The test results are in: dogs equal love

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comJuly 21, 2012 

Why would anyone want to know the DNA of a Lowcountry dog?

I just learned that for $60 you can buy a test kit to find out to the one-hundredth decimal point all the different breeds that make up your mutt.

In the Lowcountry, that's like going out by the john boat and striking a match to three $20 bills.

It isn't exactly scientific discovery that black Labradors don't have many morals. I take that back. Labradors have no morals.

We recently lost our Lowcountry Lab Mix that was our dear friend for nine years.

The only percentage I can vouch for is that they take 100 percent of your heart.

Zoey left us with no warning. She was fine when she went to bed, but something burst inside during the night and she was gone at 8:36 a.m. the next day.

She was a pure-bred Lowcountry alpha mutt. We got her at the WingFest. Only my wife would find a couple of round, black puppies in a box that the people with the pony ride brought along. They actually wanted $20 for the flea-infested ball, and we actually paid it.

Zoey pulled us as if we were on a leash into a glorious new world in our own back yard. She went almost every day of her life to the shores of Port Royal Sound at Dolphin Head, where we took pictures of sunrises, eagles, ghost crabs and shrimp trawlers.

Zoey didn't leap into the water to retrieve sticks. She preferred to chase with bloodthirsty growls the dogs that did. What are the odds?

Not left behind

Zoey had a vocabulary that the No Child Left Behind folks would envy. My school-teaching wife kept "Zoey's Word List" on the refrigerator. A lot of words had to be spelled out around Zoey, like t-r-e-a-t and b-e-a-c-h.

A number of her words were her sub-names, like Fusby, Zoemonster, Zippy, Ziptron, Feesbie and the Fuzz. She knew everyone else's name, including the cats and neighbors, and she knew the individual ring tones when family members called.

She also knew phrases.

When we said, "No growling," she would growl. She would growl softer and softer as we kept saying, "Shhhh."

Most dogs are arithmetic dogs; Zoey was a geometry dog. She liked to play "which hand" and deduce where the prize should be.

She knew the difference between "be right back" and "we'll be back in a little while." For the former, she hopped on a bed by a window and watched the street. For the latter, she went to her "cave" for hibernation. That was beneath a bed where she always went long before we humans heard thunder. She went there every Tuesday night when fireworks blast Hilton Head Island each summer.

Gunshots caused her to run away one time at a dove shoot in rural Georgia. When I called home with the news about dark, my wife said, "Don't you come home without her." What a miserable night that was. In the morning, Zoey was lying by a tree where we left my shirt and her bed cover. Her paws were covered with open blisters.

Highway surfing

Zoey was a shameless counter thief and beggar. You'd think she'd never been fed in her life. It's an oddity of a Lowcountry dog, so giving yet always looking out for No. 1. She stole a whole chicken when it was thawing, a whole pound cake when it was cooling. She stashed many a loaf of bread beneath pillows around the house.

She ate anything, including two entire Dan Post cowboy boots. The remaining soles and heels were her favorite toys, and when we buried her ashes in our back yard, one of the boots went with her. One last game of, "Go get the boot."

She pretended to have a stainless steel stomach but it wasn't. Industrial sounds would come from within her and then she would barf junk from her delicate stomach.

Zoey loved a few people and dogs, tolerated most, and for unknown reasons hated some. On walks, people with dogs would often ask, "Is she friendly?" I'd have to say, "Who knows? What's your Zodiac sign?"

She had an innate dislike for motorcycles, bicycles, mopeds, personal watercraft, UPS trucks and school buses. On the way home from the b-e-a-c-h in the morning she would highway surf, standing on the console with her head next to mine, always looking for a chance to dart her raunchy tongue across my lips but mainly piercing the horizon for any large truck that dared cross her path. Sometimes, when things were slow, she'd settle for barking and chasing to the back window a mere painters' van.

Love

A good percentage of Zoey was marriage counselor. She would listen to anything, never tell a word, and never send a bill. She had zero tolerance for harsh tones between her people. And she wanted everyone in bed at the same time, which got earlier and earlier as the years passed and her black hair started to turn white.

Zoey went to her cave sometime during the night she got sick. I knew it was bad when I found her. But somehow in her weakness she got up and wobbled into the kitchen to tell everyone goodbye. Or so it now seems.

Our whole family and her Facebook and Twitter friends who followed her morning walks were devastated.

We soon followed advice and little signs along the way to fill the hole in our hearts with a puppy. She came from Maranatha Farm in Ridgeland. She was abandoned at four days, hand fed by a volunteer and raised in a yard full of Lowcountry dogs full of joy despite running on wheels that serve as their hind legs.

Our puppy is a Lowcountry Lab Mix, with a broken tail that sticks up like a lightning bolt. We named her Brae, as in broken vertebrae. Her eyes seem to go four different directions. Some call her a spaniel. Some call her a pit bull. Some call her a beagle. Most call her a Lab.

We call her love. No testing required.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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