My Dog Blondie
There’s a special bond between a boy and his dog; a bond like no other.
Dogs are faithful companions to a young boy. They don’t ask questions, they don’t talk back, nor do they give orders They’re just there offering loyal companionship when the boy needs them,
A few years ago, I wrote a piece for IDAHO magazine about Idaho Falls writer Wilson Rawls, author of the classic, Where the Red Fern Grows. I mentioned that he and I had some things in common. We both grew up in rural America and came to writing late in life; he in his mid-forties and I in my mid-fifties. We also had another thing in common. We each had a faithful canine companion. His was a blue tick hound named Rowdy and mine was Blondie, a golden cocker spaniel, with whom I spent ten good years. If you will spare me ten minutes or so of your time, I’d like to introduce you to My Dog Blondie.
I sat in the fence row, hidden by brush, waiting for the little varmints to enter the field from the sagebrush-covered hill across the road. I had Blondie with me that day, but as usual, she was off on one of her mousing excursions. The silence was broken by a blood-curdling scream and a yowl. I stood up and looked in the direction of the commotion. Blondie was coming toward me on a dead run, yelping and whimpering all the way. The scene was not pretty. Blood dripped from her forehead and ran down her nose. At first I panicked, but as she drew closer, I began to laugh. Blondie had met her match.
Blondie was supposed to be a purebred cocker spaniel but her parents had other plans. My mother’s sister and her husband owned a purebred female golden cocker. They wanted another purebred puppy for themselves, so they decided to have her bred. I was promised second pick of the litter when the puppies arrived. A neighbor owned a purebred male cocker spaniel. This dog was designated to be the father of these puppies. The little gal came into heat right on schedule, so my aunt and uncle locked her in the backyard, as planned, and called the owner of the male to inform him that it was time for the union.
In the meantime, as mentioned earlier, other plans were in the making. A dashing golden springer spaniel was wandering the neighborhood, and he and Blondie’s mother developed an amorous attraction to each other. He found his way into the backyard where she was penned up, and a family of half-breed puppies was soon in the making.
For an eight year kid, waiting out the gestation period seemed like half a lifetime. I thought it would never end, but the blessed day of the birth finally arrived, and six little puppies came into the world. Since the two amorous canines had upset the plans of my aunt and uncle for a litter of purebred puppies, I graduated to first pick of the litter. I selected a small, very loud squawking golden female, who, even in her puppy stage, showed the makin’s of long droopy ears, akin to those of a basset hound. She was a very fast runner, and when she took off on a dead run, those ears would flop, sometimes getting in the way of her front feet. I always marveled at how she was able to avoid stepping on her ears to avert a somersault. But I digress, back to my story.
Waiting for the puppies to be weaned was another eternity for me, but I survived, and finally brought my new friend home. Blondie grew into a beautiful and loving young dog who went everywhere with me. She followed me to school every day, and when the final bell rang, she was there patiently waiting for me. You might say she became the mascot of my grade school class. All the classmates looked forward to seeing her at the end of the school day. During the summers, she went with Dad and me to the farm. She rode with us in the cab of the pickup, but, unlike most dogs, she was not one for sticking her head out the window. She preferred to sit on a passenger’s lap and put her front paws on the dashboard. Absent a passenger in the cab, she placed her hind paws on the seat.
As Blondie and I grew older, and Dad put me to driving tractor during the summer working the summer fallow, Blondie would follow me around the field, mousing for squirrels and gophers. She would sometimes wander off on these hunts for hours at a time. She had an uncanny built-in clock that told her when it was lunchtime, and she always managed to show up at the pickup for her noon snack (Mom always sent little something special just for her).
She loved to chase squirrels. I don’t know if she ever gave much thought to what would happen if she actually caught one. I think the chase was the big thing, although she did get a surprise one day, as I alluded to in the beginning of this piece. During the 1950s, one of our dry farms was bordered by sagebrush on three sides. This was a real haven for ground squirrels. In my spare time, I would grab my .22 caliber rifle and go on a shoot for these varmints, which were a menace to Dad’s spring barley crops. They would move in on those young, lush, tender plants and gnaw them right down to the ground, taking out a strip of barley as much as a hundred yards wide for the length of the farm, which could amount to as much as thirty acres. No small menace.
This particular day I decided to hunt along the edge of the field and shoot the varmints as they munched the grain. Blondie was with me. Why I took her with me is beyond me. She was by far more hindrance than help. She spotted the critters in the field and set out on a dead run, barking at the top of her lungs.
Squirrels scattered. She locked on one and gave chase. That’s when I decided I should just as well take cover and wait for things to settle down, thinking maybe the squirrels would come back. Around and around the field Blondie and her quarry scurried. The squirrel headed across the road for its burrow, Blondie on its heels. I didn’t actually see the action that followed, but apparently, the squirrel decided it had had enough, stopped, and whirled. I don’t know whether it was its sharp front incisors or its paws that caught her, but she let out a yelp to behold and came scurrying toward me, face and nose bleeding profusely Needless to say, when she chased squirrels after that, she gave them a wide berth.
I don’t know what it is about dogs and dead animals, either; why they have to roll in them. On one other occasion, Blondie came in one evening from one of her wanderings. I smelled her a hundred yards away. Even after a dunk in the nearby creek, she was banished to ride home in the back of the pickup that day.
They say animals have an instinct for knowing when their time is up. I believe that was the case with Blondie. The last two or three days she was with us, she didn’t show an interest in going to the farm. She preferred hanging around the house. One morning, when Mom went to feed her, she wasn’t at her usual place. Mom went looking for her in the garage, which had an in/out door, and was where we kept her doghouse. She wasn’t there, either. We never saw her again. Our conclusion was that she knew her time was up, went off somewhere quiet, and went down for her final sleep. That was nearly sixty years ago, and I still think of her now and then.
If ou like reading nostalgia, move on to upper right of this page to get your free download(while they last) of the prologue and first three chapters of Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. I think you’ll like reading about Buddy and his exploits.
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