Friday, December 23, 2011

His Dog Knows Me


I have written before about the Cowhill Council, a group of seasoned gentlemen who meet and enjoy gourmet coffee. We have returned from downtown to our winter home in a grain silo out in the country on Jerald’s five acres. We meet there most mornings, sitting in cozy comfort around a wood stove, coffee cups in hand, enjoying friendship and laughter. Almost every morning for more than a decade, my arrival greeting has always been a head nod and tongue-lolling smile from Nugget, Jerald’s yellow Lab. The dog knows me, knows my Jeep, recognizes it as soon as I turn off the highway. We have known each other since he was a pup. Everyone who has ever had a pet knows that comforting feeling that comes when a dog, cat, or horse recognizes you and looks at you with those friendly, welcoming eyes—eyes that say come over and put your hand on my head—eyes that say “I’m glad to see you.” It starts the day out right.
This morning, on the eve of Christmas Eve, Nugget was not waiting for me. I was late and had other things on my mind, including some repair work at my office, and regret that I did not think much about his absence. Nugget has spent his life on a small acreage next to a state highway and had to be kept up for his own safety. He was allowed to run free, but only under Jerald’s supervision. Jerald had to be there to call him back when Nugget as much as glanced toward the highway.
But early this morning, Jerald was not there when Nugget decided to run like he had when he was young, free as the wind. When Jerald arrived and found him gone, he tried to follow, but Nugget circled back and headed home, happy to have his master follow him in a playful game. But he was old and his reflexes had slowed. He probably never saw the eighteen-wheeler.
As I turned the key in my Jeep to leave this morning, my recently acquired Tom T. Hall CD played "Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine". Tom said, "Old dogs care about you, even when you make mistakes." So true. Jerald’s heart is broken over the loss of his loyal companion and I will certainly miss my old friend. I like to think that Nugget would have wanted to leave us this way, running free. He had serious health problems that were not going away. Maybe he knew it was time to go and wanted it to be on his own terms. Still, it’s hard to say goodbye.  

7 comments:

Jerry Hutton said...

Reminds me of parting with my childhood friends, Blondie and Skipper. Blondie provided me experience as an aide to birthing and feeding puppies; Skipper to adventures to Willis Creek in Brown County. Much later I enjoyed Daisy with my children as they developed from dirty faced vagabonds to good looking teenagers.

James Callan said...

What a great story, Jim. There's a reason they are called Man's Best Friend. Very nice.

Trice said...

He didn't go down looking!

Mary Miller said...

I know the feeling...we lost a precious dog, Max (two time winner of the Bois D'Arc Bash dog contest), ten years ago and the pain still lingers.

bill oliver said...

RIP Nugget, condolences to Jerald, and thanks Jim for a wonderful tribute.

Doc Turner said...

The best cow dog I had was a blue heeler named Bonnie Blue. (If any of you readers don't know why a fella would give his dog such an unusual name, you must be Yankees and I ain't tellin').She had lost a front leg as a yearling in a losing race with a red ford truck. She was as fast on three legs as most dogs were on four. She could cut back or hold a cow on command. If the cows didn't obey, she made them pay the price. She always jumped out at the front gate at the ranch and ran the half mile to the headquarters, barking and trying to heel the truck. I pulled in one morning with a triple axle gooseneck load of cattle and opened the gate. Bonnie ran beside the trailer nipping at the first of the three trailer tires on the left side. She lost her footing in the caliche and slid under the fully-loaded trailer. I saw it happen, but a 24 foot trailer doesn't stop on a dime. I felt all three wheels crush her insides to mush. when I got there, she whined once, laid her head on my knee and died looking into my eyes. She went down lookin'. I buried her in the shade of her favorite tree there on the ranch.

Charlotte Hilliard said...

My comment didn't post on this one either.
This is a great story Jim. The first comment was longer but not better.