How Much is That Doggie: Searching for Tsuga

A decidedly bad mix: Tevas, toes and a pit full of puppies. Eleven blond furballs were all very asleep when we got there to see them. Hoping that this visit, The One would show himself unmistakably to us, it was a disappointment to see almost a dozen peacefully rising and falling puppy tummies all around the corral, all looking exactly alike, save for the crude Magic Marker number found on one ear of each male. With our poking and stroking they did finally wake up in twos and threes, then maybe half the lot at once, each competing to see which one could untie Ann’s shoes or grab my little toe exposed in my open sandals and make me holler (and bleed) with their impossibly sharp teeth (what must a momma dog experience at feeding time!). There is one ‘runt’ among the males, and beyond that, we’ll be happy with any of them.

And yet, it seems there should be a way to find the one that is the perfect fit for us. The two fellows who will have first choice this week are looking for a hunter. Cleverly, they trolled for their puppies by tying a dove wing to a fishing line and pulling it through the midst of the puppy village to draw out that special bird-oriented future fetcher. This test met with equivocal results, we understand, but is a great concept. We are thinking maybe to employ a converse sort of test next time we visit, and will place a pair of underwear on the fishing line and choose the ONE PUP who DOES NOT grab the item of intimate wear and proudly parade about with it hanging moist and mangled (as Buster was wont to do as a very effective attention-getter).

How do we decide? It will be Number 1, 2, or 4. One of these numbered unknowns will come home with us on August 17, and our lives, his and ours, will become layered and fused and intertwined with each others’ in that wonderful, heart-breaking way that happens only between human souls and the spirits that inhabit your dog.

This is a repost, obviously, from some while back–August 2003, to be exact. And with the NEW toe-nibbler at my feet just now, reposting is the best I can do. Maybe later. Like, six months from now, I’ll complete a new thought. Maybe.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. You’re occupied beyond measure and I’m in a writer’s slump. Jeesh! Nothin’ like bein’ at opposite ends of the spectrum, huh?