Way to Go, Hickory!

Okay, perhaps you may have guessed that I am a dog lover. I’d rather not try to list every single dog I have ever owned, as there have, unfortunately, been a few that were not a part of my life for as long as they should have been. Still, I’ve had quite a few through the years, beginning way back at the very beginning with what may or may not have been some kind of Old English Sheepdog mix. Her name was Taffy, though I don’t remember her. My dad used to tell me stories about how when I was barely able to walk, I’d take hold of her collar and use her for a kind of walker to get around. I don’t actually know what happened to her. I guess I never thought to ask anyone. This is her, though:

Yes, that’s also me… and my mom, and a cat (who I also don’t remember) that I’m told was named Tiger. (My sister and I got into a discussion a while back about our family’s lack of originality when it came to naming cats, but that’s a whole other post.)
I wish I could remember Taffy, as she looks like a pretty cheerful dog. I do remember a rabbit we had, but only because it bit me once. My sister says I poked a finger into its cage and sure enough, it took a hunk outta me. Stupid rabbit!

Sometime after Taffy, my dad brought me home a new puppy. I was still very young, though I can clearly remember that moment. Mostly because my new puppy was so little that my dad could hold her cupped in his hands. I don’t remember who named her, but her name was Misty. Here she is, patiently having the life hugged out of her:

I don’t know how old she is here, but she looks close to full grown. (I still have both the stuffed bunny rabbit I’m hugging and the quilt you can just see peeking out from beneath the bedspread. I sincerely wish I still had Misty.)
Misty was a Cock-a-poo. Back in those days, that meant she was a mutt. Today she’d have been considered a “Designer Dog” and her breeder would have wanted an absurd sum of money for her. We got her for free. We had a fenced back yard, but a neighbor dog jumped it when she was in head and so… we added another dog to the family. (Not sure what happened to all the other pups. Given away, I’m sure. I think I begged to keep one, though.) His name was Toto. (I LOVED the Wizard of Oz.) He’s the larger gray one. And that’s Misty on my other side. So you can see just how old she was. Easily ten or eleven at the time this picture was taken. They’d both just had a clipping for summer. Without it their hair would get long enough to develop mats.
We lost Toto not long after this shot was taken. He had cancer. I lost Misty after my mother died. My father took her to Memphis and put her in a back yard that hadn’t had a dog in it in decades, if it ever had. She escaped and was never seen again. It still breaks my heart. She didn’t deserve to be lost like that.

So, after my mother’s death, I moved up north to be with my then fiance, Mark. He had a dog of his own, Joshua Isaiah. (This is also the name we always intended to give any son we might have. And yes, we’ve often laughed about explaining THAT to our imagined child.)

 Josh was a Black and Tan Coonhound. This is him on a walk in the woods with us. He was a big baby, and loved being cuddled. He was also full-blooded and registered. Someone once offered Mark an obscene amount of money for him because he was such an excellent hunter and example of the breed. The fact that my dear hubby flat-out refused to part with his dog for any amount of money is just one of the many, many reasons that I love him. We lost Josh to cancer.

The first dog that Mark and I owned together was Feeper. Yeah, I know it’s a senseless name. Neither one of us can remember why we named her that, now. She was a Shih-a-poo. (Shih tzu and poodle) She was the cutest thing in the world.

She was hit by a van on the road in front of Mark’s parents’ house. The driver didn’t even slow down.

Mark and I eventually rented a house of our own and while we still had Josh, we acquired another dog purely by virtue of being the only ones around who cared enough to take care of him. We called him Fred.

Fred’s origin and breeding were a mystery, though he obviously had some kind of spaniel in him. He was absolutely precious. Very skittish in the beginning, but incredibly loving once he figured out we meant him no harm. We literally lost Fred when we moved to our current home. I was working at the time and Mark moved the dogs all at once, then went back for more furniture. By the time he got back here, Fred was nowhere to be found. We searched everywhere for him for weeks afterwards, but we never found him.

Around this same time we had a collection of other dogs. First came Kelly:
She was some kind of shepherd type dog. She was stolen while I was in the hospital. We lived in town, next to a bar. All kinds of crazy things happened. Before she was taken, she had a litter of puppies and while we gave some of them away, the 2 we had intended to keep were also stolen.

