Puppy with some history | AspenTimes.com

Puppy with some history

Tony Vagneur
Aspen, CO Colorado

Back in the 1940s, my paternal grandfather had a string of bad fortune that is hard to comprehend, even today. His wife, Grace, had died of cancer in her early 40s, and my granddad went into depression, a not unreasonable reaction, I suppose. Soon after, and in retaliation for some trespassing cows, one of his brothers came by in my grandfather’s absence and shot four of granddad’s prize hunting hounds. To make a long story short, Gramps ended up in a Denver hospital, undergoing treatment for severe depression.

It’s a tough world for dogs, I reckon. First, they’re plucked from the security of their mothers and unceremoniously hauled away by people like me, anxious to begin a new relationship. We steer them by becoming disciplinarians, chastising them for evacuating bodily systems where they shouldn’t, and offering hugs and pats at what seem appropriate times to us, without really understanding what the four-legged critters think about it all. Of course, we soon get them to come around to our way of thinking, otherwise dogs would be about as popular as coyotes for pets.

There’s a magical dynamic between people and dogs, one which has been written about excessively, but never really quite defined. Take a grumpy old man and give him a dog, and pretty soon the old man will be grumpy to everyone but his dog. Or something like that.

I’ve been without a dog for so long that it’s almost past the point of relevancy. Everyone I ride with has a cow dog, so what’s the need, I’ve always said. This past summer, however, the realization came, driving cows alone more and more, that if I didn’t get my own dog, I would put myself deaf from yelling at the damned cows. As with some dogs, there is the risk that my ears will now be the recipient of loudness directed toward my canine companion, but I’m just not going to have that kind of a dog ” I can see that already.

If you’re at all like me, you don’t like shopping, particularly in big, corporate-owned stores, but my eyes were opened last weekend. Looking for some odds and ends, I stopped at the pet emporium in the new Glenwood mall and felt totally out of place. With my own pup safely sequestered in the truck, with plenty of air and water, I found the store incongruously full of dogs and smiling people. And pleasant clerks. Perhaps they’d had a dog show, or some other canine event and had, in a moment of pure altruism, allowed dogs within the walls of a retail establishment? Well, not hardly. That is just business as usual for that unusual bazaar. I have to say, it was so amiable just being in there that I expect to go back sometime soon, if nothing else just to look around.

So anyway, there’s Gramps holed up in a hospital in Denver, hankering to get rid of the incessant blackness deep inside, and as he makes progress, the doctors finally say it’s safe for him to go home. Never mind that “home” is a tragically changed place, one that will take years of adjustment to get used to ” just in time to die, really. But Granddad was a smart man and on the way back, he picked up a border collie pup to help with the healing. And he named him Topper, as in “Top of the world to ya, sonny.” It worked and Gramps went on to become one of my earliest heroes.

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I knew before I took delivery of my own border collie pup what the deal was, but still, there was a bit of fullness in my eyes as I picked up tiny Topper and held him for the first time. He’ll never comprehend the history or the story, but he’ll for sure feel the love. The best I can do.