Sunday, 20 October 2013 17:17

Growing Up In Santa Fe--My Life Through The Eyes of My Dogs

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Growing Up In Santa Fe-My Life Through The Eyes of My Dogs

By

Arthur Scott

 

   Throughout my life, dogs have always been my companions. They have provided me with the most untold joy and unconditional love that I have known. However they have also caused me the most profound sense of loss and deepest sorrow I have ever known. Most were “street mutts” a few have been pedigreed and of known breed. Each and everyone was equally a Champion in the eyes of a boy and now in the memories as a old man. Each was a hero in their own right to a small and needy boy. These are their stories:

 

Spin

   The first dog that I remember in my life was “Spin”, a small black and white smooth-coat fox terrier mix. Spin was named from his habit of chasing his own tail. He, like many of our dogs, until I grew up came to us from the Santa Fe County animal shelter. Spin had seniority in the house because he was there before I was born. From what I was told, Spin was very gentle to me as a baby and enjoyed licking whatever goodie he could find from my baby face.

   I can remember and see in my mind’s eye, Spin playing out in the yard with me as I grew into a toddler. I was less than five as I remember my father still being alive. I clearly remember Manuelita, in Spanish, sending the two of us out to play. Manuelita was from Hernandez, NM, lived with us, took care of me, and did all the things my mother did not want to do. She spoke no English so I learned mostly Spanish at a very early age. Manuelita was probably the most influential person in my early upbringing and helped shape what I would grow to be. In her eyes, I was her little Pedrito and Spin and I could do no wrong. This required that Spin also be bilingual.

   Like all dogs in that era in a small town, Spin had the run of the neighborhood but, stayed close to me when I played or slept. Other times he had his own agenda for investigating. Automobile traffic was not generally an issue on upper Palace Avenue.

   My father died of a heart attack at a very young age, shortly after I turned five. That same year, Manualita had to return to her family in Hernandez either because my mother felt the need to cut costs or because of illness in Manualita’s family. However, the most profound loss that year is a faint memory of screeching breaks and a dog screaming in pain. Everyone rushed out of the house and I was scooped inside. Spin was gone. I was promised another dog and an ice cream cone.

   This was my first lesson that to many people dogs are replaceable by another dog rather than individuals. To me no other dog could ever be another Spin and ice cream cannot cure crap or lessen the pain of loss and sorrow

 

Mike

   Another year or so passed and my mother remarried. My only sister got married and moved to the Dead Horse ranch, which her husband owned to raise show Herfords, halfway between Las Vegas and Santa Fe. In less than two years I lost my father, Spin, my older sister to marriage and I had a new step-father. I guess with enough whining the promise of another dog was remembered. I was now about seven or eight at by then and I was going to pick out my dog from the animal shelter. As I recall, I had very little to say about it. We ended up with a very young, very small, male puppy that was marked like a Doberman Pinscher.

   Our family vet, Dr. Smith, would later be the veterinarian for Smoky Bear when he was brought to Santa Fe out of the Capitan Mountains where he was burned during a forest fire, as a small cub.  After examining my puppy and giving him required shots, he said the dog would most likely grow to the size of a Miniature Pincher because of his small feet.

   I did get to name “my” puppy so he became Mike. I have no earthly idea why. Mike eventually grew to be a full sized Dobe with an extremely sweet but timid personality. As Mike grew, so did our love until we had a bond as only the bond between a lonely boy and dog can exist. He slept with me; waited for me to come home after school, sometimes meeting me as I walked home. He played ball and romped with me.

   After a few months passed, my mother and step-father were going to take couple week trip to Texas. Mike and I were to stay with my Aunt Ritchie and Uncle John that lived a few blocks down Palace Avenue. I can remember being so angry. I realize now that it was a deep anger based on fear of being left alone. But then I was just plain mad! My consolation was having my friend Mike and a mostly understanding Aunt.

  One day my aunt, uncle and I were eating lunch in her very large kitchen. Mike, as usual was lying on the floor. My aunt would not let him in the main part of the house. He began whining and jumped up and ran across the room. He was bleeding profusely from his rectum. The kitchen floor was an enormous pool of blood. He died and was buried in my Aunt Ritchie’s back yard. He most likely had a perforated intestine from eating bones my aunt gave him. Then it was attributed some undisclosed illness or weakness in his system.

