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Paws we've loved

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     This past weekend a friend asked us how many dogs we have had since we were married.

Claude, Phaedra, Peace, Chew Chew, Skillet, Noel, Leah, Tristan, Ivy and Holly. Ten dogs in 50 years. 40 paws leaving millions of prints that strung together tell the story of our lives. The garden at Pine Knot Farms covers their bones and a blanket of hellebores grow over them now. Remembering all ten would bring too many tears at once so I am planning to talk about them in groups, a few at a time. 

     The first dog to become a permanent part of our family was Claude, our first Labrador retriever. He came as a pup a few months after our daughter Helen was born. Claude was a big Lab. near 100 pounds. He processed with tail which wagged so joyfully a small side table collapsed any time someone came through the front door. Claude sat in the back seat of our little Volkswagen bug between the two children, a sweet wall of black dog absorbing the blows angry small fists launched at siblings. His nickname was Eeyore, for like Milne's depressed donkey Claude possessed a long neck that could hang down in despair if admonished. He could also, if unobserved, reach a stick of butter at the back of the kitchen counter without having his feet leave the floor. He was also our first dog to be trained by a cat. Our orange and white tom cat made sure that the puppy knew he was the lesser species and the message seems to have been passed from one animal to another. 

     Phaedra came to be a companion for Claude. While she was a good dog at home she had a chasing problem. Chickens, pigs, sheep, cows, whatever was around she chased. This bad habit brought on an early demise, retribution from an angry farmer with a gun. We learned a sad lesson with Phaedra, keep our dogs in our yard, even in the country. 

     Peace came next. We got him as a four week old puppy three days before we headed out on our move to British Columbia. First in our short parade was our early 60's Volkswagen Minibus, Dick and I in the front, my mother, the two kids and three dogs in the way back. Our cat had seen the packing boxes and run away the week before, to live out a long and happy life in a friend's barn.  Peace was "potty trained" in our van on the road. This was long, long before pee pads for puppies, we just had some newspaper in a corner. Following the van comes a converted beer truck holding all our possessions. "Dick's Truck" was spray painted on the side by the driver, Dick's brother 18 year old Hoge Tyler. Stopping for a potty break was a production.

Claude and Peace were with us during our entire life changing Canadian Adventure. The years we spent in the beautiful land just north of the 49th parallel we learned much about life outside upper middle class Virginia. Not only did the dogs share the nine winters we spent moving around from BC to Quebec and back to BC, but they returned to Virginia with us. About two miles from my mother's house Claude began trying to climb through the window between the truck and the camper on the back. This was very unlike Claude, who was a well behaved dog most of the time. I suppose the smells became so strong that he recognized where he was and he was not going to miss out. 

These two dear friends left us within a year of one another, 16 years is a long time for a big dog like a Labrador to live, when I think of all the changes that occurred ifrom 1966 to 1982 both in our lives and in the world I am filled with joy. Those years helped build our characters and we grew into the people we are today.


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