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Beulah

Beulah was a springer spaniel we got to mate with Hawkeye. She was the runt of the litter and when we went to see her, she was clearly upset and barked nonstop. The breeder left the room and she finally settled down and allowed us to come near. I don’t remember what made us decide to take her, but I remember the ride home. She was only about 25-30 pounds then, and she curled up into a ball, sat in my lap and shivered the entire trip. She bonded to me on that ride home, much to my hubby’s disappointment.

Much more to his disappointment was the fact that although she had a better nose than Hawkeye, and was as quick as lightning, she absolutely refused to learn to fetch. Playing games was simply beneath Miss Priss as we sometimes called her. Therefore, she wasn’t any good for hunting, but she was an expert cuddler. Her timing was impeccable – I would get to the love seat, sit down, and curl my legs up. My legs getting into position and her jumping into the niche and settling down happened at the exact same moment.

Apparently, as the runt of the litter, Beulah was accustomed to getting shortchanged at meal time. The first evening meal, she fought Hawkeye for the food dish, insisting on eating first (and winning!). We quickly broke her of that habit and the one that appeared the next morning. I was making sandwiches for lunch – bread, meat, cheese – and walked away for a second only to see her deftly swipe a sandwich from the counter! Although Hawkeye and Beulah learned to eat peacefully, leftover peas were another matter altogether. I always let the dogs have the leftover steamed veggies, dropping them into the dog dish on the way to the garbage can. No problem – unless the veggie was peas. Peas resulted in a dog fight no matter what, so peas ended up scattered on the kitchen floor. Plenty of space between peas and dog tongues that way.

As was intended, Hawkeye and Beulah mated and I’ll never forget the first litter. We all went to bed as usual, but during the night, Beulah moved to the corner of the bedroom between the nightstand and the dresser (a spot no one but her could get to). I awoke to a single puppy cry, sprang up shouting “Puppies!” and scared my husband out of bed. He went to the garage to get the birthing pen ready and my job was to get Beulah and puppy to the garage (the length of the house plus 90 feet). It was no easy task. Beulah had no idea what she had done and wanted nothing to do with the puppy, so I picked her up and kept putting her under her nose. Once the maternal instinct kicked in, however, I was not allowed near the puppy, so I had to steal it from her. I got the puppy as far as the bedroom door, before I was forced to surrender her. After Mamma was sure she was all right, I swiped her and got to the bottom of the stairs. Then to the kitchen doorway, then to the back door, then a dash as fast as I could to the garage. Out in the birthing pen, when Beulah was having a hard time with one of the pups, Hawkeye came to offer support and was loudly and soundly rebuffed. It was as if she was mad at him for causing her pain. He dutifully kept his distance, but sat and kept watch.

Miss Priss would not get her paws wet if the grass was rain soaked. She would walk down the sidewalk, turn left up the driveway, and then into the grass at the spot she wanted. As soon as she was finished, she went directly to the driveway, sidewalk and porch. She had an occasional mean streak in her. She would get Hawkeye to chase her, going slow enough for him to keep up, and then cut an obstacle so close, poor Hawkeye was doomed. She did it in the house once at a doorway so that he hit the wall and she did it once outdoors with the metal windmill set in concrete – that time he literally sat and saw stars, just like in the cartoons.

She got hers one day though – sort of. It was fall, and we had just picked the dogs up from the vet who had boarded them for a week. As soon as we got home, hubby decided to get the mower out and mulch leaves and I went out the upstairs bedroom window onto the back porch roof to sweep off the leaves. Beulah had had enough of being away from me and jumped out the window. The problem was the roof was sloped and she couldn’t stop her momentum. She hit the ground just missing hubby who was trying to figure out what flew by. My first thought was, “My God – I just picked her up from the vet – how am I going to explain bringing her back so soon?!” She was as stunned as we were, but she gathered herself together and walked back to the porch unharmed. Who says dogs can’t fly?

Hawkeye and Beulah were hopelessly in love. The vet soon learned they had to be boarded together in the same pen or they were absolutely miserable (and made everyone else miserable as well). They also had to be walked together. The night we had Hawkeye put to sleep, she burst through the back door as soon as it was unlocked, and flew to the garage and got there before the door closed (90 feet). We opened the door to find her jumping up against the truck looking for her beloved. After that, she would not let me out of her sight or touch. One time I had to close the door between us as I worked with a client who was allergic to dogs. She sat at the door, cried, scratched and made a ruckus. Hubby tried her favorite treat – cashews – but she would not be distracted. So we decided to get her a companion – a decision she didn’t care for at all.