   My mother and step-father returned. I was given an apology for being left. And then I was told we could always get another dog, and given an ice cream cone.

 

 

Lassie

   Mike was “replaced” by a young but grown Collie mix. This was during the late forties and the time of the movie “Lassie Come Home.” So this shelter pup became a heroic “Lassie.” The war was over so gasoline and tires were no longer rationed. We could make more frequent trips to the cabin above Pecos.   My sister was divorced and back in the household. Her horses were back in Cow Creek.

   Lassie fit in well at the cabin. Either following along with the horses while we were riding or messing up the fishing by getting too close to the stream and spooking the wily trout. If told to stay, he would wait on the porch anxiously waiting for my return.

   My sister became gravely ill. The local doctors were baffled and suggested she visit The Cleveland Clinic. My mother had two sisters and a brother in Cleveland so she felt she would have support. The plan was that my sister, mother, and I would take the train to Cleveland. My step-father would stay in Santa Fe and take care of the house. Lassie would stay with the neighbor in Cow Creek that took care of our horses when we were gone for a long time.

    I would have to attend public school there in the fifth grade. I had never seen a large city. To me it was very frightening. We lived in a dingy apartment hotel. All the tall and huge buildings were ditty, dark, and scary. I had to ride a streetcar to and from school. The playground was concrete and fenced with a six-foot chain link fence. I longed for the clear air, sunshine, mountains, and freedom of New Mexico and especially my Lassie.

   After a couple of months, which seemed like an eternity, my step-father picked us up and we made the long drive to New Mexico. I had to start school right away and had to wait a couple more weeks before we could make the trip to Cow Creek to pick up Lassie. When wee finally got up to the ranch and drove to the neighbor’s, I didn’t see Lassie come to greet me. The neighbor casually told us in Spanish that he had shot the dog the day after we left him because he killed a chicken. I collapsed with a scream and started beating the back seat. There were no tears just a deep and piercing scream. My mother tried to console me with we will get another dog and when we get down to Pecos we will buy you an ice cream cone.

   As it turned out the trip to Cleveland was fruitless. They could not diagnose my sister’s illness. She started seeing a different physician in Santa Fe. After some exploratory surgery, he resolved her problem with the use of a new cortisone drug which she required for the rest of her life.

 

Saber

   Around this time, we were living in the walk-out basement maid’s room of out house. It had been converted to a small apartment. The main portion of our house was rented as was a small downstairs room and bath. This was done to make ends meet. My mother and step-father were divorced.  The house and cabin were sold and the proceeds used to buy another smaller house on Griffin Street. My mother added a third bedroom to the new house. After a time, I once again begged for a dog. A trip to the shelter and we came home with Saber (named by my mother), a beautiful German shepherd mix. He was about a year old even tempered and possibly a purebred. He walked upright; unlike the current fashion of haunchy sway back Shepherds today. I was now eleven or twelve years old. Saber and I quickly became best friends. We did a lot of neighborhood running. I could tackle him and he could tackle me without ever biting or any growls. He never had a problem with the neighborhood kids or dogs.  My mother, ever paranoid, thought he would be a perfect watchdog.

  My mother decided she could make some money and move into a larger house by selling our current home. This became a recurring theme in my life. From the time I was around eight to the time I entered college, we moved five times each house getting larger, more prestigious in her eyes, and each becoming more unaffordable.

  Atthis time, my sister was still quite ill and there was a problem with house closings. We could not move into the next house she bought until about 60 days after selling the first house. We moved to a one-bedroom apartment on upper Acequia Madre, a dirt street in the artist section of Santa Fe. Because my sister was ill, she got the bedroom and my mother and I slept on a day bed and cot in the living room. I was in junior high school and new no other kids in this neighborhood. As I had about a month of school left, a teacher that lived nearby offered to drive me in the mornings. There was no school-bus service in the city limits. We made do and I always had my Saber with witch to come home to and roughhouse with.

