By Peter A. Dora
Upon reaching age 65 a couple of years ago I decided not to retire but to keep going as long as possible. This resolve was marked with a grand non-retirement party at the Caboose in Rutledge. Some months later it occurred to me that I had better give some attention to my health and fitness if I wanted to stay active. Some steps would have to be taken.
After buying a digital pedometer I started exploring the sidewalks of Rutledge on a daily basis. At first I had to force myself to cover a mile and I worried that I might soon grow bored and give up. If only I had a companion to keep me going. Not to worry. After a few days the dogs began to appear.
Spike – This guy is the most famous Rutledge canine. Last year he was the subject of a fundraiser involving his ancestry. For a small fee anyone could guess at his genetic heritage. A DNA test showed him to be a combination of Scottish Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, Scottish Deerhound, Japanese Spitz and ‘other.’ The first day he showed up he accompanied me the entire mile. In time the walk expanded to two and then three miles. Spike doggedly followed along, perhaps encouraged by the doggy treat I gave out at the end. One day, however, he disappeared halfway through and I figured he had better things to do. When I got home there was Spike waiting for the treat. After that his commitment involved little more than the beginning, the end and the treat.
Cookie – I once asked this Labrador’s owner how a male dog had acquired the name ‘Cookie’ only to be told, “That’s what happens when you let little kids name the dog.” This one never tires and probably would follow along for days on end. What with all the rain this summer, Cookie will frequently wallow in ditches and mud holes coming out a brown Labrador. Treats do not appeal to him.
Chloe – An actual brown or chocolate Labrador, she had to figure out some territorial issues when she first arrived in Rutledge. She protected her homestead by barking and pursuing me on the sidewalk and even into my own yard; but she eventually worked it all out and now is a welcome friend. The treats probably helped.
Huck – This is Spike’s brother. He never strays far from his home, but is ready to run to the sidewalk to collect his treat (sort of like paying a toll).
Scout – This English Setter is completely focused on protecting two young children, but she does appreciate the occasional dog biscuit.
Misty – A real homebody, this Golden Retriever will occasionally greet me from behind a fence at the front of her yard – snacks gratefully accepted.
Reggie – A newcomer to Rutledge, this sleek dog has the markings of a Holstein cow – black on white. He is high-strung but very entertaining and good company all around.
Otis – An occasional visitor to our town, this Fox Red Labrador is filled with wonder at a world slightly beyond his comprehension.
Bear – A chocolate Labrador puppy, Bear is just beginning to learn the Rutledge ways.
Several months ago I decided to economize by substituting store brand biscuits for the name brand. Surely dogs wouldn’t know the difference. Wrong. They all turned up their noses at the cheap alternative, except Spike who will eat anything (including the hand that feeds him).
At this point I am firmly established in my walking routine and I treasure the companionship of these Rutledgian canines.
Monsignor Dora is administrator of Saint James Catholic Church in Madison. He lives in Rutledge.