A boy and his dog. A simple phrase that conjures Norman Rockwell paintings of The Good Old Days.
A boy throwing a stick and his dog fetching it. A boy teaching his dog to shake hands. A boy and his dog asleep huddled together on the back seat of a car on a long trip.
Bradford and I were taking a walk out in the county near Gainesville. By chance we met a farmer who had come down to his mailbox to gather his mail. A little beagle followed him.
Bradford knelt to pet her.
I said to the farmer, “I wish my son had a dog like that.”
“You can have her, if you want her,” he said. “She’s gun shy and I can’t hunt rabbits with her. She’s no good for me.”
So the little beagle came home with us.
There was a popular movie at that time called “Lady and the Tramp.” The dog we brought home looked like the sweet dog from the movie, so we named her Lady.
When we first got Lady, we lived on Mount Olive Drive in Decatur. There was very little traffic in our neighborhood, so Lady had free rein. A little creek ran through our back yard and on the other side lived Bob Bell, who also had a beagle.
Bob would let his male beagle out about 7:00 a.m., and he would come to our back door and bark. This was the signal for us to let his girlfriend out so they could make their neighborhood rounds. He would always bring her home in a half hour or so.
This worked out well until Shamrock High School was built a few blocks away. With teenage drivers whipping by our house, the neighborhood suddenly became an undesirable place for our little boy and his dog.
We sold the house we loved on Mount Olive and moved to a safer neighborhood with very little traffic. Away from the bridge that I had built across the creek. Away from the Tramp next door.
We moved to Leafmore, a good place for dogs and boys to grow up, with bigger yards to play in. Like most of our neighbors, we ignored the county leash laws, but we never had any complaints.
One day, Lady was sleeping peacefully in our back yard when an Animal Control Unit spotted her. They stopped and got out of the truck.
Our neighbor Ann swooped in, gathered Lady in her arms and ran for her house, locking the door behind her. The Animal Control officers banged on her door, but Ann would not answer.
They finally gave up and drove away. Lady was safe again.
One time we went on vacation and we wanted to stay at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel in Tennessee. Unfortunately, they didn’t allow pets.
I wrapped Lady in a blanket and covered her face with it, carrying her like a baby, and we snuck by the front desk.
Lady was a good girl and did not bark during the night. We smuggled her out the same way, and the Chattanooga Choo Choo never knew they had harbored an illegal guest.
Lady had an independent streak. Once, she was across the street when I called her. She looked at me, then completely ignored me as I called her again and again.
I started across the street, but she took off into the woods behind the neighbor’s house. I chased her up the hill and was gaining on her. (She didn’t know that I had been on the track team at Mars Hill College. I still have a team sweater with an “M” on it to prove my case.)
As we ran up the hill, four large dogs appeared at the crest. You’ve seen in the comics how an animal puts on the brakes when danger appears?
When Lady saw the dogs, she did the classic stop, turned around and quickly decided to go home with daddy. Smart dog, that Lady.
There is a photo of Bradford and Lady lying on the floor of Bradford’s fort, six feet above the ground. Someone had to lift Lady up into the fort since it was accessible only by a rope ladder or a climbing rope.
But that’s another story.