The Doggies Next Door


I loved the little greyhounds, Allie and Sammie, who lived next door. They both shook like leaves on a stormy day in their natural state. Their breed is specific. The closest match with human behavior would be Barney Fife, better known as Don Knotts, the eccentric police assistant to Andy Griffith in Andy of Mayberry—a series that would offer us classic characters we embraced as household names. Their stories represented American family and community at it’s finest.

Recently I learned that Don as a gangly teenager, plucked chicken feathers from a machinery belt—one degrading unsavory job. Allegedly, he was skinny and jumpy—bullied by a brother and father growing up. He saved his hard-earned money until he could invest in a mannequin  to practice his passion as a ventriloquist.

He joined the military as soon as he could. Within weeks the army discovered his hidden talent —he could entertain a crowd of servicemen and make them laugh. What an asset! His popularity grew and launched a career. The attributes God gave him proved perfect for the roles he played before an even vaster audience on American television. Many of us boomers grew up in anticipation of hearing and watching the nervous little man who made us laugh simply by being himself— jerky and tremulous, unlike any other human personality most of us had ever encountered.

I had never been around tremorous, fragile Italian greyhounds, until I first met Allie and Sammie in my neighbor, Donna’s, kitchen. Curiously intrigued by their physical demeanor, their timid, sweet personalities soon won me over as they darted almost on tippy-claws, in and out, toward and away as I stood and watched—like a circling disappearing act.

It seemed they could be quickly overpowered and bullied by a big dog. I wasn’t worried about my fifteen pound mini schnauzer, Benji, but I was a bit concerned how they would fare around Sam, my rambunctious clumsy 120 pound Lab. Even one wrong step and he could crush their little legs.

The inevitable day came for their introductions. Since Allie was a rescue and mending from past abuse, Donna decided we would introduce her dog, Sammie, to my Sam. How would my Sam respond to her 8 pound Sammie? Would he dare to attempt to bully him as easy fare, just as young scrawny Don had experienced from older bigger males. Smiling, speaking softly to little Sammie, Donna carried him trembling out to our property line. I waited with my Jolly Red Giant.

What would they do?

Sam stood next to me, the top of his head at my diaphragm. His big pink nose sniffed Sammie’s tiny paws dangling from Donna’s arms.

Eyes bulging, face riveted toward my Sam, Sammie bent forward. A little red tongue appeared and swept over large pink nostrils. Friends. Laughter from us. Declarations and the same kind of pleasure we felt as children watching Mayberry episodes.

Even though we all live in a sprawling metropolis, maybe dogs with peculiarities as vast as their masters, still bring a wholesomeness to life and neighborhoods that remind us a little bit of a place we always wanted to live—a safe, pleasant community where people care and share… like Mayberry, USA.

sammy and allie

Legacy of Friendliness- Sam the Smiing Lab

“Mmmmm” “MMMM” Benji whined straining toward the  black wide eyed lab with the bright red collar who stood tethered to the truck.

A young boy hopped from the cab and headed toward the house sipping a large frothy drink, his mom holding hers directly behind him.

Dad with sunglasses smiled as we passed, this cheery Sunday morning walk now a few houses  down from our home destination.

How old is your puppy? I asked.

Oh about a year.

What is her name? I pet her shiny black head while she bent over the side of the truck  to sniff Benji now up on his hind feet to meet  nose to nose.

She’s friendly, the man said. We had a chocolate before her.

“I had a yellow lab who just died at almost ten.
“Sammy died?” he frowned.

“OOOOH, Sammy died??”  the young boy stood in the distance who had apparently  stopped to listen to our conversation.

“He always talked about Sammy,” my neighbor smiled again motioning to his son. Our chocolate died at ten also, but we just turned right around and bought another one.”

Pulling Benji’s leash I felt the tears coming. It has been three weeks.

I do not know my neighbors names, nor do they know mine. I don’t remember the names of the children that would circle around the driveway through the years on bicycles and stop to pet Sammy and talk to me as he wagged his tail , lips pulled back bearing teeth in a magical grin, while Benji barked menacing in the background. He invited them to come to our house.

I am reminded how beautiful it is to be friendly. Sam displayed how to reach out to others even in limited parameters like his front yard  while I worked around the garage.

This morning he is missed once again, not just by me, but all he made friends with.

Sam epitomized Proverb 18:24, “ he who has friends must show himself friendly.”

All In a Morning’s Walk- The Rooster and the Squirrels

            The sun just touched the pavement this morning as Benji and I headed down the street for our early morning walk. Still dragging from another fitful sleep these hot summer nights, the sudden cock-a-doodle-doo of the neighborhood rogue rooster startled me awake as we rounded the corner by the creek. I looked up at a branch and there  he stood, crowing his morning call, decked in orange-green feathers and red crown. A squirrel scampered on the ground by the trunk.

I hope he doesn’t get attacked by the squirrels. As we passed the murky waterbowl I wondered if the people abandoned him with a bowl by the creek. The first time I saw him walking on a suburb lawn a month ago Steve, my husband pointed him out to me as we drove by “Look, there is a rooster that lives at that house now. I see him a lot.”

Strange, I had thought. But then remembered as a child I owned a white pet rooster in our track house once in the days when White House Dept Store gave chicks or bunnies to kids every Easter free.

Benji and I continued our walk. How can I help him? Maybe I’ll Google “Rooster rescue” when I get home and see if someone out there can help him.

       Benji and I wandered off our standard circuit and as I toyed with my cell phone a man‘s deep voice hollered out and startled me. A medium sized dog five feet from my legs was charging straight towards Benji. Instantly, I jerked the leash and whipped Benji-schnauzer , my silver rabbit look alike, off the ground and around me.

Another burly man rushed out of the front door and the dog instantly retreated to his husky call. Whew. If Burlyman#1 hadn’t warned me Benji would have been bit so quick and silent the predator—while I was distracted. Shaken I headed back home glad the dog obeyed his master and thankful for the warning call.

I tried to avoid the street with the rooster because it made me sad and I felt anxious for him, but decided to go that route anyway and get home quicker.Nearing that water bowl I saw a man sitting on his lawn chair with a newspaper at a house across the street from the stream.

“Do you know anything about that rooster?” I asked.

“Yes, he’s mine.” He smiled broadly. “He’s our neighborhood rooster. He roosts in that tree over there.” He pointed to his crowing spot. “I feed him everyday and give him water.”

Oh good. I was worried about him that the squirrels would get him.

“No, he drinks at the waterbowl with the squirrels. They all drink together.”

Now I was smiling. Wow. They are friends!   As the walk ended this morning it seemed like the world was a beautiful place despite the charging dog. What a great way to start the day. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Steve.

When I did, he laughed.  “Just like the Bible says, the Lion will lie with the Lamb.”

“And the roosters will drink with the squirrels.”

You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. Psalm 145:16

 Cause me to hear your loving-kindness in the morning, for in you I do trust. Cause me to know the way I should walk, for I lift up my eyes to you. Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord, I flee to you to hide me.    Psalm 143:8, 9