Are there any other kind?
Yes. Coyotes and Coy Dogs, those domestic dogs that have interbred with coyotes. I do not like them. They are dangerous to my own dogs.
Last week, while staying at the Magnolia Inn just off Goodman Road in Olive Branch, Mississippi, I spotted the biggest, most beautiful German Shepherd I have ever seen running down the side of the road. Goodman Road is no place for a dog. It is heavily traveled, with thousands of cars and trucks passing by every hour in this busy Memphis suburb, and even more during rush hour traffic.
“That’s dog’s gonna get killed,” I thought to myself, sadly.
A bit later I went out to my car to get something and the same dog was patrolling the hotel parking lot. He came up to me. I don’t stick my hand out to strange dogs, particularly large German Shepherds, who are, of all dogs, most likely to bite you. I was not afraid, and the dog knew and respected that, but I was not stupid either. I stood still while he sniffed me up and down. I must have passed the sniff test. He then trotted about, marking trees and tires any place his nose led him to mark this new territory he was inhabiting. What a dog’s nose reveals only a dog can know. It is a world forever mysterious to us humans, with our world likely considered inferior by a dog’s way of thinking.
It was about midnight. I sat down in a rocking chair on the hotel’s front portico. In just a bit, the dog was at my side, nuzzling his head against my hand, wanting me to give his ear a scratch. I did. He liked it.
“Someone is wondering where you are,” I said to the dog. “Someone is worried about you.” Being such a fine specimen of a German Shepherd, this was, no doubt, someone’s dog strayed away from home. When I went back into the hotel, he tried to follow me in. The clerk said that the dog had been trying to get inside the building all evening.
The next morning, as I was preparing to go home, the shepherd was still outside, as if he was making the hotel his new home. He had not been neutered, and I knew that his nose would lead him far astray if the right scent came along, enticing him further and further away from home, his hormones driving him to ignore the thousands of cars on Goodman Road. A truck would kill him in an instant. So would a small Hyundai, but the Hyundai would just as likely have been as destroyed as the dog. This ninety pound dog could cause an accident fatal to himself and others.
I opened the door and began to load stuff in my Tahoe. I had the passenger’s side door open as I was loading stuff through the back lift gate. When I got finished loading in back and went to shut the passenger door, the dog had made himself comfortable on the front seat. I had my answer on what to do about this beautiful dog. Rather than leave him to animal control, who the hotel clerk said had been called, and to his poor chances of navigating Goodman Road, I’d just take him home with me. He had no collar to identify himself or his owner.
He was a well-trained, well-behaved dog. While he was friendly enough, he was not warm to me; I was not his people. I stopped several times on the way home, each time the dog trying to get out, but I would not let him get out for fear I would not be able to retrieve him. Having him lost in his home town is better than having him lost along another highway in a strange town. In spite of him likely having to urinate, as I did several times on the drive, he held it well.
I tried as many dog names as I could think of. None had any effect. I decided I would call him “Whup” for the time being. He didn’t seem to mind, but he didn’t respond either.
When I got home, he immediately set out to sniffing everything he could find, tacking everywhere he sniffed. My three female dogs petty much ignored him, other than Else Belle, whom he tried to mount with no effect, she being spayed, and Relay, who rolled over in her typical beta-dog manner, then yelping and snapping at him as soon as he turned his back. Relay’s bravery exceeds her capacity when she looks at the end with no eyes and teeth.
Babalu, on the other hand, was not happy at all. He is a pit bull, and though not taller than the shepherd, weighed even more, a hunk of mass and muscle, and intent on protecting what he rightfully viewed as an encroachment on his alpha-dog status.
All my dogs are free range dogs, They go where they please when they please. They like their free life in the country. It is not without its hazards, though. They have become road savvy, looking both ways before crossing the road as they have learned what a log truck can do to the unwary. People learn this, too, the hard way, as occasionally someone pulls out of their own driveway in front of an oncoming log truck. It is not pretty.
Being free range dogs, my dogs are all calm. Of course they bark and snarl when someone comes in the driveway, as their territory has been invaded. In Babalu’s case at this encroachment though, he wanted blood. I stood between him and the shepherd.
“Annnk!” I said. “Mine.”
He’d stop and look at me, puzzled now about his own place in the pack. I petted him. “Babalu, this dog is just a guest. He will soon go back to where he came from and you’ll still be here.” This satisfied Babalu for about six seconds until his gaze fixed on the shepherd, intently, with such focus as a human can never possess. He stood rigid, his pupils pinpoints of focus, his muscles tense, pumped up like a young Arnold Schwartzenegger preparing for a Mr. Universe contest, his tail in a rigid, unmoving curl, a snarl rolling off his lips, his teeth beginning to show.