In the end, we were left with only one of her puppies. I named him Wiggles (which Mark still derides to this day) because he had this crazy way of wiggling his entire body when he was excited. He favored his mother quite a bit, though with more of a hound face.
We had Wiggles until his death of natural causes. I have pictures of him with Katie when she was just a baby. He was a sweet boy, if a bit buffaloed by the cats. I’ve got pictures of that, too, though I wish I’d owned a video camera back in those days. One of our cats would march right up to him and swat him on the nose, meow, then patiently stand there as he bathed her. It was beyond comical.

Also during this time Mark got me a pure-bred Siberian Husky that I named Josey. Specifically, his registered name was Outlaw Josey Wales. This is one of Mark’s favorite movies.
Josey was beautiful. He had gorgeous blue eyes. I loved him dearly. Unfortunately, I owned him at a time when I was too young and naive to understand what I was getting into. It didn’t help that I was still struggling with severe depression when he was a puppy, either. I had no idea how to handle a dog like him. Specifically, I gave no thought to how much exercise a dog like a Husky would need. Or how crazy he’d go with nothing to do. He turned aggressive towards our other animals. He almost killed a goat we kept as a pet. No chain would hold him long, because he was incredibly strong. Another part of his breeding. He would snarl and snap at anyone who got near him when he was eating. Anyone but me. I didn’t feel like I could give him away because I was afraid he’d hurt someone. And when he nearly killed our goat after breaking his chain, I just didn’t know what else to do. So I had him put to sleep. I held him in my arms as he died, then buried him myself. To this day, I still mourn his loss. Mostly, I hate that I failed him so terribly. If I had him now, I’d know what to do, how to work with him and train him. I just didn’t know what to do then, and I hate myself for letting him down. None of it was his fault, it was mine.

We also had a female Pit-Bull mix that we got from a shelter. Her name was Cricket.
I know the reputation that Pit Bulls have. But Cricket was the sweetest dog I have ever known. I don’t know what her life was like before she came to us, but she was always so gentle and sweet here. I went into the shelter looking for a small dog and came out with her because she was the next one scheduled to die. One look into her sweet eyes and I just couldn’t let that happen to her.

And then there was Angus.
Angus Tango was a full-blooded, registered Chow Chow that was given to us by one of my husband’s co-workers. He was, without a doubt, the absolute best guard dog I have ever had. He was a giant ball of fluff, and nothing but a big teddy bear with us, but strangers were another story entirely. Mark worked nights back in those days and he knew he could trust Angus to keep me safe while he was gone. Angus died on Easter morning many years ago, but I still miss him terribly. I know many people are afraid of Chows, but I’d own another one in a heartbeat. In fact, I do have a Chow mix named Malcolm.

This is Malcolm and his sister, Beulah. They were quite young in this shot. Beulah died several years ago, possibly from some kind of congenital issue. Malcolm is an old man now, but he’s still my big boy. He took over where Angus left off. Malcolm doesn’t care much for strangers, though he’s less aggressive about it than Angus was. He’ll still let you know that he’s here and watching. Sadly, Mark and I both know that he probably won’t be with us much longer. He began his life as an outdoor dog but has lived inside for the past few years. These days he sleeps more than he’s awake. He still makes his rounds, but he’d rather be in here snoring on the couch than outside chasing squirrels or possums.

And this brings us to Katie, the one for which this site was named. Hubby had always wanted an English Bulldog (technically it’s just Bulldog, but people need the “English” part to know for sure what you’re talking about.) He’d had an acquaintance who’d owned one when he was younger. So, in 2001 we brought Katie home. Her registered name is Katie-Bar-the-Door because we used to laugh at the way she’d careen around the house. We always said, “Here comes trouble!” when she’d come barreling into the room. As much as she loved to play, she was always a good girl, never chewing on things she shouldn’t. Of course, she had plenty of toys to play with, so that helped.
Katie and her ball, caught in mid-leap. It’s hard to believe she was ever that small! You can see her at the top of the page as well as in the collage at the bottom.

