'll never forget the day I helped a good friend acquire her.
Hunter Chase, The Pilot's sports editor, just recently adopted Bunny Rae, a black Lab. She's about 2 years old and has a disposition that has made the breed one of the country's most popular. She's always smiling, and during the short time she has lived with Hunter, she has changed his life. According to Hunter, he sleeps better, gets more exercise, eats more like he should and is generally an all-around better person. Most of us can say the same thing about our dogs.
Last Sunday, I met Hunter at the dog exercise area behind Wal-Mart to check out his new friend. Bunny could be the poster child for young female labs. An enjoy-life kind of dog. Hunter is indeed fortunate to find such a great friend.
Dogs add a dimension to life that no other animal can. Their unconditional love is rarely duplicated in the human race and never with any other species. Maybe that's the reason for the bumper sticker I saw on the back of an old pickup the other day. "The more I'm around people, the more I love my dog."
And then there's a favorite quote from Robert Ruark's "The Old Man and the Boy."
"Boy," he said, "I will tell you a very wise thing. If a man is really intelligent there's practically nothing a good dog can't teach him. But a dumb man can't learn anything from a smart dog, while a dumb dog can occasionally learn something from a smart man."
My intelligence is about average, I guess, but over the years I've learned a lot from the dogs I've been lucky enough to live with.
Why just sitting in Mackie's kennel I came to realize March does have a redeeming value. It's a great month for remembering.
Tom Bryant can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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