Ok, let me hang on to my integrity by admitting that I never learned the dog’s real name.
That said, he will forever be known to me as “Blackie.”
Anyway, many long years ago, when I was about six or seven, Mama would take me to my bus-stop every morning to catch the bus for school. Honestly, the stop was very close to where I lived—but it was at the top of a rather steep hill. Mama thought it would be better if she drove me to the stop in the mornings; that way I could start my school day looking nice, fresh and clean.
She said, “I’ll take you in the mornings so you won’t have to go to school all sweaty– looking like a field hand.”
And with that, a deal was made, Mama would drive me to the bus-stop in the mornings but I would walk back home each afternoon.
Well, the first couple of days, my walk from the bus-stop was rather enjoyable; I liked the independence of it all. Besides, I didn’t have far to go and it was completely downhill. This was going to be a breeze! No problems!
The deal between me and Mama worked out fine!
Until it didn’t.
One day, as I was making my usual trek home, I came upon a little black dog who started barking at me from a yard across the street. Naturally, this startled me since I had never seen him before. At any rate, although I was startled, I was not afraid because I had been raised in a home with all kinds of dogs. In fact, my Dad rescued and trained hunting dogs. That said, a barking dog was a non-issue to me.
By the way, you can read more about me, daddy and our dogs here.
Anyway, as I was saying, I wasn’t scared, but I was on guard so I did my best to quietly walk past the dog’s ‘dominion.’
When I got home, I didn’t mention this to Mama, because, after all, apart from all the loud barking, the dog had kept his distance.
Until he didn’t.
The next day, after I got off the bus and commenced to walk home, I noticed that same little black dog in his yard barking like he was one of my Doberman Pinschers. Again, I was startled but not too concerned so I just looked straight ahead–kept my stride and walked past.
Friends, the next thing I knew, that little joker had crossed over to my side of the street and had begun biting at my heels!
And we were off!
Me and the dog–both ‘flying’ down that hill like two bats out of hell!
Y’all I was in a race for my life! In fact, I was sprinting so fast that I could barely stop myself!
You may recall that I was coming down a steep hill. A steep hill that, by the way, ran perpendicular to a busy thoroughfare.
Had I kept running, I might have crossed directly into the path of several cars.
Good thing I was able to stop and catch myself!
Needless to say, by the time I stopped, I was totally breathless and scared out of my wits!
When I looked down, I noticed that the little black dog (whom I later named “Blackie”) had already turned around and was making his way back home.
After somewhat gaining my composure, I walked the last few yards home. Mama was standing there as I entered the house through the kitchen.
Having noticed how disheveled and discombobulated I was, she asked, “What’s wrong with you?”
I said, between wheezes, “A dog chased me home!”
Mama asked, “What dog? Where?”
I said, “Up Wycliffe Street.”
Mama said, “Come on let’s go!”
And with that, me, Tack and Mama jumped in the car!
Mama drove up Wycliffe and said, “Show me the house!”
I pointed to “Blackie’s” house.
Mama pulled up into Blackie’s yard, parked and said, “Y’all wait right here!”
Folks, Mama got out of the car, strutted up to the front door and started knocking like she was the Chief of POLICE!
Within a minute or so, a man came to the door and said, “Can I help you ma’am?”
Mama spotted Blackie standing behind the man and said, “Your dog chased my daughter home. She almost ran into traffic! Now look, she gon’ have to walk down this hill everyday after school so you gon’ have to keep that dog in the house!”
The man said, “Ma’am I’m so sorry about that. I’ll make sure he stays inside when your little daughter comes by.”
Mama thanked the man, bid him a fond farewell, got back in the car and drove us home.
The next day when I passed “Blackie’s” house I noticed that he was not in the yard barking but he was peering at me through his front window.
I imagined him saying, “You so lucky I ain’t outside!”
All jokes aside, Mama was bold! You have to remember, this all took place in Georgia in the early 1970’s and “Blackie’s” owner was an older White man. At that time, most places in the South were newly integrated so Mama, who was only about 29, was gambling with her life when she decided to approach that man about his dog.
But, as they say, don’t mess with a Mama bear’s cubs!
I have loved dogs for as long as I can remember. In fact, one of my earliest memories was of my dad asking me to name our newest pooch. I was only 3 years old and my vocabulary was considerably small so I blurted out the first thing that came to mind and that was “Sheppy!” You might be wondering where I got that name. My best guess is that it was a childish corruption of the word ‘Shepherd.’ Clearly, I must have overheard my parents mention that our new dog was a German Shepherd. ‘Sheppy’ was the closest approximation to ‘Shepherd’ that I could muster.
Believe it or not, Sheppy was one of my first and greatest teachers. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I was always the best student. But that never seemed to matter to Sheppy; he simply kept repeating the lessons. Now you might be wondering how a dog could act as an instructor. Well let me answer that! Sheppy used a teaching technique called ‘modeling.’ In essence, Sheppy modeled the traits that I, and most of you, will spend a lifetime trying to acquire. Let’s get specific! Sheppy modeled unconditional love, acceptance, loyalty, affection and fierce protectiveness. Frankly, I don’t have enough space to write about all of the traits that Sheppy modeled; dog owners will know what I mean. Regardless, Sheppy was determined to lead by example. Alas, after years of repeatedly attempting to teach me these important traits, my dear Master Sheppy Flowers ultimately shuffled off this mortal coil. For those of you who dislike Shakespearean references, Sheppy died. Needless to say, I was sad for quite a while.
But, as you might have guessed, Sheppy wasn’t the last dog in my life. In fact, he was the first of at least fifteen. And, as a result, I learned that every dog is essentially a teacher who is trying to convey the traits that I mentioned above. With that said, I would eventually take lessons from other “teachers” like Champ, Lil Gal, Princess and Frisky. One of my more memorable teachers was Bones. My dad brought Bones, who was very ill, to our home with the intention of caring for him until he died. In essence, dad was providing doggy hospice. Dad and I loved, fed and nurtured Bones until he peacefully passed away. From this experience, I learned that all sentient beings deserve to be cared for and loved; even unto death. Although it was tough letting Bones go, I took solace in knowing that his last weeks were filled with affection, love and comfort. Aha! I had begun to catch on! Lesson learned.
At any rate, I am happy to announce that my current teacher is Angel. She is the Pomeranian pictured above. I can assure you that age has taught me to pay closer attention to the lessons this time around 🙂
What have your pets taught you?
In memory of my dogs (I included their breeds for those interested in knowing):
Bones, Princess and Demon–Doberman Pinschers
Lil’ Gal and Frisky–Beagles
And all the other dogs that Daddy cared for over the years.