Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Our dog, Brownie, came to live with us when our children were just about ready to start school. She was barely more than a pup herself at the time and it wasn’t long before she became an important member of our family. She was a border collie/miniature collie cross which meant she was both smart and protective. Her previous owners had moved into town and were looking for a place in the country for her. I happened to be visiting them and mentioned that we were looking for a dog something like her. In moments the deal was done.

I paid close attention as they outlined the important lessons that they had already taught her. Apparently we wouldn’t need to tie her unless we were going to be away for more than a day. If we told her to ‘guard the house’ as we were leaving she would wait there patiently until we returned. She was accustomed to living outside, snug in her insulated dog house even in winter. We were told that if we did bring her into the house she had been taught to stay out of the rooms with carpet on the floor.

On the day she arrived we walked her all around the perimeter of the property to show her the limits of her new territory and she seemed to understand. She accepted her new circumstances eagerly enough and adopted us as though she’d been born at our house. She took her job as protector of the property very seriously though I suspect it was me and the children she was looking after rather than our worldly goods. She became a constant companion on many adventures. Once the boys started school she would wait with them at the end of the driveway every morning till the school bus took them away. The end of the day would find her sitting back in that same spot staring up the road watching for their return.

We discovered she was terrified of thunderstorms and so there were times when she slept in the kitchen rather than the back yard. Eventually, she spent as much time inside as out. She never made a nuisance of herself by coming to the table when we were eating and, true to her early training, she kept strictly to the bare floors in the kitchen and the laundry room next to it. She wasn’t pampered but she was definitely loved.

Brownie was a hunter at heart. Grandpa Livingston would invite us to visit if we’d bring her along to help him hunt coons in the cornfield. She actually turned out to be a good coon dog. She was less successful when chasing squirrels or rabbits or even deer. She would tear off in enthusiastic pursuit, her frenzied barking pitched high with excitement even though she never managed to catch one. Groundhogs were much easier prey. If she caught one of them out in the open the outcome was inevitable. We would come across the gruesome remains of a partially eaten carcass on the front lawn and someone would have to fetch a shovel to give it a hasty burial somewhere far enough from the house to avoid having it dragged back the next day. She also caught more mice than our cat ever did.

She was in the house with me one winter day when I pulled open the drawer in the bottom of my stove to discover that a mouse had filled it with dryer lint and built a nest among my baking tins. Horrors! I could feel my skin crawl at the thought of what might be lurking under all that fluff. Much as I wanted to, I couldn’t just close the drawer again and pretend I hadn’t seen anything. I was going to have to deal with it so I steeled my nerves and leaned down to shout a challenge into the pie plates in the hopes that any resident mouse would die of a heart attack before I uncovered it. I kicked the drawer a few times for good measure and then Brownie sat watching with head cocked to one side as I used a pair of tongs to reach in and gingerly pull the pans out one at a time.

I’d almost reached the bottom when a terrified mouse shot out from under the stove and skittered across the kitchen floor. I dropped the tongs and jumped to one side nearly tripping over the stack of pans I’d piled there.

“Get it, Brownie!” I shrieked. She’d already seen it and the chase was on. Chaos ensued with the mouse finally racing straight into the living room to disappear under the couch. Brownie skidded to an undignified halt at the edge of the carpet and even with me jumping up and down crying, “The rules are off!” she refused to cross over into forbidden territory. She just turned her reproachful eyes on me and I could almost hear her thinking, ‘you’re trying to trick me aren’t you?’ I sighed in defeat and went to fetch the broom. I was going to have to get this mouse the hard way. Furniture got shoved here and there as I chased that pesky rodent around the living room with Brownie watching intently and barking encouragement from the sidelines. It was hopeless.

The mouse got away and I tried to console myself with the thought that perhaps the whole experience was so traumatic for it that it would leave the house altogether and never return. Even so, I found a new home for my baking tins and for the rest of the winter the drawer in the bottom of the stove stayed empty except for the mouse trap we set there. Brownie had to content herself with hunting outside. At least there were no carpets out there to spoil her fun.

1 comment:

  1. Yup! That's our Brownie! I can just picture the scene. Respecting boundaries. Our horse, Santana was equally respectful of the electric fence. If the line was down for whatever reason, she would not cross the "line" where it had been. Cinnamon was a different story! His respect was for Wayne, not boundaries, and he would choose his moment to ignore the electric fence and wander off when Wayne was away. There are "smart" animals and then there are "smart alec" animals. He was the latter.
    Love your stories and the memories they evoke!