Every farm had a dog. Nikki, our German Shepherd was the only purebred dog I remember. Except for Duchess, Nikki’s mother. I was barely more than a baby when we had Duchess, just old enough to have a whisper of a memory. Mom and Dad had Duchess when they raised German Shepherds: police dogs. Nikki belonged to Bonita more than anyone else in the family. Our life with Nikki had a sad ending; perhaps that was why Mom never really wanted another dog. I think she loved Nikki as much as Bonita did. I know she loved Duchess that much, ’cause once she told me Duchess was the best dog she ever knew, and that was after we had lots of other dogs.
“You should see the litter of pups I saw today,” Dad would say.
Mom always said, “No, Dean. No more dogs.” Every time, she said the same thing. “I’m serious. No more dogs,” and she’d give him that I-mean-it-no-fooling-around-look.
“I know, Reet.” he said, with his face serious as all get out, and those blue eyes telling on him. “Maybe you can just take a look,” he didn’t take her serious at all. I could tell, even though I was just a little girl. I knew inside, we were getting a puppy, and my heart just started to think up names before I even saw the pup. Dad said picking out names was super important and first you have to sit with the animal for a while, and get to know them. He was the best name-picker-outer in the whole wide world. I already knew that on account of Lady Bird, that was the best name possible for a cow.
“No, Dean, I mean it this time. No more dogs,” she said to him, and she meant it, ’cause her bottom eyelid covered the bottom half of her eye, and her lips pressed together so tight they were just one line. For certain, if I turned around and did something after she gave me that look, I would get skinned alive. Dad could charm anyone, even Mom, with those blue eyes dancing, and a grin that spread up over his face from one side to another ’til his whole face was lit up. No matter how mad Mom was, the next thing you know, she was smiling, too.
Sometimes Dad sneaked a pup home late at night, put it in the barn, and pretended he found it there in the morning. Sometimes he set it down, right beside the sandbox, so one of us kids would see it as soon as we set foot outside the door. Sometimes he told me to get the whisk broom and sweep out the car, and there the puppy was, right in the way-back of the station wagon. “Look at the puppy I found,” somebody was sure to shout. Once I found a black and white puppy in the bottom of an almost empty ground-corn barrel. That pup looked so sad and lost, just a-whimpering away, I had to love it. That was Bernie. I’m pretty sure he was part collie, but only part. I’ll tell you about Bernie another time. Promise.
Bonita was Nikki’s Master; she loved Nikki more than anything, and Nikki knew it, that’s why she’d growled at anyone who raised a voice to Bonita. Nikki would never hurt a soul, she was gentle and obedient, but sorry to say, Nikki was not so obedient when it came to Continue reading