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Unconditional Love


I was the son of a small town veterinarian growing up. Living in the country, going on calls to the various farmers around the county; it was a good and simple life. Life was pretty tough in rural West Tennessee in the early 60’s. I don’t remember knowing anybody who I thought was “rich”. I would not see my first inground pool at someone’s home until 1969. There was plenty of bartering going on back then; people just did not have any extra cash.  I can remember my Dad coming home with a variety of different items proffered in lieu of cash. Chickens, eggs, country ham, a live turkey– all of it  made its’ way to the table eventually. One notable exchange gained a one eyed Shetland pony named Nubbin complete with saddle and bridle. My bro and I were so small at the time we could not lift the saddle on to Nubbin’s back. My Dad would put the saddle on the top rail of the board fence when he left for the day. Someway or another my brother and I managed to bridle that pony and maneuver him close enough to the fence so the other one could crawl up and sorta tumble the saddle onto his back.

We never had any inside pets to speak of growing up as the Vet’s kids. Outside hounds, barn cats, a male red fox squirrel; stuff like that but there was never any attachment. So,eventually,  I married a little Tennessee blond who liked ill-mannered and stupid house dogs whose long term costs, pound for pound, rivaled that of gold bullion. Again; detachment not attachment.  Dogs just came with the marriage.

After marriage/divorce comes dating – round 2. What is it about older single women and dogs? They all seem to have one. What does that mean?

2 or 3 years ago I met a no-nonsense West Texas gal.

Ranger playing "stick"

Ranger playing "stick"

She was interesting and a relationship grew. She had a dog.  Big surprise, huh?

Ranger’s Story
Ranger showed up on Miss V’s front doorstep one cold February morning traveling with a nondescript chihuahua. Miss V took them both in and attempted to find the owner(s). The little dog had tags and she soon ran down the owner. Ranger was not traceable and all attempts to locate his former master failed. He is deathly afraid of wire coat hangers and cringes whenever the remote control is pointed at the TV. He is also extremely comfortable around small children and loves women with ummm… nice racks is the best way I can put it. So he had my interest because he was not your run of the mill canine. Best Miss V could figure, he is part Boxer and part Pit Bull.

My reaction to Ranger was predictable. He was kept at arm’s length. I had never been attached to a dog and this was no different…. or so I thought. Over the years, my paramount dog judging criteria was whether or not they added something positive to family dynamics. None of them had ever passed that test; as a matter of fact, most dogs I have known were just a pain in the butt.

I guess the tables turned on me a couple of years ago when I was working a job in Brenham,TX. I was clearing land and managed to get a rather substantial Sweetgum tree caught in the tracks of the dozer. I put the blade down and raised the front of the dozer several feet in the air so I could crawl under it and attempt to dislodge the tree trunk. While I was under there, I noticed a leg bone from  a long defunct cow in the disturbed earth and I thought of Ranger. Being part Pit Bull he has some more kind of powerful jaws. Miss V would buy him various chew bones and pig knuckles and butcher bones at the designer dog store and he chews them all up in short order. This cow bone had some age on it and seemed to be hard as obsidian so I collected it and saved it for the next trip home.

When I walked in the door in Dallas, I had the cow bone ready. Now Ranger loves his bones and he was all over this one as soon as I took it out of my bag. I told him it was a dinosaur bone. Hell, he is a dog and will believe anything I say. He took it plenty quick and trotted off with it for a serious chew session.

A year later almost to the day, he has not been able to chew that bone up. He works on it like a Turk and he has managed to chew a small part of one end off but the dinosaur bone is still largely intact.

Ranger trying to make me jealous in Miss V's lap

Ranger trying to make me jealous in Miss V's lap

This is the part that gets me and forced me to re-examine my attitude toward dogs.  Without fail, Ranger will meet me at the door of the Dallas house when I roll in from a few weeks on the jobsite.   He always has that dinosaur bone in his mouth. Always.  He greets no one else in this manner.   I don’t know if he is showing me his most prized possession or if he is acknowledging me as being the giver of the greatest dog bone of all time but it is very impressive. It just melts this old hard heart of mine.

Ranger and Miss V have been visiting me in the Fish Bus the last 2 weeks during the monsoon.   Ranger enjoys being a Country Dog for a change and Miss V enjoys spooning on a nightly basis.   Right this very minute, as I type this entry, it is nasty and wet outside.  Weatherbug says it is 49 degrees outside and I can hear the rain pattering on the vents of the Old Girl.  Weather not fit for man or beast.   I have a Jim Beam and Seven close at hand and Miss V retired to the Fish bedroom hours ago.  I know the bed will be warm when I decide to retire for the night.   Ranger is sprawled under the dinette with his head on my feet.

Unconditional love is a very special thing.    Ranger’s needs are so very simple.   We feed him. We let him out when he has a missile in the tube or he needs to hike a leg.  In return, he adds to our life in ways unmeasured.  He is not temperamental or judgmental.  He is never in a “mood”.   Unconditional love is a very special thing.

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2 comments to Unconditional Love

  • don

    Glad that you finally met a dog that you like. I think a good dog enhances my life & hope that Ranger does yours.

    I”ve always found it easier to love a fair sized dog; people tend to treat little dogs as something akin to a toy/child. As an adult, I’ve had three dogs (at different times) and definitely believe it pack theory. I’m the leader of the pack and the dog (two males and one female all ‘fixed’) is happy to go along; but I’ve been with a strong woman who also buys into pack theory. That is certainly critical. None of our dogs has been treated like anything but a dog – no sleeping on the bed, dressing up or baby talk! I’ve also spent $2K saving my dog’s life but that’s my choice & I’m still happy to have bought a few more years with him. (Someone has to keep the vet’s kid in ponies!)

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  • Ed Westerman

    Some dogs are worth it, my granddaughter has a dog just like Ranger, and she stole my heart when she was just a puppy wanting me to come back and play some more. barking it to me from the edge of the chair.

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