Local History: Man’s best friend

For those who have dogs, or those who have had dogs, I write this article.

Growing up, we always had dogs. My earliest memory is a Great Dane named Baron. We kept a beagle or two for hunting. Jill, a mongrel, was the family pet. Later, my folks had German shepherds.

Dogs became part of the family. It was always emotional to put one down. I was talking with Lisa at Smitty’s recently. She had to put her dog down just before Thanksgiving. You know the emptiness.

Beagle. Isn't she beautiful? Photo by Ron Patch
Beagle. Isn’t she beautiful? Photo by Ron Patch


In the 1970s, now with my own family, we had Spanky. We lived in the brick house south of Chester on Route 103. I noticed a stray dog hanging around. She was skittish and wouldn’t come to me when I called her although you could tell she wanted to.

After a couple days, hunger forced her to come to me. Spanky, as we named her, was a spaniel mix. It didn’t take long for her to become part of the family. She was a wonderful dog.

I’ve lived alone much of my adult life. Hillary and Beagle were my companions.


Some will remember when Evelyn Cummings worked at the Springfield Humane Society.

I went over one day to see what they might have for dogs. I love hounds but they have difficult traits. They are stubborn, tend to howl, their nose always to the ground, and they never come when you try to call them off a scent they have detected. However, they are very intelligent and affectionate animals.

I always look for a hound mix. Perhaps the hound traits have been watered down some by mix breeding.

I told Evelyn I was looking for a hound mix. We walked out through the kennel. One dog stood out. She was a shepherd and beagle mix. When I asked Evelyn about her, Evelyn said, “She doesn’t like men,” so I passed her by. No dog for me today.

A few weeks later, I went back. Evelyn wasn’t there that day. Again, I saw this man-hating beagle mix. I asked to see her. The attendant put her on a leash so I could walk her about.

She was a hardheaded, high-strung, good-for-nothing dog with tons of pent up energy, a real nutcase. This dog didn’t have one redeeming quality. We came home together.

It took a lot of time and impatience, but Hillary was born. She was the size of a large beagle with short, stocky, shepherd-like legs. One day in the woods, we encountered a large raccoon. Hillary attacked. She killed that coon before I could get to her. Another time, up at the pond, she caught an otter out of the water with the same results.

While she had the temperament of a beagle, she could be aggressive like a shepherd. Where I went, Hillary went. Hillary was the best dog I ever knew.

When you live alone with a dog as I have, you become the dog’s everything. The day came when I had to put Hillary down. God, that was hard. This is why I mention Lisa.


It was a couple years before I was ready to have another dog.

Beagle was another rescue dog and a hound mix. We were unsure just what breed she was but probably foxhound or walker. She was a mellow girl – young, trim, with long legs. How she could run!

Beagle was extremely intelligent. It’s fun to mess with a dog. There was a certain hand gesture I made. When I did, Beagle would lift her head up and “Barrooo, barrooo” in her deep voice.

Don Webster stopped by one day. I showed Don this trick. How he laughed.

Well, I had to dig her grave too. I haven’t had a dog since. It’s just too hard on me. But if I see a dog in public I always say “Hello” and make of them, petting and talking to them.

About the time they are licking my face, I say, “Did I ever tell you I hate dogs?”

It’s not what you say but the tone of your voice that dogs identify with.

Sometimes I ask, “Should I call the humane society and report the abuse?”

Most owners get it and laugh, but every now and then I meet Mr. or Mrs. Too Serious. “You get away from my dog!” I wonder what their childhood was like.

  This week’s old saying: “A poor man keeps a dog. A very poor man keeps two.”

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