By Betty Slade
My name is Lady. My past is blurred, but I love my new life and home. There are rules I have to follow, but I don’t mind. I’m not supposed to be fed from the table, so I just lay under the kids’ feet and pretend not to be there.
Every once in a while, a little hand stretches down and gives me a treat. I quietly reach up and take it, then lay back down. My children and I have an understanding. Don’t say a word or make any sudden movements and mother will never know.
Bedtime is my favorite time. All four kids argue over who gets to sleep with me. I usually settle the score by spending a little time in front of each of their doors.
I’m not supposed to get up on the beds. That is rule No. 2. But who could resist the whisper of my boy, Stephen, when he calls out to me? I quietly climb under the covers, then fall fast asleep, dreaming of the new day to come.
Each morning, my master’s wife shuffles down the hall on her way to make coffee. There I am, head to head, sharing the same pillow with my boy. I lift my head up and wait for her to say something, but she never does. Her silence affirms the love she knows I have for my family.
Hunting is the pastime that I share with my master. I guess you could say we have it in our blood. Every time I see him pull his gun out, I can hardly contain myself. He says, “Bird.” Then I do a little dance. I guess you could call it “our thing.”
Nothing makes me as happy as when I am running around looking for pheasants and quail. I even do it in my sleep.
My master loves bragging about me. He takes care of me and I take care of him. We are best friends; isn’t that what it’s all about?
Family and life in the country are great. There are fields to run through and lots of things to experience. But not all is fun and games. Sometimes while playing with the children, I have to warn them about the snakes in the grass.
We play dress up and I get to be the star of their skits. During the winter, they put sweaters on me. In the summertime, we go swimming behind the house. There is a lot of love in this house, something I am so thankful to experience.
There came a day when we had to move to the city. I didn’t like being fenced in, but I accepted things as they were. I also had a new job. I was the designated guard dog. I didn’t really like my new role, but I loved my family, so it was OK.
My master took me with him to his office every day. My pay was in biscuits and bones. For all the attention I received, I would have worked for free.
Even though I didn’t need it, my master decided to send me to training school. It was about 8 miles away from home. On the third night, a thunderstorm rolled in which shook me to pieces. I wasn’t having any of it so I climbed over a 6-foot fence, dodged cars with honking horns and ran all the way home.
I was wet, tired and cold when I scratched on the door of my house. My family seemed shocked to see me, but loved on me like never before. I was home, right where I was supposed to be.
Every year, my master and I would take a trip to South Dakota. I would track down pheasants that were twice my size. I had a soft mouth and knew better than to bend even a single feather.
The other hunters would say, “Look at Lady go,” and “I wished I had a dog like her.”
My master beamed over the praise I got. It meant that I got to stay in the bunkhouse and sleep by the fire while the other dogs slept outside. After running through the wet cornfields, I would have icicles hanging off my ears. I tried not to show it, but the hunt was starting to take its toll on me.
As time went by, I started hearing whispers around the circle. “You need a younger dog. L-A-D-Y is getting old.”
It was hard for my master to hear, but he and I both knew the truth. I loved him, so it was OK with me when he brought home a new playful pedigree. I sat quietly as he bragged on her.
“She’s a Drahthaar, a German girl. Her name is Gitta von Kervinshof. She will be the best hunting dog someday.”
I choked back tears, hoping no one noticed. Gitta was different. She didn’t like getting her stomach scratched and was far too hyper to be around the children. But, it wasn’t all bad. I got to stay inside while she stayed in the pen.
My family eventually moved back to the country and I was never happier. I guess it was a bitter sweet pill to swallow. After all, I knew that the fields where I once played would one day be my final resting place.
And, so, the day would come when my family would say their last goodbyes. They each took turns holding me tight and kissed me on the head. It was hard to let them go. But, how thankful I am to the family who first introduced me to a life I would have never known had they not brought me down that county road so very long ago.