The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Old Dog Memories

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1991

Issue: September, 1991

Our German shepherd Chuck.Our German Shepherd Chuck.It has often been said that man's best friend is his dog. If you go beyond the literal wording, a dog is certainly the best friend a child will ever have. So many of us remember childhood shared by a loyal, shaggy companion of questionable lineage but loved better than a thoroughbred. A dog didn't care if we failed a geometry test. A dog loved us through anything.

September is traditionally the "back to school" month. It is exciting for all children whether they are looking forward to it or dreading the thoughts. It must surely be a time all dogs dread as well. The young playmates who have romped with them all summer will be leaving every morning, five days a week, and only coming back in late afternoon. It severely cuts down on time together. And if you think it doesn't make any difference to a dog, or if you think they don't notice, just think back.

For those of you who had dogs, think back - who was always there to meet you when you stepped off of the school bus? Your dog, of course! It was sitting there patiently, and when the bus doors slid open, didn't it go wild with joy? Didn't it's eyes light up and his tail start wagging his whole body or thump the ground continuously? Maybe your dog was a jumper and he started leaping straight up in the air or running tight little circles around you in welcome. Has anyone in your whole life ever been as happy to see you every single day? Somehow dogs have an internal clock that is never wrong. They can be in a deep sleep and something tells them the precise moment to wake up and go meet the school bus.

My own children had their own special welcoming committee. Our German shepherd loved and protected them from the moment we got him as a puppy. He never missed a day at the school bus stop in any kind of weather. When we moved to a farm, he took up with a goat and I don't think he knew the goat wasn't just a strange-looking dog, he treated the goat as an equal and as a pal, and to the children they were both great playmates. The goat and the dog were inseparable so it was inevitable that the goat took up the dog's habits. Yes, both of them made the trek to meet the school bus which was nearly a quarter of a mile from our house. It was quite a sight to see both goat and dog frisking down the road with my two girls. Eventually another of the farm animals took up the daily trek and at this point my daughters drew the line, for as they got off the bus one day, there sat not only the dog and goat but our largest white hen. They said that the dog and goat were all right, but the chicken would have to go. The other children were starting to laugh.

My girls grew up and there were no more school bus days. The German shepherd by then had a friend's little boy to play with and meet at the school bus. This seemed to give him a prolonged purpose in life and he always felt it his sacred duty to the end of his days. He grew arthritic in his last year and limped pitifully, but nothing would deter him from meeting the school bus.

When I happen to be driving about the time the afternoon school is letting out, I notice yards where there are dogs. They are sitting at the edge of the road waiting patiently. They all know that their young playmates will be home soon. Sometimes, as I get stuck in traffic behind a school bus, I watch children pouring off the bus and greeting the joyful dogs. It is a sight that warms my heart.

But the saddest sight in the world is the lonely dog that waits at his station and the bus passes him by. His children probably have grown and gone, and are school children no more. His inner clock still reminds him of the correct time the bus will be there, but his purpose will be fulfilled no more. Sadly, he watches the bus drive past and slowly walks back to the house all alone. I guess all of God's creatures have memories of times they cherish and miss.