Throughout my life I have not been robbed of the privilege of being acquainted with a menagerie of people, and lots of pets. At times the most loyal have been the four legged’s. Dogs to be specific. I have been blessed with 5 children. Each one are different, with terrific personalities. All of our canine friends have been somewhat the same.
Reflecting back, I can remember one dog in particular, that really stands out. His name was Tiger. Tiger belonged to my Daddy’s Mama & Daddy. We lived beside them for 12 years, so I was accustomed to being friendly with all their outdoor family. I was probably around 7 years old when Tiger lived at my Grandparent’s house. Tiger & I were very big buddies . He had a greyhound for a Mama & a black & tan travelin’ man for a Daddy. Tiger have some very noteworthy attributes. He never tried to be something he wasn’t. If he growled & barked & acted like he was going to bite, he probably would. Take for instance the time he tried to bite a neighborhood vacuum cleaner salesman. He bit at his tires on his truck, instead, but everybody knew Tiger was not “puttin’ on” anything. Besides being loyal, he was territorial as the devil. One of my Grandpa’s friend’s sat in his car, a many a times, waiting for my Grandpa to come outside.
My Grandpa would walk out on the car porch, smile his toothless grin & say to his friend, “Git on out. Tiger won’t hurt ye.”
His friend would roll his window down & reply, “If ye wantin’ to play checkers, git ye dawg back. Ifn’ ye ain’t, I’ll jest go back home. My butterbeans need a pickin’ anyways.”
My Grandpa would chuckle & state to Tiger, very authoritive, “Tiger, git on back he’er!” Tiger would stop barking, look at my Grandpa & turn & walk up on the car porch.
My Grandpa would command again & point his finger to a shady spot beside the doorsteps, “Now, lay down he’er!” Tiger, immediately laid down at the appropriate place. Only at that time, would his friend ease on out of his car.
“Now ye gonna hafta quit stayin’ gone s’long,” he would say to his friend, as he put his hand on his shoulder,”it’s gittin’ to wher’ the dog don’t even know ye!”
His friend would tip his hat & say, “Well, I’m havin’ to git my garden in.”
And they would walk in the house. His friend would have his hat in his hand as he greeted my Grandma.(As any Southern gentleman would.)
By this time, Tiger was calmer, more at ease. He had done his job, as protector, once again.
Tiger was always pretty intimidating to others. But not to me. He would let me comb his hair & look at his teeth. He never barked at me. He let me hold his head in my lap & I would pet him for a good while. I would get to hold the tick jar, when my grandfather picked ticks off of him, too. If you are not privy to what a tick jar is, I will explain. My Grandma gave my Grandpa one of her empty glass Dental Snuff jars. In it, he poured motor oil. Once a tick was placed in this jar, it could be brought to its needful demise. You certainly could get quite a collection of those things in a jar. No one really appreciated the assortment of ticks. I would proudly hold up the jar, for my aunts & uncles to view, when they visited. They were not amused. Even my cousins were mostly disgusted. Except for one of my girl cousins. She was a bit tom boyish, like me. She understood what time it was with the tick jar. She was always willing to see what contents the jar held. And too, for Tiger’s sake, you must be aware, we lived in rural Mississippi. We had lots of woods (many, many pine trees), briars, & thickets around our place. Plenty of acres for Tiger to roam & get ticks.
One of the best lessons I’ve ever learned involved Tiger. Although Tiger had some beautiful & noteworthy characteristics, he also had a habit. The habit that finally ended it all for him. Tiger loved to chase cars. It was his vice. No matter how much we begged, pleaded, & even punished Tiger, he loved to chase a car. Nothing would stop him. One time my Grandpa tried chaining him up. Tiger was miserable. He wouldn’t eat, so my Grandpa finally turned him loose. He went right out & chased cars again. He was like a functioning addict. He lived life as a sane, good, obedient dog. Then, a car would come up the road & he headed straight for it. It was crazy. One day, when we least expected it , something happened. The state department was paving the county road up a ways towards our neighbor’s house. Mind you, our next door neighbor was a mile up the rural country road. There was a dump truck, that had been hauling back & forth by my Grandparent’s house. That’s when Tiger began to watch closely. I knew what was about to happen. I was standing outside, in my Grandparent’s front yard, twirling my Grandma’s fly swatter like a baton. (I was pretending to be in a marching band.) Tiger ran out to the road. He was running so fast. He headed right toward the dump truck passing by. The driver of the dump truck never saw Tiger, as he ran out behind it. Tiger got caught by one of the back tires. I yelled & ran out toward the road. My Grandma was watching me out the front kitchen window, as she cooked. She was wiping her hands on a dish towel, as she hurried out of the house.
She shouted at me, “Sugar, don’t you go out there in the road! Yer liable to git hit!”
By that time, I was crying. I stopped at the ditch, right before the road. My Grandma headed past me. I mean, making a bee-line out on the road. Tiger had met his maker. She took him by the back leg & dragged his lifeless body out of the hot, paved, road. My Grandpa had gone to the store. My Grandma did not want Tiger left out on the road.
I wailed, “Is he dead?”
She whispered, “Yes, yes, he is pumpkin.” I grabbed her around her tiny waist. She was sweating from the heat, but she held me tight.
“I don’t want Tiger to be gone.” I sobbed.
As she started leading me back toward the house, she said, “Tiger’s in a better place. He’s in dog heaven.”
I began to stop crying, “Dog heaven?”, I questioned. I was very interested in this new heard of “dog heaven”.
“Oh yes,” she said wisely, “all kinds of animals go to heaven when they die.”
“Even dogs?”, I asked.
“Yes, ma’am. God loves dogs. He take care of ’em when they leave this ‘ol world.” she replied.
“Really?”, I skeptically said.
My Grandma stopped and stooped over to look me in the eyes. “If it’s important enough, for the good Lord to put’em here, He’s gonna take care of ’em for good.” she said tenderly. I looked in her eyes hard. Snuff was in corners of her mouth, when her sweet smile appeared on her lips. I buried my head into her cotton dress & squeezed her. Right at that time. my Grandpa turned in their gravel driveway. As he got out of the ’63 Ford Fairlane, my Grandma made her way over to tell him about the terrible accident.
Even though, I had just lost a companion, I felt better. I had learned several lessons- in a real crisis, it’s good to show respect and bring about dignity to anyone or animal during death. I saw a caring way you should treat the ones you love. I was taught that comfort is sometimes one of the most profound feelings of all. I learned that sometimes we can have family from all walks of life. That’s not counting out our dear, devoted four-legged companions. All in all, I would say, this was a great life lesson. It just made it a little more priceless coming from an unexpected teacher.