Lucky is from mixed cow-dog stock. She appears to be mostly Australian shepherd. Her coat is a mixture of dark gun-metal grey over a lighter grey. Then there are a few white streaks that mark her years. Lucky is about 13; she came to us as a puppy. A married couple who manage ranches for a living gave her to my eldest daughter when she was 10.
That eldest daughter and her husband have recently made me a grandfather. Lucky has quite a history with us.
Our older kids are starting to leave the nest. They leave their dogs behind, and that’s not a problem. An older dog that was not raised in an apartment or a starter home with a small yard may not adjust well to change. We have a few acres, and the dogs know where their home is; I think they have a good life here. I suspect the canines might agree. They also have each other.
We were an eight-child, four-dog household before our kids started to leave the nest. That is an excessive number of pooches, but to hold the child to dog ratio at 2:1 isn’t too bad. Right now, the child to exotic lizard category is only 8:1. If you don’t have children, you might not understand the math.
Lucky is probably deaf, and I suspect her eyesight is slipping. She’s not totally blind yet, because she reads lips and understands some hand signals. She has some arthritis in her hip and back. She appreciates a back rub now and then. Don’t we all.
When Lucky was about 2 years old, I noticed a few pieces of pizza missing from a pie that was laying on the kitchen counter. After polling the household, it was determined that Lucky was the culprit. I scolded and disciplined her. A few weeks later, I noticed that a slice of pizza was hanging partially off the same counter. This time, only the toppings were missing. I temporarily called her Misdemeanor for a while after that.
When Lucky was about 3, we lived in the Red Oak area, in a relatively new home. After we converted the garage into a bedroom for my two oldest daughters, I had a propane heater installed in order to supplement our central heating unit.
I bought that heater from a local firm that had reconditioned it, and I had it installed by a licensed plumber. We never ran the heater all night, and we only used it on exceptionally cold nights before the girls went to bed. We also had gas sensors and smoke detectors for added safety.
One cold night, I started that heater before the girls went to bed. We were in the living room. I don’t remember if we were watching TV or playing board games, but I heard barking and growling. Lucky typically didn’t bark without a reason.
I walked back to the girls’ room, and the entire heater almost to the wall cut-off valve was engulfed in flames. There was furniture near. The flames were too hot to get to the cut-off valve. I grabbed an oven mitt from the kitchen, reached briefly through the flames and shut the gas off.
Everything was OK.
I remember Lucky sitting on my daughter’s top bunk bed barking and growling encouragement. No doubt she prevented a disaster. A few minutes more and the ceiling and/or the attic might have been involved in the fire. Lucky has earned every meal since.
Her best friend is Ranger, an aging half-Ridgeback, half-Catahoula, but still 90 pounds of brute. He was my oldest son’s dog at one time. Ranger is about Lucky’s age but enjoys pretty good health.
I office at home most of the time. One morning this past week, I coaxed Lucky outside. As she crept through the door to the great outdoors, Ranger touched her muzzle to muzzle and gently pushed her up against my Buick. I watched as Ranger checked both to his left and right and then gazed out into the pasture. Then he let Lucky proceed into our yard. All the while, Ranger stood guard.
Was it respect, concern or fondness? Too often we attribute human-type thinking to animals. Maybe it’s just that Ranger picks up on the fact that I think Lucky made her place with us on a winter night years ago.
This article was first published in the Waxahachie Daily Light