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Hawkeye, English springer spaniel

My husband brought Hawkeye home as a puppy in the dead of winter. He cried for his mamma and we tried everything to quiet him but to no avail. Actually, he wanted to be where we were, so we let him come into the bedroom, where he waltzed under the bed, curled up and went to sleep. Some nights he had a hard time finding the best spot under the bed and every once in a while, we’d be poked and nudged as he tried to re-arrange the bed springs.

We set up a three foot high board to keep him in the kitchen which he learned to climb in less than a month. He learned to use the wall on one side, and the board in front of him and he’d just keep trying until he’d scaled to the top. After he got to the point where he could climb it without falling, we put the board in the garage. Later when we moved to a different house, we built a seven foot wood lattice dog pen. The stinker learned to climb that one in less than a week. He’d climb the fence and go sit on the back porch until we got home. If the neighbor tried to approach him on the porch, he’d dash back to the dog pen and climb back in. Then, as soon as the neighbor went inside, he’d climb the fence and return to the porch.

Hawkeye was quite the educated dog. In his puppy stage, he destroyed a dictionary and a Bible.

My husband wanted to train Hawkeye for hunting, so the first thing was to teach him to fetch. Since it was winter and hubby was your typical lazy man, he took his fishing pole, attached a large lure with all the hooks removed and taught Hawkeye to fetch. I distinctly remember warning him that come summer, the lures would all have hooks, but I was just a girl and my opinion was cast aside (pun intended).

Come summer, we went out to the campground with the boat. Hawkeye went everywhere with my husband – errands, the post office – so of course he was going in the boat (the boat with the fishing poles with the lures with the hooks). I stayed behind in the camper since I was studying for the CPA exam at the time. Obviously, hubby forgot the lure training and the dog didn’t. On the very first cast, Hawkeye reached his paw up for the lure. I heard the commotion all the way back at the camper. He didn’t set the hook with his first reach – he set it as he ran around the boat trying to figure out what was going on. Between the dog scampering and two large men trying to grab the dog, they almost tipped the boat over!

Poor Hawkeye was banished to the camper for the rest of the afternoon. The dog who was used to going everywhere with the man paced, cried, whined, jumped up to the window ad infinitum and was absolutely miserable. When hubby and friend returned they were promptly informed that they were never ever going to leave the dog behind again.

Hawkeye’s hunting trips were always successful. He quickly learned what the camouflage coat coming out of the closet meant and was beyond himself with excitement. (So much so that my husband could only wear the coat for hunting.) Hawkeye’s first pair of quail were stuffed by the taxidermist, as was his first pheasant. I was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to eat anything from a hunting trip. One day the guys shot a goose and the goose landed in a pond. Hawkeye’s instincts kicked right in – he did exactly what he was supposed to do. He took off after the prey on command and swam out to retrieve his prize. The problem was that the prize was not quite dead yet. Hawkeye grabbed onto the goose’s neck, and the goose came to and began to wing whip the not yet full grown dog. In other words, the goose was bigger than the dog. The guys yelled for Hawkeye to drop the goose, but he refused. They couldn’t fire another shot for fear of hitting the dog, so they got to the pond as quick as they could. Hawkeye almost had the goose to shore by then, so the guys waded in after them. I don’t remember whether or not we got to eat that particular goose, but I do know that no amount of coaxing or training would ever get that dog near water again.

Hawkeye may have been my husband’s dog, but when he was out of town, Hawkeye became man of the house. Instead of sleeping in the bedroom, he slept at the top of the stairs. At first, I didn’t realize how seriously he took his position. The mailman came to the front door with a package. This wasn’t anything new, so I was completely taken by surprise when, as I held the screen door open, the dog went after the mailman. After that, I made sure to keep hold of his collar if my husband was out of town and anyone came to the door.
Remember how the pup would sleep under the bed? Later in his life, I would put the bedspread and show pillows on the cedar chest which was under the slanted roofline ceiling. The lights would go out and Hawkeye would get to work making his bed. He’d go behind the cedar chest, pull the bedspread and pillows down, and arranger them to his liking. Occasionally he’d be over particular about his bed and we’d have to tell him to go to sleep. He’d stop his arranging and plop down with a huge sigh.

When we would watch TV in the living room and a dog would sigh, one of us people would return the sigh. Hawkeye was the only dog who got the joke and he would wag his tail for us. Later in his life, Hawkeye took to snoring, sometimes so loudly we’d have to wake him up so we could hear the TV!

