(Excerpt from my autobiography, Chapter 1987)
March-May 1987, age 44, Nightstar* rural Foley, MN
Written in March 1987: Griz has just turned nine years old (fifty three in human years), weighs forty nine pounds and is a wise old boy. In way of description: He is a nimble footed gentleman. He is a dog who has things to do and whom is always about his business. As he lopes about in the yard or down the driveway through the woods, his thick bushy tail can be seen curling up over his back. As he moves from place to place, he walks briskly, not looking from side to side, his head held high, pointed straight ahead. When something catches his attention, he’ll instantly stop in his tracks and snap his head in that direction.
Griz is always first to greet whom ever has come out of the house. He is always first to greet us when we come home from work or town. When the car door is opened, Griz is standing there tail wagging, ready to touch his nose to our hands and be petted on his head.
He is by far the smartest of our three dogs, not only does he routinely catch small wildlife, including rabbits, mice, woodchucks and muskrats, but knows sixteen verbal commands. He is the only one whom knows how to find the proper size of stick or stone to play ‘fetch’ with.
Ever since he was a pup and beaten up by Nemo, the Tomporowski’s dog, Griz has avoided confrontations with other dogs. Often at night, when I’m up going to the bathroom, I’ll look out the bathroom window and see Griz, in the moonlight, sniffing about the yard or walking along the driveway, making his rounds. Jessie and Pepin are seldom seen up moving about at night.
Jessie is a verbally communicative and affectionate dog. Unlike Griz and Pepin, Jessie allows Jane to sit on her back, pull her ears and poke her without complaint. When Jane is playing outside, Jessie will follow her around and can always be found sitting or laying beside her. When Donna or I go outside, Jessie will rub against us and often touch her nose against our hands. She is occasionally somewhat bitchy and bossy with Griz, where she may nip at him as if to say, ‘Don’t crowd me!’ Although she is very brave and will lead Pepin to chase a neighbor’s dog, she is not very intelligent. Occasionally, Donna remarks, ‘Jessie is so dumb the wind blows between her ears’.
Pepin, being a little over a year old at this time, weighs seventy-two pounds. The size of his legs and enormous feet indicate he is still be growing. His body form is neither German Shepherd or Black Lab. He looks somewhat like a St. Bernard with a large St. Bernard shaped head, rather sad looking eyes, slightly droopy jowls, floppy ears, long white fur and large size. Pepin is at times an irritant and bully to his parents, particularly Griz. Being taller and heavier than both, he nips, throws his weight against, crowds in, shoves aside and periodically pesters them until they go to their respective houses. He is a large, fearless dog whom takes his fighting cues from Jessie. If a fight with neighboring farm dogs is threatened, he immediately will come to her side. His large size coupled with Jessie’s threatening bark have routed a group of neighbor dogs on several occasions. Pepin has not really found his place yet, being eclipsed by his parents and thereby third dog on the totem pole.
It is always a pleasure to go outdoors and find three happy smiling faces eager to go and do whatever you have in mind. It is always a pleasure to stop working on whatever outdoor project and turn to find one, two or all three of my dog friends sitting or lying nearby. They give much more in friendship, enthusiasm, love, companionship than their food, water, feeding and periodic medical bills could ever amount to.
Our dog’s personalities
When I sit down to give each dog some personal attention, it’s plain to see through our eye contact and from watching their behavior, that the dogs have their own unique and individual personalities.
Griz will sit quietly and stare back into my eyes for a few moments, before averting his gaze. In those few moments, you can tell that Griz has a serious, no nonsense attitude. He doesn’t like rough house play, he is a gentleman dog, he is somewhat aloof, but also concerned. Griz maintains an air of equality, he doesn’t do irritating things and doesn’t expect to be irritated. Griz is a smart loner.
Jessie will not sit quiet and look into your eyes, she is too frazzled for such seriousness. Although she cannot sit still, personal attention is very important to her. She is concerned that our private times are not disturbed by the rest of her dog family. When we are alone, Jessie will talk to me in a squealy – growly voice saying, ‘RRRrrrow ERrrr ERrr RRRrrriii,’ as I scratch her head and pet her. When she talks to me, I talk to her in that same squealy growly voice. Although she is generally a quiet, placid and an motherly dog around Jane, she tends to be nervous, excited, scatterbrain around me. When trying to pet her, she wiggles, twists, rolls over, talks, and jumps around.
Pepin will sit still for personal attention and will briefly glance into my eyes. He is alert, thinking, skittish, worried and has a slight sneaky streak. If Jessie comes around while I’m petting him, he will try to climb on my lap to keep her from getting his special petting. If Griz comes around, a fight very well might ensue. At one year old, Pepin seems to be rather cunning and has a ‘do it my own way’ attitude, somewhat similar to Griz. On the other hand, like Jessie, his behavior and ability to understand is often ‘dumb’, which might be attributable to his youth and inexperience.
Griz, Jessie and Pepin are our happy, furry friends.
The dog family, hard at work
[Written immediately after Sunday, May 17] Donna invited Jane’s Campfire Girl’s Sparks troop and the children’s parents to our place in the country for a ‘Safari’ and hot dog roast on Sunday, May 17th.
The plan was to take the small children on a Safari through our lower yard, around the pond, then along the driveway so they could observe bird and squirrel nests, see the ducks and geese, ant mounds, woodpecker holes in dead trees, etc. After their safari everyone would gather in our back yard for a picnic of hot dogs with buns, soda pop and various chips (Frito, potato chips) and roasted marshmallows.
That afternoon, at meal time, while the parents were lounging around and either talking or helping kids with their hot dogs, most of the children were running and playing, or taking turns at our picnic table getting their food. At times, while everyone was wrapped up in socialization and the picnic, I watched our dogs an saw their individual personalities at work.
Griz, the gentleman he was, took all the petting he received from the children as a matter of duty, rigidly and with a stiff upper lip. He didn’t stand in any one place very long, but spread his attention around equally to everyone — who had food or was near the table. His calm, patient and observantly staring manner found him overly rewarded with potato chips and chunks of hot dog buns. Griz didn’t play, run or romp, all he wanted was food. He’d stand by watching each person until he was served then he’d moved to the next person.
Jessie, on the other hand, was more of a favorite with the kids. She didn’t hang around the table, nor did she need to be fed in order to gain her attention. Jessie romped and ran, tumbled and played just as happy and as wild eyed with excitement as any of the children. She stayed with the group that was playing so was always in the middle of the excitement and fun.
The puppy, Pepin, who weighed more than any one of the little Campfire Girls, was in a titter. He’d never seen so many people at one time. He could see everyone was having fun, running about and falling down, but he didn’t know how to play. He watched his mother, Jessie, bark, play ‘fetch a stick’ and tag, but he was just too worried about all those strange people to receive much petting or join in the faraces. Eventually, the activities became too much for him and he decided to try and catch a kid by the ankle! He was scolded and summarily chained to his dog house, about seventy feet away, where he watched everything with considerable nervous enthusiasm and continuous barking.