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Loving and Losing a Dog

Lent Lourens, a South African living in Uganda, is a dear friend of ours.

Yesterday she had to put down her twelve year old dog.

I was reminded of the pain of losing a dog.

I thought about this story from our novel,  A Good Place.

Male readers often say,  “Curt, I cried when I read that chapter about Bo the Dog.”

My answer is always,  “So did I.”

No tears in the writer.

No tears in the reader.

 

Enjoy Chapter 15 of A Good Place.

 

 

Mayo Moore is a young man in Louisiana during the early months of the Civil War. He shares (in first person) about a memorable time:

 

I’d told you earlier there were two things that went missing that winter. Mr. Merkle’s vanishing was the first. The second one was even more painful for me, and to be honest, it bothered me a lot more than the man’s disappearance.

Hog dogs are born to hunt—as well as born to wander, and my cur dog Bo was no exception. If we didn’t keep him tied, it wasn’t unusual for him to disappear for a couple of days.

Eventually, he’d show back up, muddy, bloody, or both. Often his paws were raw from the miles he’d traveled. He’d retire to his dusty spot under the front steps, licking his wounds as he recovered from wherever he’d been—and whatever he’d been doing.

One time when Bo returned, Daddy said, “Well, I believe he’s been out fighting again.”
“What was he fighting?”

“Probably that herd of wild hogs that stay north of the slough.”

Another time he studied Bo. “Hmm, he’s been off loving. Look at his sly look—I think he’s been making the rounds of his girlfriends again.”

Bo lay there, seeming to grin at Daddy’s comments.

However, about a week after Silas Merkle’s disappearance, Bo went missing. On the first and second day, I didn’t worry. By the end of the second day, I began to fret. Something just felt wrong. I took Daddy’s cow horn, blowing it repeatedly at the edge of the swamp. Normally, a few toots was all it took to bring Bo running.

My pitiful calling brought Momma out on the porch, wiping her hands on her apron. “Boy, give me that thing. I’ll show you how it’s done.”

It embarrassed me—and irritated me—that she could blow it better than me. However, I said nothing—I was worried about Bo, and if her blowing hastened his return, it didn’t matter.

For the next hour, I sat on the porch watching for him to show

up.
When he didn’t appear, I began looking, starting with the

neighbors, inquiring if they’d seen Bo. Stopping at the Merkle home, Felix, the meanest of the twins said, “No, we ain’t seen your old dog, but Daddy said if he showed up here again, he was gonna shoot him.”

I recalled how Mr. Merkle pointed his rifle at Bo on the day of the theft. Picturing that scene, I remembered Miz Girlie’s words, “Don’t trust no man who don’t like dogs.”

I was glad this dog-hating man was gone. It didn’t matter to me where he’d gone. I was just happy he was gone.

I turned to Felix. “In Ten Mile country, to shoot a man’s dog is a serious thing. Even talking about it is fightin’ words.”

“Well, you better keep your smelly dog away from here or …”

He stopped, and I’m glad he did. I left, determined to find my dog, a growing knot in my stomach pushing me on.

I broadened my search to the hog wallow near the creek. Blowing the horn from time to time, I waited for Bo to bound out of the swamp.

He didn’t bound. There was no sign of my dog.

It was a good walk to the wallow, but I smelled it long before I saw it. Around the wallow were lots of fresh hog signs—muddy holes and dirt smeared on tree trunks.

No hogs were there, and neither was there any sign of Bo. Standing there, I alternated between blowing the horn and hollering, “Hunt ‘em up. Bo. Come on, Boy. Hunt ‘em up.”

The only answer was my echo.

The evening’s long shadows reminded me that it was nearing dark, but I wouldn’t leave yet. I crossed the shallow creek there, deciding to make a quick round before going home.

Coming up the far bank, I found and followed a small trail of dried blood. It led me straight to Bo, who lay on his side.

I ran, calling his name, but there was no movement. As I knelt down, Bo roused and weakly raised his head. He was alive and that was all that mattered.

My touch brought a low guttural growl from him as he bared his teeth. I’d never seen him act this way before.

Then I saw a dried pool of blood on the leaves. My closer inspection revealed a terrible wound that gaped across his belly. He was lying on his side, covering most of the wound, but the amount of blood was enough to know my dog was hurt bad.

I needed to examine the wound, so I eased closer, talking softly. ‘Here, you go boy. You know I ain’t gonna hurt you.”

He growled lowly, but I held my ground. Bo might bite me, but I wasn’t backing off. Daddy had taught me that even the best dog could turn on you when hurt. He told me to use a soft voice and slow movements in situations like this.

Whether from fatigue or sensing my affection I don’t know, but Bo lay his head down. I reached over and patted it reassuredly. He grunted as I attempted to move him, but seemed to sense that I was no threat.

I’d seen enough tusk wounds to know how jagged and irregular a hog cut can be, but nothing prepared me for the terrible gash I saw. He’d been cut across his belly, and his entrails showed. Blood was everywhere, and I wondered how long he’d lain there. Tears ran down my cheeks, “Bo, if I’d known you were hurt, I’d been here sooner.”

In spite of his weakened state and pain, his tail softly thumped in the leaves.

“Boy, I ain’t sure you’re gonna survive this.”

It was common for hog dogs to get cut, and I’d seen neighbors sew up dogs from tusk wounds. I’d once held another dog as Daddy sewed its ear back on after it was torn loose in a fight.

However, I knew in my heart that Bo’s wounds were too severe for to survive. I wondered how long he’d lain there without water. Using my hat, I carried water from the creek, which he lapped up weakly.

Only a true dog lover can understand how I felt as I knelt there, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. Darkness was falling over the swamp. I swallowed hard, having no idea what to do next.

I only knew one thing—this was my dog, and I wasn’t leaving him.

Join us tomorrow for the rest of this story from A Good Place.

 

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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