This is my most recent shot of her. She’s starting to show her age with lots of gray in her face.

She’s our baby girl, and we have no idea how we’re going to deal with losing her. She’s still as funny as ever, and occasionally gets frisky and likes to play. But she’s slowing down as she nears her tenth birthday. She is, without a doubt, the smartest dog Mark and I have ever known. Smarter than Mark’s Border Collie that he had as a kid. I joke all the time that if she had opposable thumbs, she’d be ruling the world.

And last of all, there is Briscoe. He’s the other half of our Bullie pair. We brought him home partially with the intention of breeding him and Katie – which never happened – and also because we just wanted another Bulldog.

I’m thinking that we should have taken one look at this and known that he wasn’t going to be the brightest bulb in the box.

Mark calls Briscoe a meathead. He’s not particularly smart. He’s almost six years old now and he’s just recently figured out that he gets a treat when he goes outside to potty. By this, I mean that from the time he was a baby, we have rewarded him for going outside and doing his business. It’s part of the training process. He goes out to potty and he gets a dog biscuit when he comes back inside. Katie long ago started trying to fake us into giving her extra treats. She’ll bark within half an hour of having been out. She’ll head toward the door and even go outside and pretend to potty. That’s right, she’ll PRETEND to go to the bathroom, all in an effort to get another biscuit. I do not fall for this. Mark seems to think she has a bladder the size of a pea, because he often does. Or he did. He’s starting to catch on to her as well… Wait, how many years did it take him to figure out what she was doing? LOL

Anyway, Briscoe has just recently started doing the same thing. He’ll head to the door and just stand there. If no one follows him, he’ll bark. And he’ll try to do this over and over again. You have to understand that I’ve never seen any dog with bladder control like his. He prefers to be sleeping on the couch. He likes the couch because he can rest his giant head on the arm. When Malcolm and Katie are practically hopping to get out the door, Briscoe has to be forced to wake up and go out. He is a true couch potato. The only time he gets in a hurry is if we tell him we’re going to go “travel.” He knows that word. Katie knows too many to count. But Briscoe just knows travel, probably because he absolutely loves to go for rides in the car.
He’s not very bright, but he is an absolute love bug. He’d rather cuddle than anything else. He’s loving to a fault, considering how many times I’ve found myself slathered with his drool because he wanted to snuggle.

He doesn’t sleep upside down with his head hanging off the couch anymore. Probably because his head is so heavy that it would just pull him over the edge. He is the quintessential Bulldog, complete with snoring, drool, and gas that will bring tears to your eyes. He’s bull headed (pun intended) and goofy beyond words. Katie has, from day one, looked at him with a mixture of contempt and disgust. She thinks he’s a pure idiot, and treats him accordingly. The shots I have of them snuggled together always depict Katie with an expression that seems to say, “Please make him go away!” Briscoe has never figured out how she feels about him. He still makes the effort to impress her with his grace and charm. Bless his dense little heart.

I guess I just wanted everyone to know that I love dogs. There have been others besides the ones listed here, some mine, some belonging to others. My great aunt had a dog named Dixie that I loved almost as much as Misty. Another aunt had a poodle named Winkie. And there was my grandmother’s toy poodle, Candy, who hated all children, including me, but who came to me willingly once I grew up a bit. And then there was my best friend’s German Shepherd, Bear, who loved to play football. Our high school football team (coincidentally, the Bears) was pretty pathetic. We used to joke that they needed Bear to play for them so they might actually win a few games. She was awesome.

There have been plenty of other pets besides dogs, too. But tonight I’m just talking about them because tonight was the 135th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I watch it every year, though sometimes all I catch is the final judging for Best in Show. This year I saw most of the show, including the Non-Sporting group that was judged last night. The Bulldog got beat out by the Chinese Shar Pei, which was okay. Usually it’s the blasted Poodles that take that title. Anyway, tonight was the final judging, when they take the best of each group and pick the dog that’s the best example of it’s breed. Tonight, for the first time ever, the title was taken by a Scottish Deerhound. Her name is Foscliffe’s Hickory Wind, Hickory for short. It’s her final show. She will retire after tonight. So to take the top honor was especially significant for her and her owners and handler. In case you don’t know what a Scottish Deerhound looks like, here’s a shot of Hickory taken after her win tonight.

