Ten years ago this month — just a short time into my Daily Globe tenure — I got behind the wheel of my Chevy Blazer with a niece, a nephew and my Mom and drove westward to the tiny town of Steen. There, a family’s faithful German Shepherd had given birth to a rather large litter of pups, and they were free for the taking.
I’d seen the ad in the paper and was more than willing to take on the added responsibility of a pet. The truth was, I needed someone to keep me company on the rather secluded farm site I was renting in the neighborhood where I grew up.
A puppy was the perfect answer.
Yes, I was looking through rose-colored glasses at the time.
Molly’s first night was spent inside the house, inside a deep, spacious tote, inside the bathroom … with the door closed. That was a huge step from the “absolutely no pets in the house” mantra I grew up with.
She whimpered through the night. I probably did as well. As I recall, there was a thunderstorm rolling through.
My house back then was surrounded by a grove of trees, far different from the small town and nearby neighbors I’d left behind in Wabasso. Molly was to calm all my fears — the fear of being alone, the fear of critters roaming the yard at night, the fear of strangers pulling into the secluded drive.
She was to be the ultimate guard dog. Unfortunately, she didn’t know that.
Molly barked at, then ran away from, strangers. (She still won’t get within 10 feet of my oldest brother!) She barked incessantly at the critters she cornered, requiring me to call either Dad or an older brother to come with a gun. She stole orange utility flags from the ditch and a quilt off the neighbor’s clothesline. She chewed through I don’t know how many toys.
Her puppy phase likely gave me my first gray hairs. (I’ve heard that’s true with children as well.)
Now, Molly’s gray hair is evident around her muzzle. Looking more like her father’s side of the family (he was the neighborhood’s roaming Black Lab over in Steen), she’s beginning to show her age — all 10 of them if you’re counting in human years.
She grew from a mischievous puppy into a faithful companion — one that has kept my parents company for the past eight years since I moved into town. She’s never far from my side when I visit the farm, still loves to play fetch and is still ornery enough to not return the toy she retrieves.
She barks at strangers, at the farm cats and at other critters — and perhaps the greatest thing of all, she is the killer of the garter snakes.
My folks have never had a snake-killing dog before, and they may never see such a dog again.
Perhaps Molly did learn how to be an exceptional guard dog after all. She knows one of my greatest fears and has made it her job in this life to protect me from those slithering, icky, sneaky snakes.
I’d give her a kiss and a hug for being such a good dog, but she has snake germs on her.