When Tracey was five years old we took her for a series of pony riding lessons in town. The people who owned the stables are long gone, that was over 20 years ago! The first day, something more than pony lessons happened. Puppies were being born. Right then and there the kids and I knew we wanted one. And it wasn’t hard to convince Andy, especially when we told him he was outnumbered.
So, we picked out a puppy that we would bring home in 8 weeks. She had black on her face and a black spot at the base of her tail, but the rest of her was white. The kids named her Salt & Pepper, or Pepper for short. (As she got older, that white filled up with a myriad of black spots.)
One day, while we were there for the pony riding lesson and the puppies were still with their mom, the owner of the place said “we’re going to bring the puppies from the barn to this outdoor pen, you want to help?” All I remember is scooping up a puppy and walking with it cradled in my arms and it was looking at me with the most soulful eyes. I thought, “I’m bonding with this puppy!” and I was torn thinking I had already picked out another puppy. But as I set her down, there was that black spot at the base of her tail. This was our puppy! I was in love.
So, we finally got to take Pepper home. She was a mix of border collie, german shepherd and springer spaniel. What I remember from her being a puppy is that she chewed up my Dansk salad bowl tongs (I wound up getting replacements from a Dansk outlet), she chewed the leg of the hutch in the kitchen (we still have that hutch with the bite marks painted over), she tried to herd Cosby the cat whenever she got a chance (actually, that lasted outside of her puppyhood) and she was nippy with the kids. I actually almost gave her away because she would run by Kelly and nip at her head. Had the kids all say goodbye, it got that far along, and then I couldn’t do it.
Thank goodness, because she turned out to be a one-in-a-million dog. And I remember realizing she was going to be okay when I heard her whining on the porch and came out to find Kelly (2 years old) hitting her with a plastic tennis racket. Pepper was cornered and could have bit or snarled at Kelly but she didn’t. That was also the day Kelly got a lesson from me about being gentle with a dog.
Oh, Pepper had her faults – she always rolled in poop and she loved to roam – but she was very submissive and smart and my voice was like a leash to her. I remember one time someone walking a dog yelling at me to put my dog on a leash and me yelling back not to worry, she wasn’t going anywhere. I remember one time we were going for a walk on the main road and I didn’t want her to come and she was following us and I told her “go home” and pointed at the house and she turned around and went home and was sitting on the front steps when we got back. Never taught her that command before, I swear she understood English.
And she never took food unless it was offered – until the end of her life when she would finish any food the cats left behind. I remember having a party once with food on low tables and someone asked me “won’t your dogs steal the food?” and I could confidently answer “no.” Blackie wouldn’t, either. (We had him, also, at the time this comment was made.)
Pepper would come with me on my hikes and I could take her cross country skiing because I didn’t have to hold a leash. She got along with all other dogs and had a special best friend named Crosby who lived in back of us at our current house. At our old house I would look outside and see half a dozen dogs frolicking in my front yard on a daily basis. Pepper lived to be almost 15. We were blessed with such a great family dog for the kids’ growing-up years.
I haven’t had a dog like that since. Koda was a bear to raise up and though I love her, she does not listen all the time, does not like other dogs, and I can’t let her loose on hikes unless I see no other cars in the lot. I used to let her loose on hikes but she’s gotten worse as time goes on with her dog aggression. And she will steal food in a heartbeat. And has. One time she swiped our dinner from the grill.
And Columbus. He’s been such a challenge to raise but I still have hopes for him. I saw that same sweet look Pepper had in these Golden puppies’ eyes. I wasn’t planning on keeping another dog. Hopes of getting another dog like Pepper kindled in my heart when I saw those eyes, though. Columbus certainly is not as submissive as Pepper was. Maybe I just don’t remember it so well because Pepper lived a different kind of life. She wasn’t really tied up that often. She learned the road so I didn’t worry about her getting hit. I was raising 3 kids and they took up most of my time. She wasn’t the center of my attention, and she had all these little kids and other neighborhood dogs to play with who provided distractions and interest. Right now as I’m typing this Columbus is wanting my attention. He can’t seem to settle and just be. But maybe, some day….
So, that’s the story of Pepper. I don’t seem to have any digital pictures of her so I took this one of the shadow box Kelly made for her when she died. I actually almost cried when I took the picture, looking at her sweet old face, looking at her collar. She will be forever in my heart, that awesome dog of mine.