Lisa Hamblen Hood: Through the Fence 4-11-11
April 11, 2011
Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” Being tough has nothing to do with size. Some people are like a pit bulldog in a Chihuahua’s body. My Lena is like that. She’s 110 pounds of solid muscle. I pity the guy who tries to push her around. At 14, she’s talking of joining the Marines. I don’t know if they’re tough enough for her.
She gets into wrestling matches with her dad, and I have to leave the room. It looks scary. He wraps his legs around her ribs in a scissor hold and has to nearly break one of them before she’ll give in. But the minute he turns away, she jumps on his back, and they’re at it again. Her older brother is 6 feet tall and looks like a linebacker. He confessed to me the other day that if Lena weighed as much as 120, he’d be scared of her. I told him he’d better be scared of her now.
My dad had a dog about as feisty and tough as Lena, aptly named Spunky. She was slick-haired Jack Russell terrier, white with a heart-shaped patch of brown on her side. My husband and I had two big Labrador retrievers, and Spunky would get into with them. They’d usually back down; it just wasn’t worth the aggravation and the bite marks on the nose. Whether we tossed out balls, sticks or Frisbees on land or tennis balls and rubber decoys into the pond, Spunky was the first to hit the water. If she could get the lead, she’d usually beat the big dogs to the prize. If not, she’d grab onto to it with them and do a co-retrieve.
Spunky wasn’t vicious, but I think she could have killed a bear if she had to, or at least made him turn around and run away. When Spunky was on patrol, no visitors got out of their car without our invitation. On the other hand, our Labs would have welcomed any rapist or ax murderer that stopped by the house and tried to lick them to death.
Spunky was reserved in her affection almost like a cat. She hardly ever came when we called or whistled which made it hard to keep track of her. One day, my husband decided that she needed to learn to ride in the back of the truck like the big dogs. I rode back there with her at first. She loved it – the wind in her face and thousands of complicated messages arriving via her wet black nose. She’d put her small white paws on the edge of the truck bed and let her brown ears flap in the breeze as we drove slowly down the country lanes near my parents’ home.
After a few trial runs, we clipped her collar to a nylon rope strung across the width of the truck. One day, we thought she was ready to ride without restraint. My husband lifted her into the back and drove slowly to town, periodically checking the rearview mirror to make sure his little charge was safe. When he got to town, he stopped at the first stop sign and got out to see how she was doing. He discovered, to his horror that Spunky was gone.
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He immediately turned around and retraced his path, driving slowly and searching every ditch and driveway and calling her name. As aloof as she was, he knew that even if she heard him and was able to come, she might not. He spent a couple of hours driving around and looking for her. He knew she was hurt and wondered who would find her and how they would attend to her. Eventually, he had to abandon the search. He was heartbroken because he’d lost such a good dog – one that wasn’t even his. Since we had been married for only a few months, my husband dreaded breaking such bad news to my dad.
We put notices in the newspaper advertising a lost dog, but never got any calls. I hope whoever took Spunky came to realize what a wonderful dog she was – with all that fierce independence wrapped up in such a small package.