Calhoun’s Cannons for August 1, 2012
Brandy’s Journey Home
The older I get the more it seems like everything’s premature. Stories I thought were done suddenly have another chapter. Just when I think the play’s over, the curtain rises again and the actors are back in motion. Life more and more seem to catch me in the middle of something, like someone late to the theatre who comes in part way through and keeps whispering, “What’s happening?” I’m getting to be like a long-winded story-teller who’s always saying, “Oh, wait, there’s more.”
Back in 1998 I wrote a column about adopting Brandy that ended with “The End,” and said, in part:
“ I don’t know just what it was that captured me. . . . Lord knows, I had enough canines at home, a pack of Basenjis claiming to be dogs . . . . . . And Lord knows, my first look at the dog through the chain-link kennel doors at the Animal Services holding pens wasn’t promising. The face was dark, feral, the body reflecting some Aboriginal dog influence, a dingo, perhaps. Or was it the dog’s initial resemblance to a New Guinea Singing Dog that did it? . . .
“Whatever it was, I couldn’t get the creature out of my mind and so the next day I returned to inquire further. Turns out that she was a young she, barely out of puppyhood, had been picked up wandering around Paso Robles and had been sitting in the pound for nearly two weeks waiting for “her people” to come looking for her.
“Amazingly, they never did . . . which was a bit puzzling because when I got her home, I discovered that she was housebroken, loved other dogs, people and rides in cars. Clearly, here was a dog that somebody had taken the time to train and socialize and care for. Yet when she was lost, they never came to find her.
“The kennel man at Animal Services informed me that she looked almost exactly like the pure-bred Australian Kelpie that he had at home, with a little shepherd-something showing in her face, maybe. As Kelpies are reputed to have some Dingo blood in them, that certainly explained the aboriginal look that first attracted me to her.
“Since this is the first real dog I’ve ever had – Basenjis don’t count – it’s startling in the extreme to be around a dog that actually minds what you say. Basenjis are ancient hunting hounds, smart, cunning, independent survival artists who understand that humans are beneath contempt and so should be ignored with impunity.
“Kelpies, on the other hand, were bred to herd sheep, cattle and other critters, and so by instinct and breeding are dogs that actually pay attention and do what they’re told. That behavior is a shocking attribute in a house full of canine sociopaths.”
And there, the story pretty much ended, except it didn’t. About a year after getting Brandy, it became clear that mixing hounds and herders just wasn’t going to work out. Brandy was tough-minded. So were the Basenjis. And the result was an unhappy household filled with growing umbrage. And sharp teeth. And so I sent out the word and within three-degrees of connection, Lois and Ralph arrived at the house to meet Brandy and take her home.
Thus began a 14 year friendship and my new role as Brandy’s Aunt. When I first adopted Brandy, I thought I was the main character in a happy-ending story. But that wasn’t the story at all. I was only a minor character the middle of the story. And far from being the hero, I was merely a plot device for the real story: Brandy finding her real, forever home.
And what a forever home. She went everywhere with her people, travels to the north woods, the high mountains, ever ready when the RV was being packed. She was surrounded by friends wanting her to come for play dates with their dogs. And when at home, she kept it safe from hooligan raccoons that came up off the bay to peer rudely into her windows. But above all, she kept close watch on those she loved best, seeing her people through good times and bad.
And every Christmas I would stop by with a sack of dog biscuits or toys which Lois transferred to Brandy’s special Christmas stocking hanging from the mantle. Her eyes did not stray from that sock until she had at least one treat.
And so the many, many Christmases went by and Brandy’s eyes grew dim, her energy waned, her step slowed until the story of Brandy, The Good, the best dog in the world, came to a gentle close.
At least I think her story is over. But, what do I know? I’m just a character in this tale, and as far as I know, Brandy’s off on a new adventure, writing her own chapters. But before she heads off to run among the stars and herd the clouds and moon, I’m betting that she’s already making arrangements to send her beloved family her replacement, a wonderful new dog who will soothe their sorrow and bring joy back into their lives again.
Good dog, Brandy. Good dog.