There’s an old saying about how it’s not possible to teach an old dog new tricks. And there’s some truth to that. I remember an old dog we once had and how I tried to teach him to go to the …
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There’s an old saying about how it’s not possible to teach an old dog new tricks. And there’s some truth to that. I remember an old dog we once had and how I tried to teach him to go to the newspaper box, bring the paper back in and also bring me my slippers and a cup of black coffee.
Didn’t work. He’d go get the paper and bring it in but then he’d read it himself, and he always put sugar in my coffee. But despite the truth of that old saying, there’s also some truth that a new dog can teach an old master some new tricks.
I’m living proof of that.
Through the years, our family has had its share of dogs, mostly really fine ones. Occasionally, we’d get one whose elevator didn’t go all the way to the top floor but we never held that against the pooch; we just loved them through old age and on to the Rainbow Bridge.
Those dogs comprise their own hall of fame. There’s Charlie, the shepherd who kept our place free of snakes and who followed a neighbor’s horse-drawn wagon to the Goldston Christmas parade one year only to show up at church the next morning — to the delight of the two 40-somethings who used to be teenagers who lived at my house. They were 7 and 5 that day.
Later, we got Fred, a good-natured German Shepherd who didn’t get the memo about not sleeping in the highway. In 1981, we moved to Virginia to a little town where I served as pastor of a little church. One day, I as was coming home after a trip to the grocery where I’d found honey-buns on sale, I noticed two pups — one brown and one black — beside the road.
I stopped, got out of the car and whistled; the brown one ran away and the black one came to me. We named him Sam. He loved to chase ashes we made by setting sheets of newspaper on fire on the yard. My father-in-law especially loved that play time. He’d strike a match, Sam would jump, and my father -in-law would laugh all over himself. “Look at that! Look!” he’d say to us.
We had Sam when we moved back to Chatham County. One day we went out to burn some newspaper and he wasn’t there. We always figured someone picked him up since he invented the word “friendly” or he fell into the wrong crowd.
There were others, of course. At one time, we had the three amigos — Ralph, Russell and Lewis. Russell was actually misnamed (my fault) since she was a she. I always thought she was a brick shy of a full load since she was afraid of a number of things, including the cows, her shadow and sometimes me, although for no reason.
It got so bad that I’d take her food and water to her and then one day the older of my two offspring pointed out that Russell was actually pretty bright. “Think about it,” she said. “You’re bring her food and water to her and she doesn’t have to go get it.” Ralph was a jumper, often hopping up on my father-in-law’s wellhouse where he’d catch doggie treats thrown at him, another favorite game. And Lewis was the guardian of our property. He hated the UPS truck, could hear it coming half a mile away, at which time he would lay a substantial barking on it. Lewis also guarded things like our wheelbarrow and rakes, growling fiercely if you got too near. The only thing he’d actually bite was his supper but we never lost a rake while he was on duty.
Others included Savannah, a golden retriever our niece had to give up when she moved from a pet-friendly apartment in Charleston. Savannah loved the water. When she arrived at our place, we opened a pasture gate and she saw the pond and took about two hops, covering 30 yards and landing in the middle of the pond.
Clara was a cow dog who couldn’t have cared less about the stock. She was more interested in antagonizing Homer, the donkey we had at the time who was here to protect the goats. He would very patiently stand there, taking the jumps and yips and nips Clara dished out until he finally got to his breaking point and, with head down and braying loudly, he’d take off chasing Clara. She always managed to say about two steps in front of him, thankfully for her because one stomp of his foot would have ended her succession of birthdays. Later, the younger of my two offspring brought us Ellie when he changed locales. She was a soft sweet Australian Shepherd who never left our yard until one night when she made a bad decision to cross the road.
Eventually we got Hunley, named by my first grandchild in honor of the dog on the TV program “Curious George,” which he and I watched faithfully. Hunley was a Chocolate Lab who started out as a busy puppy before turning into a regal adult who in time morphed into an old dog who never left the porch. He left us at a ripe old age.
We went a little while without a pooch until, again, the younger of my two brought in a young lady who was to be the family pet for his brood. Only thing is: she didn’t get the memo. Instead, she decided she liked our house on this side of the pasture instead of his on the other side. She’s very accommodating, though; she’ll go visit often but she gets her mail and most meals at our place.
She also sleeps at our address, which brings up the dogs and tricks line I mentioned earlier. We don’t know for sure what happened but one afternoon a few weeks ago she showed up on our front porch with a significant laceration. We took her to our friendly vet who got her back together so she could come home. Only thing, it was in that first round of Ol’ Man Winter we had. With temps in the low teens and her just getting out of the hospital, I couldn’t let her sleep outside or even on the porch in her warm pet bed. So, since then, she’s been catching her beauty sleep in our utility room where it’s toasty enough I could sleep there.
My older offspring says that’s happened because the dog has figured out I’m a pushover. Maybe so but still that line about new tricks keeps rolling around in my head. Makes me wonder what’s next. Stay tuned.