The Dogs in my Life

I had always wanted a dog as a child, but Mama wasn’t too keen on the idea. Neither was Daddy. Daddy had served in the Philippines in World War II, and came home afraid of the family dog even though he had known Fritz before he went to war. Fritz was in the family photo with his father and five sisters that he and his brother carried in their gear while they served. I later learned that the Japanese used dogs in warfare, but my father never spoke of it. So growing up, I made do with Fritz and with Wimpy – my aunt’s black cocker spaniel.

I remember going to our pastor’s house in Roseland which was down the hill from the church. They had a great dane who loved children and wanted to play with me, but I was so much smaller than it was and I was afraid. I stood up against a basement post with my dad behind me as a shield until they could corral him.
Finally, when I was in high school, Daddy got an overweight dachshund I named Toby which was from a Hungarian word for sausage. He wasn’t much for playing, but it didn’t matter at the time. He was very keen on protecting his bone, and when Mamma reached into the kennel for his dish not seeing the bone, he bit her and Daddy returned him to the man who gave him to us.

When I got married, my husband decided it was time for another dog. I don’t remember where we got Sandy from, but she loved being out in the yard. She was a pretty dog with little beige eyebrows. One night I was coming down the train station stairs and knew my hubby had come to walk home with me – I kept hearing, “Oh, look at the pretty dog!”

On the other side of our back fence was a set of railroad tracks, complete with the usual critters. One night, Sandy tangled with a skunk. We knew a skunk had been around when we got home, but didn’t really think anything of it at first. Up close, Sandy smelled fine, so we let her into the house for the night. As we were putting groceries away, we began to notice a funny odor. That’s when we put two and two together and took her downstairs for a tomato bath, which only made the odor more pronounced. She spent the rest of the week completely outdoors and managed to get skunked several more times that summer.

One evening we came home and Sandy was nowhere to be found. We searched the neighborhood and went to the nearest dog pound. We didn’t find her, but while we were walking down the aisle, I spotted a little buff colored cocker spaniel cowering in the back corner of her kennel. That’s how we came home with Chaya.
One night shortly after we got her, a friend was over. Chaya greeted Chuck and then disappeared upstairs. Chuck wanted to see more of her, so we called and called, but she wouldn’t come down. Finally, an exasperated Chuck called “Come here you ugly dog”, and she bounded down the stairs. That’s how Chaya become Ugly (much to my mother-in-law’s dismay and disappointment).

My husband worked nights on occasion, and one night I was awakened in the middle of the night by several loud thuds. I was scared to death, but slowly crept down the stairs. That’s when I heard the other sound – dog paws running and sliding. Ugly was using her nylabone as a hockey puck and having a grand time!

Then there was the night I got up to go to the bathroom. There was a full moon, so the bedroom was dimly lit. Enough to see Ugly lying on her back with all four paws straight up in the air. She had been sick that day and evening so I thought she had died in her sleep and scared her for a change when I dove down to the floor to check on her.

Ugly loved to sit in the front of the full length window screen door and watch the world go by. The mailbox was next to the door, and Ugly would watch the mailman come up the walk, deposit the mail in the box and walk away. THEN she would bark. We imagined coming downstairs someday to an empty first floor if she wouldn’t bark until the burglars were long gone!

Ugly had to be top dog. She tolerated Hawkeye, the English springer spaniel puppy my husband brought home, but when we added Beulah (to mate with Hawkeye) a year or so later, she was miserable, so we gave her to a good friend where she lived a long and happy life (and kept the ugly name!).

Buster Brown’s Surgery

Buster Brown was a 57-pound English springer spaniel. I worked with him as a therapy dog. I didn’t realize that I would be his first patient.

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Janet Jean: Buster Brown had knee surgery yesterday. I brought home a pretty sore puppy. He was hurting – I could see it in his eyes. He was restless – it hurt so much, he just wandered around.

God: Janet Jean had divorce surgery. I brought home a pretty sore little girl. She’s hurting – I can see it in her heart. She’s restless – it hurts so much, she just wanders around.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown, I know it hurts. It hurts a whole lot. But you see, your knee was in pretty bad shape and the vet had to go in and take the knee apart and deepen the groove in the bone and tighten up the ligaments and then put everything back together again.

