It seems like when I was a kid we always had a dog, fish, turtles, birds or all of the aforementioned. There was generally always a dog. They were my favorites. Most of the time they had a much longer life span the the other creatures we had. All the fish and turtles ended up in the "pet cemetery" in the back yard with a match box as a coffin. Of course, we always had a full blown ceremony to mark their passing and then promptly went about playing catch or retrieve it with the dog.
The first dogs I remember was brought home by my brothers. The story goes, that they found them in a burned out tree stump in a cotton field. Their mother had decided it was time for them to get along without her and was nowhere to be found, so Joe and Charlie brought two puppies home. One for my Sister Geneva, they named him Sandy and one for me and they named him Rusty. Original, don't you think. I'm sure you can tell by their names what color they were, they appeared to be full blood German Shepard. Well, Rusty followed me everywhere I went and one day he followed me to the outhouse. This outhouse was family sized, it was a two seater. Don't ask! I don't know why they would build a two seater. I think that carrying family time a bit too far. Being only about four years old, I assumed when Rusty whined to get up where I was, that he wanted to go potty, so, I helped up on the seat. You can probably guess what happened next. I was in sooooo much trouble. They had to move the outhouse back off the hole and lower my mother down so she could rescue the puppy. I never quite understood why, but, shortly after that, momma found a new home for Rusty. Sandy grew up to be a really great dog, Rin Tin Tin type dog. He was very protective of the whole family, but, especially us kids. Geneva and I used to take him with us when we went to the store. He would set at the door and wait for us to come out. If a man was walking toward us, Sandy would put himself between us and the man. He was never trained to do this, we were his kids and he watched over us. When we still lived on the Limoneira Ranch we had to keep him tied in the front yard a lot and this one boy named Buddy would walk by and tease Sandy. It turned out later that Buddy was related to the people we lived next door to after we moved into Santa Paula. One day Buddy was visiting and we were all playing softball in the neighbors back yard. Sandy and the neighbor dog Trixie were setting on the sidelines watching us play and chasing after stray balls. Well, someone threw the ball, someone hit the ball, and Geneva ran after the ball. Then it happened. Buddy pushed Geneva out of his way and just as he reached the ball, Sandy reached him. Three days later they released Buddy from the hospital and sent him home to continue his recovery. Poor Sandy couldn't understand why he had to be tied in the back yard. He had after all, only done his job, protecting Geneva. After Sandy developed a game called kill the chickens and pile them on the porch, momma and daddy decided they needed to find him a home in the country where he had room to run. A rancher came by to see him and decided he was just what he needed to guard the gas pumps on the ranch. A week later he brought him back and said he was too good at the job. No one could get near the pumps but the rancher, the hired hands couldn't get much done with empty gas tanks in all the equipment. We gave him away two more times only to find him waiting on the steps of the school when we came out. The last time I saw Sandy, I put him in the car of the fourth person we gave him to. I always thought he stayed that time because one of his kids put him in the car and told him good buy. I kept looking for him for months, expecting to find him waiting after school. I hope he liked his new home. I really loved that dog. (more to follow)