New Mexico's Pet ResourceWINTER 2004


Oh, how I miss dogged friendships

By Katherine Augustine

There surely must be a special heaven for dogs who, during their lives, served humanity to the fullest extent—police dogs, guide dogs, companion dogs or dogs who are just part of the family.

Last month, I lost my 13-year-old friend, Heidi, a shepherd/chow cross. She was black with a curly tail and white spots on her chest and both toes of her hind feet—quite a distinguished-looking animal. I miss her a lot. She was only the second dog in my life to live in my home. First there was Gretchen, a blond shepherd/collie who came to me from the Eastern New Mexico University campus in Portales. NO, she did not have a Ph.D. nor was she even a student. My daughter was attending ENMU.

She arrived home on weekend with the little mutt, with plans to take her to the Animal Control Center. By the end of the week, I had cared for the dog, which had been hit by a car on our street.

Later, I took the dog to the vet to the spayed and begin a series of shots. She was to become my companion for the next 16 years.

She was a great guard dog. She barked at strangers, teased the mail carrier and growled at the meter reader—but never bit any of them. She did select a police officer’s leg to chomp on, however, when the officer came to the door to tell me that he had posted a red tag on my son’s car, which sat on the street waiting for repairs. I was authorized to put her in a kennel for a 10-day observation for rabies. I visited her each day after work, taking her favorite dog biscuits along in my purse.

She chased crows away from her food dish and kept the smaller birds from swimming in her drinking water. She loved to swim in the Rio Grande. I took her hot-air ballooning once, but she behaved so badly that she was never invited back.

After that experience, she stayed home to bark at the balloons as they floated over Albuquerque’s North Valley.

Gretchen died on Feb. 14, 1990. I thought it was extremely kind of the veterinarian, Daniel Galassini, to send me a sympathy card and offer to give me her ashes.

Heidi was born the last week of March 1990 and was 7 weeks old on May 8, 1990, when my grandson, Jon, and I adopted her.

As soon as we saw the tiny, black, furry bear of a puppy, we knew she was ours. We raced to the bank to get more dollars to take her home, because Animal control had a “cash only” policy.

Heidi was more composed and dignified than Gretchen. She even ran gracefully when I played with her. She was afraid of other dogs, thunder and lightning, and hated the racket on the Fourth of July.

She sat and watched the birds at the waterfall and even shared her food with them. She licked the back of my hand before my every departure from home and again upon my return, always walking me to the door until I was safely inside.

Heidi had many friends, from the mail carriers who gave her treats to the kids who talked to her and gave her a pat on the head on their way to and from school. She communicated with Cinnamon, her backyard collie friend, under the fence, in her own barking language.

Both of my dogs came into the house on cold winter nights and hot summer afternoons. They did not go to a groomer. I shampooed and brushed them myself. A doggie bag or box of leftover steak from a restaurant became dog treats, and they loved every morsel.

Because these dogs gave me so much joy and companionship, I have to believe that there must be a special dog heaven for them and all their counterparts.

Katherine Augustine, an Albuquerque resident, is a member of Laguna Pueblo, a retired nurse and a volunteer at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. This article first appeared in her column in the Albuquerque Tribune and is reproduced with permission.

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