God: Janet Jean, I know it hurts. It hurts a whole lot. But you see, your life was in pretty bad shape and I had to go in and take your life apart and deepen the groove in your heart and tighten up your attitudes and ligaments of faith and then put everything back together again.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown, it hurts a whole lot right now. But it’s going to get better. Every day it will hurt a little less. Every day you’ll get stronger. And I have an antibiotic and a pain pill to help. Remember how you used to hobble along on three legs? When your knee heals, you’ll be able to run better than you did before. Honest. I’m sorry you’re hurting now, but it’s for the best – really it is.

God: Janet Jean, it hurts a whole lot right now. But it’s going to get better. Every day it will hurt a little less. Every day you’ll get stronger. And I have the blood of Jesus, My Word and the Holy Spirit to help. Remember how you used to hobble along depressed and unfulfilled? When your heart heals, you’ll be able to live and love better than you did before. Honest. I’m sorry you’re hurting now, but it’s for the best – really it is.

Janet Jean: I love you Buster Brown. I’ll be here for you. Please don’t be mad at me. I didn’t do it to hurt you or be mean. It’s for your own good. It’s what’s best. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I wish I could take it away.

God: I love you Janet Jean. I’m here for you. Don’t be mad at me. I didn’t allow this to punish you or be cruel. It’s for your own good. It’s what’s best. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m hurting too. Let Me take it away. That’s why my Son Jesus died for you.

Janet Jean: Dear Jesus,

I see the pain in Buster Brown’s limp, in his eyes. The physical pain You suffered was so great it killed You. Buster Brown didn’t have a choice. You did. You chose to suffer and die so that I could be forgiven and spend eternity in heaven with You.

I know the pain of rejection. Rejected by a husband whom I loved deeply. Rejected, ignored by people I thought were friends. How You must hurt every time one of us goes our own way, leaves you out, misses the still small voice, forgets to say thank you. My pain is nothing compared to Yours. The prayer of Jabez says, “that I may not cause pain”. Help me to stop causing You pain.

God: Janet Jean, what else can you learn from Buster Brown?

Janet Jean: Buster Brown is always glad to see me.

God: I am always glad to see you. Be glad to see Me.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown is always so expectant, so excited about everything.

God: I expect the best from and for you. Expect the best from Me. I am thrilled to be part of your life. Be excited about everything.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown always wags his tail, even in pain.

God: Be positive, Janet Jean.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown wants to cuddle, but can’t until he’s invited.

God: Cuddle me Janet Jean.

Janet Jean: Buster Brown wants to be with me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

God: Here I am Janet Jean. Come, take my hand.

June, 2003

A Volunteer’s Reward

This post is dedicated to the innumerable volunteers who give so much of themselves to serve others.  Sometimes it is a thankless and unappreciated service.  There are times when we have to get ready to go out serve when we’re tired and have so many other things calling for attention in our lives and we wonder if it’s worth continuing because we have no idea whether or not we’re making a difference.  Once in a great while God allows us to see the difference we’re making or have made.

One of the volunteer positions I served in was called Read Fur Fun at our local library.  We would bring our therapy dogs on a Saturday morning, the children would pick a book and read it to the dog of their choice.  One Saturday our time was up, but I saw a young boy who had that “love at first sight” look when he saw Buster Brown, so we lingered.  Tommy (not his real name) was developmentally challenged and wanted to know why a dog was in the library.  We explained the program to him and he started to get a book, when he was told we were done for the day, but he could sign up for next month.  He eagerly looked at his mom.  She was the kind of mom who was doing everything she possibly could to help her son.

A month later Tommy came and slowly read to Buster Brown, his finger under each word.  His mom was trying to get him to put more feeling in to his reading, but Buster Brown listened attentively nevertheless.  As they were leaving, his mom said, “He practiced every day for the last month so he could read to the dog”.  Tears came to my eyes and I never forgot him.  I looked for him each time we went, but he was involved in several other therapeutic programs and didn’t make it back to the library. 

It’s been five or six years since that Saturday.  I was at the library this afternoon for a performance of Old Time Radio Players.  I recognized Tommy at the counter as soon as I saw him.  He came to the show and sat in the front row.  The performers asked for two volunteers to read from the scripts for the next skit.  Tommy was the first to volunteer and I admit I cringed a bit – some of the old time radio shows were rather fast-paced.  His turn came and he had no problem following the script or reciting his lines.  His expressiveness was much better than it was years ago.  I was so proud of him!

I was also very touched to have been a minute part of his progress, and grateful to God for allowing me to see a glimpse of what we encouraged.  Don’t give up.  Don’t doubt your effectiveness.  Keep volunteering!

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