Friday Felines

This is a pretty common sight in the driveway, Dusty lying in the sun next to the azaleas and Sylvester or Smokey lying under the dogwood keeping an eye on him.


Sylvester acts like he’s just minding his own business, but sooner or later he’ll try to harass poor, old Dusty.



A boy’s dog

Leah and I were going through some of the thousands of slides my father left behind when we came across a picture of Mike, the first dog my family ever had. I realized that I needed to write about Mike before I wrote anything about any of my other dogs.

mke in the snow

You can barely see him in this picture, obviously taken on a rare snowy day in Rome.

He came to our home one day many years ago when my brother Henry and I were just little boys. My father brought Mike home from his aunt’s farm in Texas Valley, not far from where we live now. He was around a year old. My father called him a short-haired collie, and maybe he was.

I have a lot of memories of Mike, but the one that I can’t think of is the way he died. All I can say about it is that my father ran over him. The only way I can even type those words is by not thinking about what they mean. It’s so distressing to me that I can’t let myself even think of it. I didn’t see it happen, but my mother told me about. Any time I find myself thinking about Mike, I have to consciously force myself to turn away from his death. So this is the last time I’ll mention it; from now on, I’ll talk about Mike’s life.

In those days dogs lived outside and ran free, so Mike lived outside, except in cold weather, when we let him go into the crawl space and sleep under the floor furnace that heated our house. In those days, boys ran free, too. We ran or biked all over our neighborhood and the Berry College campus, which was right across the road from our house. Mike ran along with us. It was such a normal part of our lives that I didn’t think anything about it at the time.

Mike was hell on squirrels. Almost every dog likes to chase squirrels, but most dogs never catch one. Mike was different. He would stalk them, moving very slowly, picking up one foot, carefully placing it on the ground and then picking up another foot. If the squirrel stopped doing whatever it was squirrels do and looked around, Mike froze. At some point that Mike determined through very complex calculations of time, speed, direction and distance, he stopped stalking and started dashing. If he calculated correctly, he caught the squirrel before the squirrel could climb a tree. It didn’t happen every time, but it did happen. Once when we were riding our bikes on Robin Street, Mike chased a squirrel across the road in front of us. The squirrel climbed maybe four or five feet up a telephone pole and then stopped to call Mike names. Mike was racing towards the pole. He leapt up and as he passed the pole, he nabbed the squirrel right off the side. That must have been a hard lesson, but useless in the end.

Mike went shooting with us. Our father regularly took us about a half mile away to the creek and railroad line where he played as a kid. We took our .22 rifles and shot twigs, cans and rocks, and Mike ran around with us.

One winter day after a long, heavy rain, the creek had risen, and then in a very cold snap, a skim of ice had forced. Mike walked out onto the ice and fell into the freezing water. We gathered at the edge of the ice and yelled encouragement to him as he struggled to climb out. It was torture to watch. He would get his front legs onto the ice, and then the ice would break, dumping him backwards into the water. If that happened today, I’m pretty sure I would go out into the creek to get him, but we were way too young, and my father was way too responsible to try it. Eventually Mike got himself out. I don’t know whether our encouragement helped, but I would like to think it did.

Mike was my brother’s dog. If I was petting him and Henry called, Mike would leave me and go to Henry. Eventually to remedy that my parents got a second dog for me. That dog (probably Heidi, but possibly Schroeder; Mike outlived my dogs.) followed us just like Mike. One day we had ridden our bikes to a dirt road that crossed the creek and had gotten off to throw rocks into the water. A car full of older kids went by and we exchanged some innocent taunts. They stopped and climbed out of the car, probably planning to try some bullying. The dogs immediately turned from pets into protectors. They barked and charged so ferociously and convincingly that the boys piled back into their car and sped away. The dogs had never acted like that before then, and never acted like that again. But somehow, they knew the right time.

Eventually we got older. My brother went off to college, and we moved from our house on Redmond Road to the house my mother lived in until she died. Mike moved with us. He was old by that time. He was never neutered, so he had had his full share of dog fights, and it showed. He had a cauliflower ear and scars to prove it. But he lived his life contentedly until the end.

Mike in his later years

Mike in his later years. Good boy, Mike. That ear needs some scratching.

Mike was a good and faithful dog. He was a boy’s dog, and they don’t get any better than that.

Sunset on the road to Summerville

We drove up to Summerville Monday evening to meet the drafter who will draw up our house plans. My phone and my GPS both routed us the “back way”, which leads to the west of Texas Valley rather than up the major highway (US 27). The nice part of it was that we got a decent view of the west as the sun was setting. It was so dramatic that Leah insisted that I stop to take a picture. This is a panorama using three images I got with my phone. Click for a bigger view.

sunset pano

Unfortunately, the lower part of the sky ended up washed out. It might have been possible for me to get better exposures if I had tried a little harder, but we were running a few minutes late so I just stopped and grabbed the shots.

This made both of us regret not being able to see the western horizon, either at our current house or at our future house.

We made it up to Summerville and handed off my floor plan drawings to the drafter. She told us that if we lived in the county where she lives, my amateur drawings would be sufficient to get a building permit. Not here, though.

It will probably take about four weeks to get our drawings completed.

Marking the line

We had a surveyor mark our back property line on Friday. He’s going to provide us with a site plan as well. That’s part of the county inspection department’s requirements for a building permit. Even aside from the necessity, we needed the line marked so we would know how far back we can place the house.

I met him at the lot after he finished the survey. It had been dry for a couple of days but the cleared area was still very muddy.

I had tried to mark the line myself, since the interior corner was marked and I knew the compass heading that the back line took. Unfortunately, my line was 10 or 15 feet further back than the actual line. That means we have to push the house a little further downslope than we had been thinking. It’s not much, but every foot further upslope gives us that much better opportunity for a view.

Today (Monday) we’re driving up to Summerville, about a half hour north of us, to meet the woman who’s going to draw our house plans. She has a full-time job and does drafting on the side, so we have to meet around 6:30 PM after her normal work hours. The Wendy’s on the north side of Summerville seemed a good place since we both know where it is; that means we’ll be having dinner at Wendy’s. We’ll probably take the dogs so they can help us finish the French fries.

She has estimated that it will take a couple of weeks to finish the plans. That gives us time to get a soil test for the septic system and, as I mentioned earlier, an actual street address.

We’ve had one piece of unsettling news – our new next-door neighbors are running short of water. Their well is around 100 feet deeper than ours and only about 75 feet away. We had to replace a failed well pump, but we have had no problems, even during the dry weather we experienced over the last few years. It’s still disconcerting to learn about it.

They just moved in a few weeks ago, so it’s more disconcerting for them than to us.

Friday Felines

Smokey’s latest habit is to lie down between me and Mark, usually with his head on Mark’s leg.

smokey reads a magHe looks like he’s reading the magazine, but he’s just waiting for Mark to put it down so he can assume his position for petting.