I have never really liked dogs.
I don't know. Too needy, maybe? The licking themselves thing?
Back in the early 90's, when I had come back from college to work on the ranch and stay with my ailing Grandma, I was also dating Phil. Phil was a horrid person and I think the only reason I was with him was the convenience (lived just a ranch over) and loneliness. This is a really bad idea.
Phil was an avid collector of guns (red flag), owned a wolf dog (red flag) and was sorta small (sorry, but another red flag. Napoleon and all that?). He was very jealous of my bartending job and would give me the third degree whenever I would come home at 3 am........which is something bartenders do because of their work hours, and all.
Near the end of our relationship I really wanted out, but was a bit scared on exactly how to go about it. I was young. The dog in one of the ranch houses where he lived had just had puppies and would occasionally sneak over to eat the food in Buck's (the wolf dog's bowl). She was nursing and hungry.....and Buck kinda liked her.
Phil shot her.
He just shot this mamma dog with 6 baby puppies and I saw it happen. He was going to shoot the puppies too, but I ran in front of the gun (cause as you all know, I am bulletproof), scooped up the puppies, threw them in the front of my truck and drove home.
My Dad was not the kind of guy that really enjoyed having 6 puppies added to the menagerie, and I definitely was not going to tell him how I got them, so I hid them in an old barn. I became their secret Mom. Sneaking down between all my other work to make sure they were getting enough milk and to start to wean them onto food. And sadly to say, I did not take the advantage of this opportune time to leave Phil. I just didn't talk to him for awhile.
The puppies and I were eventually found out.
My Dad asked no questions. He just sighed and said, "Well.....which one do you want to keep? We need a good cow dog around here."
I chose Alex.
The other pups, when they were ready, went to neighboring ranches that needed a dog. They were great cow dogs. Total mutts of course, but you could see possibly some Border Collie and Blue Heeler somewhere in there.
Alex and I went everywhere together. I irrigated the fields, which meant checking my dams every few hours throughout the day by motorcycle. When he was small, he would ride in between my legs. And when he got bigger, my dad built a little platform on the back rack of the motorcycle for him to ride on. He would either stand or sit on this - and with amazing balance, fly down the back roads of the ranch with the wind in his ears.
There were a few accidents. Totally my fault, but trust me.....He just jumped and landed on his feet. I was the one left dusting myself off and picking up the bike. After one of these, dad found an old scrap of Shag carpeting and nailed it to the platform for traction. It was hysterical, but no one really thought anything of it. It's just what he did.
He inspired a whole ranch full of motorcycle riding dogs......Putzy and Irish were fans of the road, too.
When I left for Seattle he stayed behind. You can't bring a motorcycle riding ranch dog to the city. And as the dogs and my Dad got older it became such a routine - that motorcycle ride once a day - that if Dad was too busy during the day he would be sure to take them for a ride after dinner.
How cute is that?
Anyway....back to the Phil thing. After a particularly bad night of "after bartending interrogation" I swore to him that I would leave him. I came to get my stuff and he had this little kitten and an apology for me. A few days later, I came home from the bar to find that Phil had thrown the kitten up against the wall and killed it because he was mad at me and my late nights again.
And FINALLY I left him. Sadly, I see now that I valued that little kitten's life over my own. I was willing to let him treat me horribly, but a kitten? No way. I am thankful for that kitten to this day. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened to me and my insanely degraded sense of self?
The day I left, I was soooo scared. Alex followed me everywhere. He knew something was really wrong. Anytime I stopped, he would sit on my feet. All day long. Everytime he did it, I cried.
Even after I left for Seattle, on my visits back he would be so excited to see me and the moment I sat down or stopped moving, there he would be - sitting on my feet.
Alex died Tuesday.
He was 14 years old. He had rapidly declined and my Mom took him to the vet. His kidneys weren't working and he was in a lot of pain. Instead of have him put down there, my Mom asked the vets to come out to the ranch so he wouldn't be scared. That night, she let him sleep in the house - even so much as at the foot of her bed. He must have been thrilled.
She made a little table covered in blankets out in the garage. When the vet came, she had him on the table, patting, scratching and talking in his ear. She said he didn't feel the needle and he went to sleep so rapidly and peacefully that she was amazed.
This picture has hung somewhere in my house - wherever that happened to be - since I left Montana. Him, on our motorcyle.
He was a good dog.