Friday, February 20, 2009

Dog Gone Tradition =)

I think a unique tradition in our culture is the manner in which we spoil our pets. We cater to them, love them, and there are even entire stores dedicated to providing for their needs, not to mention animal hospitals, boarding schools, grooming salons, etc.

As my husband and I did our best to raise three boys, we were blessed with numerous pets. We've endured lizards (who would only eat live crickets we purchased at a pet store, or flies we painstakingly caught), white canaries, a small parrot with attitude, a goldfish who grew to be the size of a small Twinkie, an aquarium full of a variety fish, a tortoise who had a fetish for red lollipops (I suspect he thought they were a type of fruit), bunnies (one of which took the grand prize at the local fair, then flopped over with a heart attack later that same week when the neighbor's dog scared it as it was relaxing in its special "lawn resort"), a cat name Lucy who figured she was in charge of us all, and a plethora of dogs.

The dog who has owned us the longest is an interesting creature we call Brandy. I say interesting because of how she looks (much like a dirty dalmation: grey with black spots). Number two son (Derek) somehow learned of Brandy's existence when she was a tiny puppy. Her brothers and sisters were all sold as pureblood labradors. Brandy was the runt and looked nothing like her coal black siblings. We suspect there may have been an Australian Shepherd in the woodpile somewhere because of her coloring, but we'll never know for sure.

Because of her unique size and coloring, the people Brandy originally owned were anxious to get rid of her. I suspect it had something to do with the "One bad apple . . ." theory but that's just me. ;) So Derek was able to rescue this young puppy free of charge. (Brandy's siblings sold for around $300.00---$400.00 a piece.)

Derek earmarked Brandy for his future wise and all-knowing bird dog. Brandy earmarked Derek early on as the person who would feed, water, and care for her every need. It was a match made in heaven, or so these two thought. Derek spend hours training Brandy, and vice versa. Brandy and Derek both proved to be avid learners and it wasn't long before Brandy had taught Derek to fetch, heel, and roll over. In turn, Brandy learned how to sit on top of sage hens in a helpful manner. =D

In time, Brandy advanced to retriever status. Derek would take her bird hunting and she would often retrieve whatever Derek managed to "bag," (a hunter term I still don't understand.) Then one day Derek shot a duck who then plunged into a local reservoir. He gave Brandy the command to dive in after the duck. Brandy sat down and looked at Derek like he was crazy. She had no intention of getting wet. So Derek restorted to something Brandy has never been able to resist, he threw a stick. True, it landed in the water and Brandy later gave him a dirty look for this trick, but she finally plunged in and brought back the stick. Derek had to wade in after the duck. ;)

Brandy has developed strange fetishes through the years. She dearly loves to ride on the back of the 4-wheeler. She will even somehow manage to jump into the back of our truck and sit on top of the four-wheeler when it has been loaded for a camping trip, etc. As far as she is concerned, that 4-wheeler belongs to her and she is the only person who should ever ride on the back behind the driver.

Brandy buries every toy we've ever bought for her and they are never seen again. She prefers to play with rocks. She'll dig up rocks during the spring, summer and fall (she even manages to find them in the winter) and carries them around in her mouth. Then when you least expect it, she'll drop that rock on your foot. This is her signal to throw the rock so she can retrieve it. It's her favorite game, and she doesn't care if you happen to be barefoot. When that rock is dropped on your foot, you'd best pick it up and throw it.

If you don't play this game with her, she has interesting ways of getting even. I say interesting because for some reason, she has decided that if something goes wrong in her life, it's my fault. I've never quite understood this, since I'm the one who usually feeds her and I've saved her life, twice. Once when she was really sick, I hoisted her into the truck (no small feat considering she fought me every step of the way and we're about the same size) and I drove her into the local vet. (I was the only one home at the time.) The other adventure I'll share in a moment.

To get even for whatever has ticked her off, Brandy digs huge pits in my flower beds, ripping out flowers in her quest for revenge. This certainly teaches me a lesson for whatever infractions someone in the family has committed. She has also chewed up more trees and bushes than I care to remember. (And I still really hope it hurt a lot when she passed what was left of my Mulberry bushes. They possessed impressive thorns that I thought would deter her from eating them. Au contraire.)

