This morning I ran across some pictures of George.
On a warm, lazy day in August 1994, I answered an ad in the newspaper for a puppy. My son was with with me. He had just graduated from High School, both of my parents had died within three months of each other, and I was starting a new job.
Transitions. George was a transition dog.
The bitch had built the nest for her puppies in the crawl space of a home that was over one hundred years old. When I asked to see the puppies, they pointed to the crawlspace. The father gruffly said, “They’re under there.”
I have an inherent fear of dark, enclosed spaces. Spaces that are usually filled with webs, and the spiders that live in them, and the bugs that get caught within them. The house was built pillar and post with no surrounding foundation. I could see under the house enough to see a large nest, filled with squirming pups. It was about twenty feet in, the mother dog was suckling her pups. I not only was wary for the things I couldn’t see, but the mother dog protecting her nest. No way was I going to climb in a confined space with her. I didn’t know the size of spiders’ teeth, but I had a good idea of what a collie’s teeth could do.
I whistled and patted the ground. I got the attention of one of the pups.
“They haven’t been played with much. They aren’t too comfortable around people.”
The puppy came near, sniffing the air to catch my scent. When he would get close, he would dart away. It was a game to him. Sniff, come near, turn and run. On one of those parries, I grabbed for his tail. He didn’t know what to think of that, and whirled around and bit me. I caught his full body while his teeth were still holding tightly to my hand, and pulled him into the light of day.
Once in my arms, he settled down. The bite was merely a scratch though puppy teeth are incredibly sharp. “You bite me, you’re mine!” I told him sternly. He bit me again.
“I’ll take him.”
That’s when I noticed that our male puppy was actually a female. Still, that didn’t change our choice of name. By the time we were halfway home, we had settled on the name George, and the complicated gender role ‘he’ acquired because of ‘his’ name. George never complained.
Half collie and half German shepherd/Doberman/Mystery, George had a very long snout and a curiosity that was challenging to say the least. He ate three TV remotes, two pairs of glasses, the arm off the recliner, and a glass filled with milk. Nothing stopped him from sampling life to the highest degree, not even Shadow, our six-year-old Golden Retriever. Try, though she did, to train him, he was incorrigible, and went his own way from day one.
When I brought her home (keep up with the gender, people) from her spay, she escaped and ran through the swamp, frolicked in the mud and came in looking like the creature from the dark lagoon. The stitches held, I bathed her, and hoped for the best. Although the vet was livid, no harm came to her, and she healed with just the normal scar. She smiled through it all.
She spent several years at my son’s house protecting his property from vandals and thieves while he was at work. She also was a clever escape artist. There was no building, no fence, no gate she could not weasel her way out of. Years later, when I boarded her, she got out of her enclosure and spent the entire Sunday night visiting the other dogs. I’m sure she coerced them into giving her their food and toys. They found her the next morning in the break room. I suspect she ate their cookies and left overs out of the refrigerator. Yes, she knew how to open that as well.
She was an avid reader. Whenever she found a book lying about, she would devour it. She loved them. One book I had to buy three times. She ate it three times. What can I say? She had good taste in books.
It was early one Easter morning that I discovered her true gift. I called George for breakfast, but there was no dog. As I said, she could escape anything; it was futile to try to contain her. But that morning, she didn’t come when she was called. Since it involved food, I was surprised. I set her dish down, and walked into the front yard to call into the woods. There were several brightly colored things scattered across the lawn. Plastic eggs opened, that had once contained Easter candy. Along with the plastic eggshells were real eggshells also brightly dyed that had once contained hard-boiled eggs. Eaten. As I looked up, I saw George trotting down the driveway with more Easter treasures. Stolen, I was sure, out of one of the neighbor’s yard arranged for some child’s Easter egg hunt. The Easter bunny had been foiled. I wondered how many eggs had been left for the children to find. Not many, I suspected. So many crestfallen, disappointed children. So many bewildered parents/grandparents. One very happy satiated dog. I had to keep her in on Easter mornings lest the fiasco would repeat itself. But then, there is no way to know how many Easters mornings George had destroyed for this family. I never found out. I live seventy miles away now, and feel somewhat safe in posting her misbehavior.
Since she was an expert at getting out, she was also very talented for getting in. I saw her lugging something heavy up the hill behind our house one day. Woods surrounded us, and a creek bordered that side of our property. At first, my stomach fell, thinking what I was seeing was my dog dragging an animal up the hill. A small deer? A large cat? A snipe? She stopped to catch her breath every few feet. Whatever it was, was very heavy. I went out to greet her and discovered a ten-pound bag of dog biscuits stolen from a neighbor’s garage or car. Nothing was safe after that. Not even the neighbor’s dog. He was kept in a kennel, yet George was able to somehow open it and set him free. Together they would scour the neighborhood for treasures. He took to her bad habits enthusiastically.
When a neighborhood dog ambushed and viciously attacked her, she bore her wounds with no complaint. She showed off her scars with pride. Brave animal. I learned a lot from her.
When we moved, George made the seventy-mile trip several times in the back of the car proudly. She became very vocal, howling to the music, racing through the house as we unloaded. We acquired two other dogs at that time, and she couldn’t hold her own in a fight, as she was getting older. Instead of taking part in the everyday roughhousing, she became the referee or sports announcer. She would position herself alongside the other two, and bark out the progress of their disagreement, running back and forth to be sure we new exactly what was going on.
As she got older, she became less of a runner, and more of a ‘talker,’ answering all my questions in a variety of tones and inflections. She was bi-lingual. Our discussions usually sounded something like this:
Me: “George, you must stop eating books. This one had beautiful pictures of the ocean.”
Me: “I mean it, George. It has to stop.”
George: “Moofingale. Arringledorf.”
Me: “Let me have the last word, George!”
Me looking sternly at George.
She always had to have the last word. Always.
Here’s to you, George. I miss you.