Wednesday, May 16, 2012

the dog chronicles: Spot.

When I was about seven years old, my dad told me that we were going to get a dog. I looked at him like he was crazy: he already had three kids, the youngest barely a year old. Why on earth would he want a dog to add to the chaos of our household? Perhaps Dad thought that every good farm needed a dog; perhaps he just wanted to teach his damn kids some responsibility. We lived in the country – no farm animals, thank goodness, but plenty of wide open spaces. Perfect for a farm dog.

Dad knew some people with puppies – free puppies, which are always the best kind. He carted the whole family off to the farm, where we would select our first family dog. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the puppies’ mother: a stout little Norwegian Elkhound with a friendly smile. She was followed by four roly-poly puppies: all fluffy, all adorable, all eager to come home with us. My heart melted. Now I knew why Dad thought we should have a dog: dogs are WAY cuter than any of us!
Case in point.
My sister and I immediately set about the task of choosing our new puppy. My brother, just over a year old, was more interested in pulling the puppies’ tails. Three of the puppies were brown, and one looked just like the mother: grey, black, and fluffy. It was this puppy who would follow us when we walked; the other puppies were not at all concerned with us. Sure, they were friendly, but the three brown puppies didn’t display anywhere near the interest in us that the little grey and black puppy did. He sat in the grass and looked up at us plaintively; you could almost hear him saying, “Take me home!” I scooped the chubby little dog in my arms and insisted that this was the dog for us.

The next step, of course, was to name our new dog. Mom was a strong proponent of “Patches,” while I wanted to name him Spot. It didn’t matter to me that he had no spots: I thought that Spot was just a good, solid name. My name won out, and that’s how we got a dog named Spot.
The only picture we have of Spot as a puppy. He was
much more interested in the approaching feet than
he was in having his picture taken.
Spot was a wonderful dog. He was smart, and he was fun. Whenever I would explore the woods behind our house, you can bet Spot was right there beside me. 
He even took part in Christmas card photo shoots.
We taught him how to shake and how to speak. Spot even took part in my sixth grade science project: I devised an experiment to see if he could tell colors apart. I had three jars covered in three different colors of paper (I think they were red, grey, and yellow). I would show Spot a dog treat, place it in the red jar, and mix the jars up. Then, I’d sit back and see if he could find it. No, it wasn’t the greatest set-up, but it was fun. I don’t remember how Spot did, but I do remember that he got his fill of dog treats for a while.

Spot was a Norwegian Elkhound/blue healer mix, and he wasn’t very big. 
Small enough to fit into my sweatshirts.
However, he thought that he was huge and terrifying. Spot would always try and take on the four-wheelers: he would bite the tires as you drove, but he always managed to stay just out of the way. Spot preyed on more than just four-wheelers: he would chase down deer, corner raccoons, and herd cattle. Whenever we would take him on walks, Spot would run through the ditches, leaping like a kangaroo to pounce on whatever hapless creature he would find. Much to my mother’s dismay, Spot tended to leave his hunting “trophies” scattered around the house. Mowing could turn into a horror movie if we forgot to clean up the gopher carcasses beforehand. The worst, though, was when Spot dragged home a rotting cow head that was about as big as he was.
But how could you stay mad at that face?!
Spot would get himself into trouble every now and then, though. One summer day, Mom took us kids for a wagon ride along the gravel road. Spot came along, as always, but he ran up ahead of us and began exploring the ditches. Suddenly, we heard a yelp. The whines were coming from inside a culvert, so we stuck our heads inside. Poor Spot had gotten his foot stuck in a trap. Of course, all the kids immediately became hysterical, and Mom ran back to the house to get Dad. Dad rescued Spot, and all was well. Something similar happened one winter: Spot got his foot stuck in a trap in the middle of a frozen slough. We hadn’t seen Spot all day, and Dad only figured out where he was by listening carefully for far-off barking. Dad rescued Spot once again.

Spot was a tough little guy: he even managed to get hit by a trailer and come out just fine. When we had Spot, we lived on a relatively traffic-free gravel road. Whenever Spot would see a car, which was not often, he’d chase it. We’d scold him and tell him that he was bad – no one wanted to see him smooshed on the road. Spot, as one might expect, didn’t listen. One spring day, my brother, sister, and I were playing in the yard with the dog. We heard a car coming, so we tried to hold onto Spot’s collar, but he wriggled away. Spot darted after the approaching pickup… but didn’t realize that the pickup was pulling a trailer. Spot got clipped by the edge of the trailer, and the force of it sent him rolling down the hill. My siblings and I witnessed all of this, and we ran towards our shaken dog. Aside from a small cut on the top of his head, Spot was fine. And you’d better believe he never chased cars again.

We moved into our new house in 2000, and Spot was a spry six-year-old dog by then. My parents were worried that he wouldn’t stay put in this new location, but Spot was just as happy as could be. Spot was easy-going and seemed to have a good attitude about pretty much anything… until my sister got a puppy.

It was the summer of 2006. I had returned for my first summer home after college, and I immediately organized a “welcome to summer” barbecue for my friends. That very day, my sister came home with a black lab puppy in tow. He was a cute little guy who would eventually grow into his huge feet, and Darrah named him Shadow. Shadow and Spot did not get along. By this time, Spot was twelve years old and crotchety. He was starting to go blind, and he had arthritis. Shadow loved to leap about and try to play with Spot, but Spot couldn’t see him. Spot, of course, didn’t welcome the intrusion, so he would just snap at where he thought Shadow was. Shadow was too fast, and it was really quite sad to watch poor Spot try and get Shadow.

As Spot grew older, Shadow grew bigger. Shadow was fully grown in no time, but he was still a puppy. Now that Shadow towered over Spot, Spot more or less gave up trying to catch him. Spot more or less gave up on everything. In February 2008, I got a call from my parents saying that they’d had to put Spot down. He was fourteen years old. I knew it was coming, and I knew it was for the best, but it was still hard to hear. Spot’s death was the final occurrence in a laundry list of crappy things that had happened to me that weekend: my computer’s power cord died on Friday, my car’s alternator went out on Saturday, and Spot went to the big doghouse in the sky on Sunday. They say bad things come in threes, don’t they?

Dad gave Spot a proper farm burial: in a field with a small pile of rocks to mark the place. Spot may be gone, but he’s not forgotten: a kid never forgets her first dog.


  1. Calla, You know I'm your biggest fan. Does Darrah have Shadow? I'm betting he's still at the farm. Kids! Spot was a beautiful dog, as they all are. when Rick was little, he named his Siamese cats Steve & Tracy. I always joked that when he had kids, he'd name them Spot & Puff! I wasn't too far off with Sadie, was I?

    1. Hi Donna! Shadow is at home with Mom and Dad; I'll have to write a story about him sooner or later. Steve and Tracy... what great names for cats!! I volunteer at the Humane Society, and it's always fun to see what names the cats have. My favorite so far is Roger. :)

  2. Awe, this story was so great. A little illustration and you could have a really great kids book. I just adopted a 3 month old Norwegian/ heeler mix and we have a Norwegian/ German shepherd mix whose 1. My daughters have really gained so much confidence, and self esteem having them. My oldest used to be scared of going outside by herself. Now with her two best friends she's become so happy playing outside. I think its so important to have a dog when your a kid. Anyway , can't wait for our little guy to grow up. Sorry about your loss.

    1. Thank you; I'm so glad you liked the Spot story! He was such a good dog - your daughters are going to love having a dog; sounds like they already do! I can't imagine my childhood without a dog.