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OPINION COLUMNS

Reflections on a small, brown dog

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, March 16, 2013

We got Sadie when she and our son were both just pups. He’s in college now, so the best I can figure, she lived to be around 120 in dog-years.

We said goodbye to her Thursday. She had a happy life up to about the last four or five days, until a kind-hearted veterinarian ended her suffering. We buried her under the big oak tree out front.

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

People were always asking me what kind of dog she was, and my response was always, “Small brown.” We theorized that she was the product of a slow-footed lab and a socially ambitious Dachshund, but that’s only speculation.

I can’t remember if we had her “fixed” or if that was already done when we got her. I often wished we’d been able to get a pup or two from her, because to me, she was the ideal dog in size, hair and temperament.

She may have been mistreated when she was little because she was always a little shy and spooky even though I never spanked her and only rarely had to scold her.

She wasn’t perfect, though. She was a digger, and I finally gave up on her having any kind of bed in her doghouse, since she would quickly rip it to shreds. I went to wood shavings, and she happily snuggled into them and slept her way into canine senior citizenship.

But in her youth, she was one perky little dog.

I can see her running through the pasture out front, a streak of reddish-brown, popping up onto her back paws every few yards so she could see over the tall grass. When we’d go for a walk, that tail was straight up in the air as she strutted along like she owned the road.

When we first got Sadie, we had a big yellow lab named Dolly (we referred to them as the Large Main Dog and the Small Auxiliary Dog). After Dolly died, it wasn’t long until we got another lab, who was already named Persia. Since Sadie had seniority, we called her the Small Main Dog and Persia the Large Auxiliary Dog.

She took her time breaking in the new kid, but gradually came to terms with Persia’s dangerous combination of size and enthusiasm. I fear one reason for her addledness the last few years was the concussions she got from Persia’s tail as they came through the gate single-file. But Persia always deferred to her on food and water, lying quietly nearby until Sadie had all she wanted.

One day on one of our walks I stopped to talk with a neighbor, and his dogs and Sadie got into a little rumble. I’m sure Sadie started it – probably a smart mouth – but fairly quickly Jimmy’s heeler had her on the ground and his teeth at her throat. I was a little worried.

Persia had been just sitting over at the side, watching, until it reached this point. Then she calmly got up, went over to Jimmy’s dog and put her own massive jaws around his neck from above – just hard enough to get his attention and say, “OK, you’ve made your point. Let my little friend go.”

He did, and Sadie went over to our driveway, laid down and pouted as Jimmy and I went back to our conversation.

Some of my best times – not just best times with the dogs, but best times, period – were when we’d head out for an early-morning walk. Persia and Sadie would always shoot out of the gate ahead of me, sniffing the places where the deer and rabbits had been browsing the night before.

But Sadie would always circle back to check on me. She’d come up beside me, I would hold out my hand, and she’d give it a little lick, then charge back up to where Persia was. Often she’d do that two or three times before she was good to go.

Sadie was an excellent watchdog, although in the last few years Persia took over most of the barking. Sadie’s been deaf for awhile, and I’m pretty sure her eyesight was dim as well. But I’ll miss that little check-in, and the way she would jump up only when invited, and accept all the petting I would give her.

Like most dog owners at this point, I wish I’d given her more. She gave me a lot more than she realized.

Bob Buckel is executive editor of the Wise County Messenger.

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