“Annnk!” He relaxed for a moment, then the tension began to build all over.
Babalu got after him a time or two, but the shepherd seemed to know he was outclassed. He retreated every time Babalu advanced, though he did retreat minus a mouthful of fur once, Babalu seemingly happy he had gotten a piece of him, though no harm was done.
The shepherd kept his distance as Babalu lay on the ground beside me. Only when he approached too close did Babalu try to get up. Of course, when I went go inside, the shepherd tried to go in with me. I would not let him. I heard him and Babalu tie up a time or two, but they both worked out the proper respect and distances that would be required for good canine relations.
Debbie knew nothing of this until I went inside. I told her I had brought home a beautiful German Shepherd I found wandering the streets of Olive Branch. She was not happy about it. She was not happy at all.
“This is someone’s dog.” I said. “I could not leave him out there to get killed on Goodman Road. I couldn’t think of what else to do, so I brought him home.” She gave me the stink eye, a long, long version of the stink-eye.
I took a photo of the dog and posted it on my Facebook page, asking anyone who lived in the area to share it, hoping we could find its owner. Debbie had the presence of mind to find a lost and found page for Olive Branch, Mississippi. There was a photo of the dog, it’s owner asking for any information from anyone who may have seen him. I wish I had had thought of that. I am thankful for a wife who does.
I looked up the Facebook page of the woman who had posted about the missing dog. I saw where she worked. I googled her workplace and got a phone number and called it.
A man answered, “Hello.” I did not expect this and was somewhat taken aback. I expected the phone to be answered with the name of the business.
“I need to speak to Ms. Blank,” I said.
“Ms. Blank?” he asked. “This is Mr. Blank.”
“Well, Mr. Blank, you’ll do just fine.” I told him my name and said, “I’ve got your dog.”
“Oh! Thank goodness. We’ve looked everywhere for him. I’m so glad you’ve got him.”
“There is just one little issue,” I said. “I could not leave him where I found him, so I brought him home with me.”
“That’s fine. We’ll come and fetch him,” Mr. Blank replied.
“Home, for me, is thirty miles North of Meridian,” I said.
“Whew. That’s a couple of hours away,” he said.
“Try three-and-a-half hours,” I replied. “Basically, you’ve got two options. You can come get him, or I will bring him back to Olive Branch with me when I return on Monday.”
“I will call my wife and tell her. We’ll call you back,” he said.
“That’s fine. He’s safe here with us, far more so than wandering Goodman Road. One more thing, Mr. Blank,” I said. “What is the dog’s name?”
After we hung up, I went up to Jax and called him by name. Where he had been friendly before, he became absolutely loving, plum giddy at hearing his name, as if he was thinking, “You silly human. Why did you wait so long to call me by my name? We can really be friends now.” And so friends we were.
Since he was an inside dog, Debbie said she’d rather have him in the house than roaming free, in case Babalu decided he just had enough of this, or Jax was lured away by not so distant coyotes and decided they were cute and would be fun to play with (they are not!), or in case something happened to him now that we were officially responsible for him. He was a good inside dog. Now that we knew each other by name, or that I knew him by name and he knew me by smell, he taught me all of the games he liked to play. He loved attacking and chewing on a plastic water bottle. He liked to sit and shake hands. He absolutely loved to force his head between my knees and wiggle his whole body through my legs and would immediately come around and do it again. I expect he would fetch, but we never got around to that. My dogs don’t know any tricks other than how to simply to be good dogs. That seems satisfactory to all of us.
Jax never tried to get up on the furniture. He must have had home training about that. He also laid down and became still when you turned out the lights.
After Mrs. Blank spoke to Debbie, arrangements were made for a friend to come and retrieve Jax and take him home. The lady that came was the lady whose own shepherd had given birth to Jax, who was one of twelve puppies.
The next morning, I left early for Canaan and me to go to Columbus Air Force Base to test some high voltage cables for another contractor. I knew Jax’s friend would be coming to retrieve him. I gave him a goodbye pat, and said, “Be a good boy, Jax. Come back and see me again sometime.”
Jax left my home with a custom, heavy duty leather collar I made for him. He will not slip or break this one if his owners choose to leave it on. Burned right into the leather with a hot wide-bit soldering iron it reads “JAX BLANK – 901.XXX.XXXX.”
The next day, I got the nicest message from Mrs. Blank. “Thank you for taking go
od care of Jax. We were so worried about him and are thankful to have him home. We love his new collar.”
Good boy, Jax. Stay off Goodman Road…you hear me??
©2018 Mississippi Chris Sharp