The girl in the middle is her handler. The men on either side are judges and other various officials. While not the largest dog breed in the world, Hickory is clearly no petite pup! Kudos to this beautiful girl and her handler.

I’ve had a lot of dogs in my life, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes with some of them. It’s a true shame that so may people view dogs as just something else to own, something to stick out in the yard on a chain and give a pat to every once in a while. Dogs are pack animals. They NEED companionship. They need to be a part of a family. Dogs exist, not because they are born randomly, but because WE breed them, or let them be bred. They are not wolves, capable of surviving whatever nature throws their way. The vast majority of domesticated dog breeds have been created by us. God didn’t send two Bulldogs, and two Pugs, and two Collies, and two German Shepherds, and two Chihuahua’s, and two Scottish Deerhounds, (the list could go on for quite a while) to Noah to put on the ark. He sent two dogs. Maybe even just two wolves. We are the ones who decided that what God had created wasn’t good enough. We are the ones that mixed breeds and manipulated genes until we wound up with dogs, like my beloved Bulldogs, that are so far away from their wolf ancestors that they couldn’t even survive living outside year round. They require air conditioning in the summer due to their short noses. And they aren’t built to tolerate cold, either.

We created the variety of dog breeds that now exist and we’re still trying to come up with new ones. Ever heard of a Labradoodle? Eskapoo? How about a Goldmation? If you’re interested, there’s an extensive list of hybrid dogs you can glance at: List of Hybrid Dogs. (Be warned, it’s ridiculously long.) Currently, these dogs are not considered individual breeds. It takes a long while to get enough hybrid offspring to begin being able to breed them to each other, and then another long while to get that new breed recognized by mainstream groups like Westminster or the AKC. By “long while” I mean decades. And there are other issues when it comes to creating a new breed, namely the problem of getting consistent offspring. Still, the fact is that humans have created the different breeds of dogs we have today. All because we wanted dogs that were better hunters, or better herders, or better companions, or any of a hundred other things. Bulldogs were created for the horrific sport of bull baiting. Since that was thankfully outlawed, they’ve been bred to be smaller and less aggressive so that they are now purely companion dogs.

Ultimately, I guess I wish people would be responsible enough to not own a dog if they aren’t going to treat it like a part of their family. Almost 11,000 dogs are euthanized every single day in America. This is beyond shameful. And that doesn’t even begin to consider the countless others who are kept in unhealthy, deplorable conditions by owners who think that they’re doing all they need to if they toss a few scraps out the door every once in a while. Dogs require just as much care and attention as human children. They need to see a vet on a regular basis. They require protection from the elements, including flea and tick preventatives that actually work, as well as tablets to prevent heartworm infestation. And this is merely the most basic things they need. Even these basics are not cheap. Beyond these mere necessities, as well as quality food and a constant source of fresh, clean water, dogs need companionship and often, structured play and at least a minimum of training. It’s a shame that we live in a society that treats dogs (and most other animals) like garbage that can be kept or thrown away at our leisure.

I am still ashamed by how terribly I failed Josey. I’d give almost anything to have a chance to do it over again. He deserved so much better than to be mishandled like he was. Hind sight is always 20/20, but even knowing that, I cannot believe I was so foolish. He was a good dog. He just had a bad owner. The lessons I learned from him haunt me to this day. I wish other dog owners could feel my shame. Maybe they’d learn to do justice to their dogs as well. After all, our dogs want very little from us. Love. Comfort. Shelter. Food. Security. And in return they love us unconditionally. Even when we don’t deserve it.

Isn’t it funny how we call them stupid animals when they seem to do so well what Jesus asked us to do?

About winsomebulldog

I am a Southern-born and raised woman who moved north for the love of my Yankee husband. We met in 1987 and have been together ever since. I am a lover of food, photography, crafting, sewing, quilting, dogs and cats - as well as pretty much any other critter - and the afore mentioned husband. I'm a Christian and not ashamed to say so. I tend to ramble in both thought and speech, so staying on topic is always something of an issue. I'm naturally optimistic, and find humor in just about everything.
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