After losing Dude, our beloved mongrel, we had no intentions of acquiring another dog, at least not for a while. A blue heeler, however, changed our plans. Harriet didn’t realize we weren’t in the market, just wagged her tail and flashed a million dollar smile.
I pulled into the yard of my mother’s childhood home to feed a young black cat that was homesteading on the porch. My truck was still rolling when a strange looking critter pushed the screen door open and scampered down the steps. Despite her innocent face, I suspected this was not good news for the unnamed feline.
Seth and I spotted the cat on the edge of the woods a few times and left food hoping she would find it. She ventured into the yard twice recently but Harriet wouldn’t let her stay. As I was about to submit this column, however, the kitty landed on her feet, a story for later perhaps.
Except for chasing cats, Harriet is ideal. We don’t know where she came from but hope she’ll stick around. Harriet had no collar and the vet didn’t find an identification chip. Her name is courtesy of our grandson, Walt, who noticed her resemblance to a character in a children’s book, Harry the Dirty Dog.
She seems to have been well cared for and has shown no signs of being mistreated. It’s possible she wasn’t abandoned but jumped out of a passing truck. Either way, her timing was perfect.
Life has been a bit unsettling this year. Dude joined the canine choir as my brother’s health was sharply declining. Shortly after Jimmy’s unexpected death a fractured sacrum put my mother in the hospital then rehab. And COVID caught up with several in our family including me.
I’m not complaining and hope it doesn’t sound that way. Countless others have long-term situations that are far more challenging. I know I’ve been blessed beyond measure, but some days it didn’t feel like it. Then Harriet came along and helped me sort things out.
It had been several months since I’d worked in the woods. Harriet was lonely, though, so I returned to clearing underbrush and vines with hand tools. The exercise helps me and having company thrills her.
There’s a small stream on the property which Harriet loves. I’ve never seen a dog who enjoys running through water so much. She especially likes pools which are deep enough to swim in or take a quick bath. Besides her affinity for cleanliness, she’s exceptionally smart.
The first time we met I discovered she had been taught to sit. Since then I’ve trained her to jump up on me with both paws and to shake water on my pants. That may not sound impressive but Harriet and I have an understanding. Our friendship doesn’t require obedience from either party.
Snakes are one thing she’s clueless about which concerns me. In mid-September I was walking toward the branch while she ran ahead. As she splashed through the water, I was watching her instead of my feet and stopped just short of what appeared to be a moccasin. Its raised triangular head and thick body sent a chill up my spine. The situation became complicated when Harriet came to investigate.
My warnings were ignored as she inched closer, so I took a hearty swing with my hoe. After flipping the monster over, a partly-white belly revealed it probably wasn’t poisonous. In my defense, the snake passed up a chance to swim away, unaware I suppose that consequences of impersonating a moccasin can be severe. It’s best not to pretend to be something we aren’t.
Our gentle-natured blue heeler has made friends with the neighbors, which was quite a relief. They have a chicken coop so I was a bit nervous when I saw her in their yard. Not only is she tolerant of their hens but the couple’s young son, still a toddler, adores her. There’s a lot to be said for a child having a dog in his life.
Spending time with Harriet has been good for both of us. She needed a home and I guess I needed a dog. I can’t explain it, but somehow it’s become easier to count my blessings again. Maybe it’s because Harriet is grateful for every little thing, like a pat on the head, a bite of leftovers, or a walk in the woods.
We guessed at Harriet’s breed based on her peculiar coloring and coyote-like features, but my thinking is she’s a slight variant, a descendant of dogs with a special purpose. I can’t find anything to document that opinion, but my heart says Harriet is a blue healer.