If we lock Brandy out of the garage to go somewhere (this is her domain, according to Brandy) we'll come home to find an array of flowers all over the lawn, freshly dug from one of my flower beds. One day we came home to find the new little flowering crab tree my sons had given me for Mother's Day, chewed off at the middle. I know I was in shock when I witnessed this particular moment of revenge. We had to place a fence around this tree's replacement to prevent Brandy from killing it.

A few years passed by and our sons began growing up. One year, son number one headed off into the mission field. This was the same year son number two (Derek) went off to college. Brandy didn't like this trend one bit. Her humans were supposed to stay put where she could keep track of them. So when son #3 boarded the bus for his first day of high school that fall (Devin was a freshman), Brandy did something she had never done before, she chased the school bus. There was no way she was going to let another one of her humans get away from her. I called to her, but it was all to no avail. Brandy doesn't listen to me even on her good days.

I figured\hoped that Brandy would tire of chasing the bus by the time it rounded the corner and return home, but she didn't. After nearly an hour went by, I drove around looking for her, but couldn't see her anywhere. I called neighbors, but no one had seen her. Then, fearing the worst, I drove down the main street of our small town, a deathtrap for numerous pets in our village. There was no sign of Brandy anywhere.

When Devin arrived home from school that afternoon, he helped me search for our missing dog. He was missing his brothers as much as Brandy was, and to lose his dog too, proved to be a bit much.
We looked for that dog for three days. We called the local animal shelter, but they hadn't seen her. We posted a notice on the local radio station, but no one called to tell us they had found her. And we looked everywhere we could think of to find her. Finally, Kennon sat down with Devin and told him that we had done our best, but obviously, we weren't going to find Brandy.

This news tugged at all of our hearts.
I remember going into a room and closing the door to pray for Brandy's welfare. Devin was heartbroken, as was Derek. We had called to alert him to the news, and to pick his brain about some of Brandy's favorite hiding places.

As I knelt in prayer, I felt certain that Brandy was still somewhere in Bennington. I hurried out to where my husband and son were sitting in misery and told them that I thought we should look one more time. And we did. We found Brandy nearly an hour later. She had run down to the main road the morning she had tried to follow Devin to school, and got all turned around. She had found a 4-wheeler that looked just like ours and had sat by it for 3 days, refusing to move, certain we would make an appearance eventually. Luckily the owners of this 4-wheeler had provided her with food and water, but they didn't know what else to do, since Brandy stubbornly clung to the 4-wheeler.

You would think after that adventure, that Brandy would've ceased digging up my flowers or chewing on my trees and shrubs. To my way of thinking, I had helped to save her yet again. To show her thanks, she promptly dug up an entire section of one of my flowerbeds. It was her way of letting me know this entire thing was my fault. ;) I was still relieved to have her home.

There were other Brandy adventures. Like the time I accidentally locked Brandy in the garage with a skunk. Yeah, I paid for that one for a long time. ;) I smile when I remember the first time Derek brought his future wife down for a visit. Brandy seemed to pick up on the fact that she now had competition for Derek's attention. She walked next to Kristen, and whapped her hard across her bare legs several times with her tail as a sign of protest. I also laugh when I remember how Brandy dropped a rock down Kennon's pants when he was trying to fix a tire. This is a dog with a sense of humor and she has enjoyed life to the fullest.

Brandy is still going strong. She is older now, but she still rides the 4-wheeler with my husband, and yesterday, she went snowshoeing with him up a local canyon. (And yes, she is the dog who tripped me when I went snowshoeing a few weeks ago.) She dearly loves a good rock, and she still buries the toys I try to buy for her. In true Brandy form, she dug up more flowers than I care to remember last spring, and I'm sure she'll continue this tradition until her dying day. And when she's gone, I'll miss the tug of war we've played through the years over my flowers and bushes. She has definitely been one of a kind and part of our family. I think that's the way it's supposed to be.

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