Mike Firesmith: Dogs Not Mine

Posted on December 11, 2012


By Mike Firesmith

Snowball was the first dog I remember who wasn’t my dog who was my dog. No, wait, before Snowball, there was Dan, the big burly bird dog who belonged to my next door neighbors. Dan died in our utility room one night and I found him there the next morning. This happened when I was four year old and Dan being dead really shocked me. Dan was a very old dog, but I had never seen anyone I loved dead before. The whole ordeal was made worse by the fact my parents wouldn’t believe me when I told them. They thought he was just sleeping. Dave, the oldest son of the neighbors, came and got Dan when my parents finally checked to see that I was telling the truth.  I walked beside him, both of us crying silently, as Dave wheeled Dan away in the wheelbarrow.

Snowball belonged to the old man who lived on the hill near my Grandmother’s store. She was a pure white chowish looking dog who loved me to the point her whole body wiggled when she discovered I was visiting. Snowball was also the first dog I ever witnessed killing a snake and gave me the feeling dogs were more dangerous, to their foes, than I had suspected. Snowball also forced Pete, a stray my grandmother took in, to make friends with me. Pete wouldn’t get near me but the sight of Snowball all over me getting all the attention pulled Pete in. In the Grand Scheme of Things, Pete follows only Bert and Spike as the best dogs ever. Pete was a biter. He had a heightened sense both protection and personal space. People who strayed into that area he considered to belong to us were going to be attacked and Pete meant it. My grandmother’s store was one of the safest places on earth with Pete behind the counter. No one was going to back Pete down from protecting her. He bit one person he shouldn’t have and that nearly ended it, but Pete survived that, too.

Brownie was a smallish little dog who belonged to someone in my neighborhood in Brunswick. I never knew the dog’s real name and never know who she belonged to. All I really knew is that when I came home at night she would run barking at me and meet me on the porch as if she had loved me all my life and hadn’t seen me in years.

Sabrina belonged to a friend of mine in Valdosta, and Sabrina was a Chow’s Chow. Everything you have ever heard about Chows lived under a mane of incredible black fur. It took me six months of steady effort to get close to her but it was worth it. Sabrina and I were famous for our all out tussles where she would make the wildest of wild dog noises as if she were trying to kill me. The police were called one day as we played in vacant lot because it sounded so real. Sabrina trusted three people on this earth and I was one of them. Losing her was like losing one of my own and when I moved I really, really thought Sabrina was going to be given to me.

Tip was a massive black dog with a tail that curled over his back. When I bought my first home he was the first person to visit. He would come over often, sometimes already there when I got home, and I learned later he lived two doors down from me. As big as he was, Tip was a kissy dog who liked ear pettings. He also respected my cat when I got one and stayed away from her. The little rat dog of the older woman across the way didn’t, and discovered I could throw hard things more often than a rat dog could stand being hit. I picked the rat dog up by her throat one day and went nose to nose with her. Doing that has a profound effect on a dog’s psyche. I recommend if and when you do this, do so only when all reason and all other forms of training have failed. Even rat dogs are dogs, after all.

Two dogs I never knew looked like twins and certainly they were littermates. They were pits of some sort with some other dog of mass in there with them, clunky headed, short snouted, big chested and floppy eared mutts both. I never met them because they didn’t live with anyone I knew but they were chained to two trees in a yard I passed on my way to work each day.  They were young puppies chained close enough to one another to play bitey face but not close enough to tangle their chains. A ten foot long length of chain was all either had for a universe. Both had wooden houses but they destroyed them out of boredom and the yard was littered with the debris. The owner then bought them igloos, far too small, and those lasted for a while. Day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year, I would see them out there, two black and white dogs and their tiny world. Rain, cold, heat, boredom, and ten feet of chain for a universe, was all they knew.

Something happened. I’ll never know what but one day there were two kennels set up, one for each, but they were still chained. Maybe one of them bit someone, or broke the chain and got away and the kennels were supposed to fix that, but the tiny world got smaller and there was no personal interaction with each other. One of the kennels was wrecked one day and I suspect a limb hit it or maybe one or both of the dogs decided to destroy it at all costs.

They both disappeared soon after that. No trace of their world remains. The igloos are gone, the chains are gone and the kennels are gone too. I watched their lives unfold in a daily routine of life at the end of a ten foot chain and now they are gone.

Take Care,


Mike Firesmith is the Hickory Head Hermit who lives in the woods of South Georgia with three dogs and a keyboard. His writing reflects a love for nature, a love for dogs, and a love for the craft of writing. He is currently engaged and the end of his Hermitage is near.  See more of his work at The Hickory Head Hermit!

Lila’s Public Service Note:  Think twice, three times, and more before buying a pet as a Christmas gift; and never, ever buy one as a “surprise” unless you are fully prepared to assume all responsibility for the pet.  Too often, gift pets end up at the animal shelter after the holidays.  So if you are serious about getting a holiday pet… you need only wait until the new year, then head to your local shelter.  Meanwhile, you can put some dog bowls or a “coupon for two fuzzy dogs” under the tree.

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