A New Girl in the House
By Mickey Dunaway
This morning Chloe and Boomer were beginning to play after breakfast—more accurately, Boomer was trying to get Chloe to roughhouse—when Chloe took one look at Boomer and leapt easily four feet into my lap. There she did one of my favorite things as she tucked her head under my chin and gave me snuggled up. What she was really doing was showing me (and especially Boomer) her most coquettish self as she gives snuggled under my chin. The little diva.
If 60 is the new 40, Chole makes 11 the new 6 in dog years! Every day when I watch her bursting through the open door to the backyard, she makes me smile. In my mind, I see a much younger Chloe effortlessly leaping from her crate in the back of the truck and hitting the ground running, nose eyes to the ground and ears up listening to the sound of directions or the rustle of birds in the underbrush.
Out the back door like a rocket, and before her feet hit the ground, Chloe is already looking for birds around our small waterfall, under the birdfeeder, and in redbud tree where inquisitive red-breasted house finches, cardinals, and mockingbirds are often hiding among its branches. The only place that is off-limits to our Brits is our blue birdhouse. After our first brood of bluebirds this spring, I cleaned out the nest and washed it out, hoping for a second summer nesting of bluebirds. After washing it out, I put the birdhouse on the wall next to the grill to dry out in the sun. Almost immediately, Chloe’s ears perked up, and she was on top of the wall, pointing the house.
We don’t have a big backyard, but it is bird and, therefore, birddog friendly. When Chloe bounds out the backdoor, she doesn’t so much run as bounces, rabbit-like, out to the side-fence line which houses the birdfeeder. Watching a bird dog work is a thing of beauty and is one of the things that compels me to get off my lazy but and walk Chloe and Boomer. On our neighborhood walks, our Brits are looking to point a rabbit, squirrel, or dove. Some doves live here year-round, and they don’t feed at the feeders, but under them, so the doves (and rabbits and squirrels) are in exactly the position most preferred by Brittanys.
A few weeks ago, I went on my daily trip to Lowes, and my wife grabbed me as soon as I came in the door to tell me that Boomer had caught a dove under the feeder. Worst of all, she said that he and Chloe had been eating it, too. To Sandy, it was as if it was below the dignity of our little princess to do such a thing. I put on a pair of rubber gloves and went out to surveil the scene of the killing. There wasn’t much left of the bird—a little of the breast and a few feathers. I picked up the remains and disposed of them and hurried inside to reward Chloe and Boomer for being so faithful to their raising!
Chloe is at her absolute sweetest when one of will put on her walking collar. She turns in circles and the puts her front feet on your chest and does the chin snuggling routine. There is no explanation except she is saying “Thank you for taking me to do one of my favorite things.”
One of the first things a new Brittany owner learns is that they are as hardheaded as they are lovers. They are independent dogs who will snuggle in a lap for some petting, and five minutes later, Chloe will decide she would rather chill in her Orvis bed.
Brittanys are not for first-time dog owners because they are unusually smart combined with the inquisitiveness of bird dogs who seek out ground-dwelling birds like quail, grouse, or pheasant. Very little is off-limits in the house to a stealthy Brittany. Chloe’s best secret trick to unroll the bathroom tissue. Dozens and dozens of times, I have found the role with pint-size bites taken out of strip after strip.
It is hard to stay one step ahead of a Brittany. Prepare hamburgers to put on the grill and turn away for ten seconds to get some seasoning, and you will likely be missing at least one patty. Not Chloe’s fault. My fault. Of course, with my memory these days, Chloe and Boomer have ample opportunities to counter surf.
Chloe is maybe most special to us because of how she became our canine femme fetale in the first place. Wonder how much my wife Sandy loves this little girl? Consider that Sandy grew up with three brothers—two older and one younger, is mother to two boys, and in our 54-year-married-life, we have only had at least a dozen dogs—all boys! She does have two granddaughters, but they are four hours away. Let’s just say that Chloe—aka Little Missy—gets lots of her mama’s love.
Two years ago, a day or so before Labor Day, Chloe’s owner and breeder of Brittanys, Dawn, contacted me to ask if we would consider adopting Chloe. Dawn and her husband, Mark, fell on some difficult times and could not keep the number of the dogs that were a part of their family.
Dawn and Mark read my frequent Facebook post about Boomer’s antics over the previous five years. You see, Chloe is Boomer’s mother, and we knew that when we got him from these remarkable breeders, Dawn and Mark. So, it was natural that Dawn would call us to see if we would make a new home for nine-year-old Chloe. It took about ten seconds to respond “Absolutely!” And on Labor Day, Dawn and the most beautiful petite bird dog I had ever seen came to see us
After spending time telling us about her little dog with orange and white markings and us checking compatibility with Boomer, Dawn slowly rose and left Chloe in her hewrhome. Misty eyes followed as Dawn walked back to her car. It was not an easy thing leaving behind a family member who also was mother to two litters of pups.
This not the end of Chloe’s story. Chloe is now our second Brittany—an eleven-year-old bird dog. We didn’t need to think about taking Chloe into our pack since we love all dogs and especially older dogs.
Since 2005 when we came to Charlotte, our giant Lab, Coal, died of a heart attack, and Khaki, our Golden Retriever, and Rufus, our Chocolate Lab, died in our laps with our vet present. Coal’s death was sudden, but for Khaki and Rufus, it was our decision. What a decision the Almighty gives us to determine when our beloved dogs hurt too much to continue.
My belabored point here is that we don’t know how much longer we will have Chloe with us. Chloe is in excellent condition for an eleven-year-old and runs step-for-step with her five years younger son Boomer, so we have great hopes for several more years. If not, having the opportunity to continue to bring love and joy into Chole’s life and as she brings into ours is the primary reason to adopt an older dog.
Should you have an opportunity to bring an older dog into your pack, Don’t worry about Vet bills. They have been no more for Chloe than for Boomer.
Expensive for sure, but worth it. Worry about making certain older dogs are loved until their time is at hand.
Want to experience angels around us? Look no further than the canine members of ourn Almighty’s world. As angels’ caregivers, God reveals to us many important lessons through our dogs’ buoyant ears, bright eyes, and sloppy smiles.