By Alvin Richardson
Ever since I can remember there have been one or two dogs hanging around the house. Some of them we owned, some owned us, and some were just passing through. I’ve loved most of them, raised a few, and even let one or two ride in the front seat of my truck. One thing I learned is that each possessed a unique set of personality traits, some of which were endearing, some that were irritating, and a few that were downright infuriating. Through it all there have been a few canines that have reached legendary status in one category or another and I’d like to take a moment to memorialize those fine fellows today.
My very first dog was Inky the Fearless. Inky was a mixed breed mutt that, as you might imagine, was black as the ace of spades. Though small in stature Inky was long on courage and his claim to fame was as a world class snake killer. Every few days in the summer you could count on him to come into the yard proudly dragging up some kind of snake he had slain. He would proceed to deposit it nearby so that all might enjoy the sight and smell of his trophy.
Mama took the good with the bad. She had a great fear of snakes – especially that one of her sons might get bitten, so she was grateful for Inky’s ability to thin them out. She wasn’t crazy about seeing dead serpents lying around the yard so she would let daddy get rid of the remains. We boys were forbidden to touch the carcass because we might accidentally let our hand graze against those poisonous fangs and die on the spot. Mama absolutely adored Inky the Fearless. The little warrior finally perished when, in his old age, he tackled a snake that was too quick for him.
Then there was Skipper the Meek. Skipper was my first bird dog and he had an amazing aptitude for locating quail in the thickest brush. It always astonished me that he knew right where those birds were and that he would point the way for us to close in for the kill. Skipper was actually trained by my Uncle Bennie who was one of the most prolific quail hunters of the modern era. Uncle Bennie took his hunting seriously and brooked no errors on the part of his dogs. If Skipper were to accidentally run up a covey of birds prematurely the punishment was swift, sure and dreadful. I will not describe here the penalty for spooking a covey for fear that the Humane Society will take action. Suffice to say that once Skipper realized he had made an egregious error he would immediately strike out overland for the house. He could usually be found cowered under a vehicle in the yard when we got back. If he saw Uncle Bennie coming toward him he would try to make himself invisible. I think Skipper eventually died of a stress related disease.
Another famous dog in my history was Maddie the Stinky. Maddie was a black lab whom we raised from a puppy. She had many wonderful qualities including an outgoing personality, a high degree of trainability, and great enthusiasm for any adventure I wanted to go on. Maddie was the apple of my eye so much that she was allowed to ride in the front seat of my truck – a privilege that had never been bestowed on one of my pets. Maddie’s shortcoming was that she lacked certain social graces and that failing was monumental.
I began to take Maddie on short pond fishing trips with me and she was allowed to play in the fields while I went out in the boat. We did have a few problems at first with her swimming behind the boat and scaring the fish. Once we had worked that out and she knew to stay on dry land I thought everything was OK. One day however I loaded up to leave and Maddie jumped up in her usual spot in the front seat. I got in and was immediately hit with a horrific smell. As it turned out my little fishing buddy had been rolling in fresh cow patties while cavorting around the pasture and was caked over with manure. Needless to say that Maddie’s stock instantly bottomed out and from that point on she was relegated to the back of the truck – especially if she had been in a pasture – insuring that she would be downwind at all times.
I probably need to make this a two-part story because there are other dogs that I have known over time the accounts of which should be told. Maybe another time we can discuss Jake the Magnificent, Sport the Hungry, and Rambo the Rude. They all hold a place in my heart and proudly helped carry on the legend of “Man’s Best Friend”.