A friend recently lost, and then recovered, a really good dog and it got me thinking about a few of my favorite “dog gone” canines from the years my wife and I have spent together. We’ve had a few furry family members during our time together. Some were charmers, others idiots and a few have been both as well as easily qualifying as expert escape artists.
At the top of the heap for my personal “Good, Good Boy” award was a runt my wife spotted in a pen with his siblings, and instantly declared to be the best of the bunch. He was relatively tiny, and had one ear which stood up while the other flopped down. Before he even made it to our tiny little house in the middle of a North Carolina tobacco field, the pup was named “Mabay,” a contraction of “Mama’s” and “Baby.”
The goofy black-and-tan pup grew quickly and despite his comical, loving personality, turned into a dog which caused people to pause as his status as a runt changed to “scary looking dog like the police and military use.” He developed quite a personality while in his “terrible twos,” when we moved to southern Virginia and insisted upon riding with me in a Chevy S-10 truck anytime he could an opening. In fact, among the “endearing traits,” within this dog was a habit to run out the door behind me and then physically block the end of the driveway (barking like he’d just caught a criminal) until I opened the passenger door and told him he could come along.
When I made drives to a nearby country market, he would wait for me to get inside the store and then take the driver’s seat and put one paw up on the steering wheel. The dog would do this until he had at least a small crowd of admirers standing around saying things like, “He’s ready to drive!” or commenting about what a pretty boy he was. He loved attention.
Mabay had a few adventures along the way, which included two episodes of employment — at a garage and at a daycare center.
The first time he ran off and got a job, my wife had been crying for days, given up all hope and concluded he was gone forever just moments before someone stopped by and said they had seen a dog which matched his description at a nearby garage. Filled with hope, we jumped into the truck and found the garage, complete with German Shepherd laying on a lovingly-padded perch beneath a sign that read, “Guard Dog!” Mabay got one glimpse of his mama and jumped into the vehicle with her like a little poodle, landing in her lap and staying there.
The guys at the garage, while happy to see the dog reunited with his family, were visibly upset that he wouldn’t be coming back to work the next day. They explained he had appeared one day during lunch and they shared their boloney sandwiches with the well-behaved canine before informing him he could stick around to keep bad guys away that night. Sure enough, he was there the next morning when they reported for work, and nothing had been touched during the night. Impressed with his skills, and never-ending willingness to catch anything that was thrown, they made the bed and sign to welcome him to the family. I’ll never forget the look in one guy’s eyes as we left and he tried to protest, saying “But ... we fed him our lunch and ... we loved him.”
On another occasion while at another Carolina farm house, Mabay again went missing. We managed to track him over a rambling course of several miles through the sandhills, only to find him inside a fenced-in playground at a private daycare with little children climbing all over him and pulling his ears. The big, tough dog had a soft place in his heart for children and apparently reported for duty just as the youngsters went on recess. One of the ladies inside told me they were initially scared of the tough-looking dog, but quickly determined he was infinitely patient after only a few seconds interacting with the children.
After that day’s work, however, the big dog seemed happy to head home.
Years later, I was running ahead on assignments one day and I noticed Mabay, who still insisted on trying to ride with me but had eventually accepted that someone had to stay home with mama, was abnormally quiet and resting on at the top of the stairs to the front door. I went over and scratched his head and concluded he might need to see a vet soon. Less than an hour later, I received the phone call saying he was gone. With the help of a friend who had come to love Mabay as much or more than we did, we dug a grave for him beside a small lake, breaking every digging tool we had and enduring a cold rain in the process.
Mabay was laid to rest beside the water, along with many tears, his favorite ball and a blanket. His picture remains on the wall by our bedside.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.