   Then came the day I will always remember with extreme bitterness and sadness. I was at a summer fencing class it was warm and Saber, my sister and mother were sitting in the living room with the front door open to get air through the screen door. From what I was told, the mailman came and tried to hand the mail through the screen door instead of putting it in te box. This obviously was taken as a threat to his family by Saber and he reacted by going after the mailman. No serious damage was done and I don’t remember being told that he drew blood. I was only told that he was too vicious and that she had called the animal shelter to pick him up. The dog was doing the job he was bred for, protecting his family from what he perceived as an imamate threat, The shelter was to pick him up the next day. I finally gave up on begging for him to stay. They said he would be adopted out to a ranch or a nice place where he had more room. I knew it was my friend’s death sentence since she reported him as “vicious.” This was after living with him over two years and observing how gentle and playful he could be. I quit begging and resolved myself to a deep hate. I lay with Saber all night and waited the next day. I only talked and revealed my real feelings to him. The dog catchers showed up around noon. I walked out with him at my side. The man said they would take him. He got a pole with a wire noose at the end. He grabbed Saber around the neck and tightened the noose while another guy grabbed his hind legs. While he was being hung, they threw him in a steel closed cage on the truck. I could hear him try to cry out as he was being hung.  I ran back into the apartment.

   I was told we could get “another” dog once we got settled and promised me an ice cream cone. In my mother’s eyes, one dog was the same as another. In a strange way, Saber taught me a couple of great lessons. The first was in my young eyes, money was power. So to emancipate myself I had to earn money. I got my first job sacking groceries at fourteen and running a paper delivery route. I also vowed that when I became an adult any dog that entered my house would be there for their natural life.

 

   After this incident, we went on to move four more times. I never had another dog but my sister adopted a dog that had been picked up on the street by a co-worker. The dog had been hit by a car and suffered a broken muzzle.  He was named “Bourbon” and survived all the moves and died of old age while I was away at college. 

   During my high-school years I worked after school and weekends helping groom dogs for Claude James and Happy Krebs at their pet shop, The Clip Joint, on College Street directly across the street from the old Orchard Court motel.  After Saber I never had another dog until I was an adult, out of college, married and in control of my own life. Since then there has always been at least one and as many as three wonderful dogs in my home. They have provided me with untold love, friendship, loyalty in many good and bad times. I hope that I have provided them all recognition of their own individuality and a sense of wellbeing and love. The honor roll of my heroes includes Cocoa, Flower, Inashah, Pooh, Sailor, Blue, Sierra, and Koda I.  Today we share our joy with Australian Shepherds Koda II and Sunny and shelter-dog Tipper!

 

 

 

Read 1772 times Last modified on Sunday, 20 October 2013 17:40

5 comments

  • Comment Link Kathy Capron Tully Monday, 11 November 2013 16:54 posted by Kathy Capron Tully

    Thanks for the wonderful stories! Snert, Marlene, Suque, "Surfer" Joe, Beagle, Heidi, Bailey, Ed and my Zoe. Unconditional love.

  • Comment Link Allan MacGillivray III Thursday, 24 October 2013 15:10 posted by Allan MacGillivray III

    Boyhood dogs is a great topic and good story, Arthur. I was given a wired haired terrier by great uncle Jack Comer when I was three. We named him Muggins. Fiercely loyal and very smart he hated other dogs, cars, and porcupines. Bad habits which landed him at Dr. Smiths door many times. Muggins lived to be thirteen which was also the number of times he had been hit by cars he chased.

  • Comment Link ed Saiz Tuesday, 22 October 2013 23:24 posted by ed Saiz

    Scott; I just had to come back and leave another comment in
    regards to "DOGS" for those who may not be aware. "War"
    dogs saved upwards of 10,000 U.S. lives in Vietnam, and it is
    estimated that upwards of 4,000 dogs served. The U.S. military
    classified them as "surplus equipment" to be left behind during
    the evacuation. Our Dogs sacrificed their lives so we could
    enjoy ours. May the good lord bless them.

  • Comment Link ed Saiz Tuesday, 22 October 2013 22:58 posted by ed Saiz

    Mr. Scott.
    Thank you for an interesting story. sad but interesting.
    I happen to love and enjoy the company of my dog.
    Someone once said, "the more I deal with humans, the
    more I love my dog" Thanks again.

  • Comment Link Mike Lord Monday, 21 October 2013 00:48 posted by Mike Lord

    “We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made.”

    ― M. Facklam

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