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Hill Country Living

Mr. Shorty: It’s A Dog’s Life Well Lived

By Coulter Fussell

I’ve been told before that my sense of humor in this column tends to be dark. Well, I disagree with the initial premise of that. I think life in general is dark and if you have a sense of humor about life then, by default, your sense of humor is dark. So the fact that you have a sense of humor at all under these conditions means that you’re actually quite positive.

I say all that because I’m about to write about my dog that died. I adopted my German Shephard/Dasch-shund mix (yeah, just imagine that parental coupling for a second…now turn it around…still weird…) from the Oxford Humane Society over 12 years ago. I went to drop off donations for Ajax Diner and left with what looked like a 14″ tall canine science experiment gone strange whose crooked label card hanging from his chain link cage said nothing but “Mr. Shorty. A stray from Sardis.”

It was like the best little poem I’d ever read. The incredible name aside, I was fascinated with what all “a stray from Sardis” meant…so few details, yet simultaneously, so telling. I couldn’t resist. I adopted him for 30 bucks. Of course, I found out a day later that he had bad heart worms so my $30 dog turned into a $500 dog, but, hey who was counting? Besides my husband?

Fast forward 12 years.. They flew by. I got married, I moved to Water Valley, I had a child, I started a business, I had another child, I started another business. I was busy and occupied with all the things that keep us humans busy and occupied. And all those years I stood on my front porch and looked at my flowers in the mornings, I walked across my backyard in the afternoons, I made coffee every time I woke up, I walked out the back door to my car a million times, I returned from where I had been a million more, I cooked meals at my stove, I talked and laughed and stormed off and did all the things that we humans do. And during all those things, there was a whole other life happening right beside me. Right at my feet.

He experienced it all with me. Every bit, he was there. All the times I had friends over for a party and we got loud and danced in the kitchen until late at night, all the times I waddled through the house fully pregnant and miserable talking on the phone to my mother, all the times I had a good idea while washing dishes and staring out the window over Leland Street, all the times I couldn’t find something and tore the house apart looking for it like a maniac, all the times I kissed my babies. He was there. He experienced it all with me.

Like a good dog, he had become an extension of me. But, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have his own life. He liked to eat azaleas and ran away daily with his best friend Pedro Williams, Snooky and Mary Lou Williams’ dog. They inexplicably enjoyed daily swims in the sewage lagoon and in one of their more notorious runaway sessions, they hadn’t been gone 10 minutes before the Sonic was engulfed in flames. I wasn’t the only one who suspected Shorty and Pedro ( a good crime-duo name if there ever was one) of cheeseburger arson. And then there that time Shorty was missing all night and after a massive search we found him on a dirt road, stuck behind a cattle gate…that he could have easily just stepped through. Small dog, big dreams.

I could write a hundred funny stories about my little dog. Just like all of you who have had good dogs know. But it takes time to find humor in darkness and I’m not quite there yet. Until then… “Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.” — Martin Luther



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