Thursday, March 26, 2009
My Dog Dixie
Dixie was my first dog, a furry white purebred Spitz. I had Dixie as my companion since my earliest memories. She was already full grown when I was a toddler, so she was considerably older than I. And, since I lived on a busy four lane highway, State Route 23, houses were far apart. With my nearest playmate living half a mile away, Dixie became my constant companion and my doting second mother. Like the song lyric professed, we spent our days as "Me and my shadow." Dixie could be jealous with my mom and dad, but she protected me from all threats of harm. She didn't want anyone paddling my rear or even talking cross to me. She followed me everywhere as if it were her duty, and she would allow me to squeeze, push, or grab her any time without so much as a snip. We became inseparable yard buddies and eventually the Louis and Clark Expedition in our nearby woods. I think I thought Dixie was human and a permanent fixture in my life. I remember one evening, Dixie kept barking outside while I was inside my house. Her bark was alarming to the degree that my dad was unable to quiet her, and so he began to figure something had to be truly wrong. As he went outside to investigate, he found that Dixie had cornered a large copperhead close to the spot we had played earlier in the day. Dad dispatched the snake to serpent heaven and Dixie became an overnight hero, considering her brave insistent standoff. In fact, Dixie was a dog's dog and not a pretty toy. She would occasionally munch on rabbits and other small prey she found. She ran through briers in the woods and would fight a strange dog. To me, she was better than Ol' Yeller and Lassie combined. Once, Dixie had been grazed by a car and later recovered, so she never attempted to cross Route 23. Most dogs in our parts didn't last long until flattened by a speeding car. Occasionally, you would see their mangled carcasses littering the road.Dixie had learned her lesson early in life and took no risks west of our yard. During her life, Dixie had several litters of puppies, and upon delivery of her last litter, I was allowed to keep one of her sons. At the time, Dixie was slowing down considerably and showing signs of aging. I think Mom and Dad knew the pup might some day be called upon to replace my best friend. Me, I was just happy to have a second dog. Dixie's son grew strikingly muscular and handsome and I think we named him Bo. Definitely the pick of the litter, Bo epitomized the breed. Everything was fine until the pup reached maturity and curiously wandered across the road. I will never forget the image of seeing his snow-white fur drenched in blood as he ran yelping to the backyard to take his final breaths after being battered by a car. It was one of my first heart-sinking tragedies, but since I still had Dixie, I overcame the blow. Eventually, Dixie got really old and covered with ugly cancerous tumors. She, more than once, hid on the hillside to find sanctuary to die, but I had Mom and Dad help me find her and bring her off the hill. She could hardly drag herself around; still, I was old enough to help her now like she had helped me in younger days. We did everything to cure her, but time and disease had run their course. My last memories of Dixie were sounds-- terrible wails and groans of suffering that penetrated my bedroom walls while I lay in my bed coping with every young child's nightmare. The helpless feelings and insecure pains were new to me, and I will never forget wishing for a miracle to make Dixie whole again. I listened and listened, refusing to give her up. It was agony for dog and human, but as long as she was still breathing, I wanted her alive. The next evening when I came home from school, I found out that Dixie had died. My dad had buried her on the hillside, and I visited the grave and wept. Now, I wonder if the loss of a human playmate would have had such a profound effect. Years later, many years later, my dad told me he had to put Dixie out of her misery. I was glad he had put her down, and I was glad he waited to tell me. I know, deep inside, he loved Dixie as much as I did, but he loved me even more.
Posted by Frank Thompson at 2:13 PM