Sarge came to us as a fuzzy little Australian Shepherd puppy that was classified as a blue merle. He was mostly black with white on his chest and feet and always had a happy demeanor. Sarge always made an impression on people and once people had met him, they would always ask “How’s Sarge?” or “Where’s Sarge?”
Australian Shepherds were bred to be sheep dogs, and it was their duty to take care of the herd of sheep, day and night. This meant never letting a wolf or coyote slip in and take a lamb. Some Australian Shepherds will sleep while sitting up, and the predator who is watching for a chance to come in for the kill sees the dog sitting up and believes that he is wide awake, when, in fact, he may be sound asleep.
We always took Sarge with us when we traveled to our little white house in Mississippi. Quite often we would look in the back seat and Sarge would be sitting there apparently looking out the SUV window…sound asleep.
When we passed through Carrollton, Mississippi, there would often be a bunch of guys hanging out on one corner of the town square. Sarge would show us how brave he was and bark furiously at these guys as we drove by. He started getting pumped up for this event a few miles before we arrived in Carrollton.
One time, we came around the square and guess what? There were no guys hanging out on the corner, but Sarge was already pumped full of anticipation and he had to let it out, so he went into attack mode, as usual, and put on a really good show, barking his head off.
When I arrived home from work each day, Sarge felt that he had to put on some kind of show to reaffirm what a great dog he really was. He developed one really good act involving the three little dogs who were fenced in by our neighbor to the back of our lot.
Sarge would slip down toward their fence with his head down pretending to be stalking the little barking dogs. Then he would run back and forth outside their fence and work the little airheads into a virtual frenzy. Sarge would then prance proudly back to me, seemingly saying “How about them dawgs? Did you see what I just did? I’m a really great dog!”
Sarge really loved to play soccer. He would control the ball and even stop and put a paw on the ball as if to challenge anyone to get the ball. One day the little girl next door, who had invited some friends to play soccer at her house, rang our doorbell. She asked us to help her, complaining that Sarge would not let them have the ball.
When I walked back and forth mowing my yard, Sarge would walk back and forth alongside of me, ever the faithful companion, even while working. When we would travel to our little white house in Mississippi, one of my first chores would be to get the wheelbarrow and pick up the limbs that invariably would fall from the dozen or so oak trees in our yard. Sarge would participate by picking up limbs and running around with a limb in his mouth. When we arrived at our house, he would immediately go over to the wheelbarrow and bark at it as if to say “Let the game begin.”
When we were leaving the little Mississippi white house to go into town for groceries, I would tell Sarge to watch the house and take care of everything. I could not do this today since the coyotes have moved in and they might attack a lone dog. When we returned from town, Sarge would be sitting in the front yard or on the porch; and he would seem to say as he wagged his bushy tail, “I did my job and everything is okay.”
However, one day we returned from town and Sarge was not at his usual stations. I went out back and called for Sarge, as I faced the woods, but no Sarge answered. Our twenty acres is surrounded by 50,000 U.S. Government acres that comprise the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, so we had a big back yard for Sarge to roam in. I went back into the living room, seated myself looking out across our large yard toward the woods.
Shortly, I saw Sarge slinking along the edge of the woods with his tail down. He would frequently look toward the house as if checking to see if anyone had detected him. He crept around into the front yard and his tail magically sprang up, a happy smile came to his face, and he seemed to say “Hey folks, I have been here all of the time, just doing my job!” The Free Spirit had been out in the woods just exploring and doing his thing, but I could not scold him, for some dogs just need to explore.
We have a hand dug well lined with brick near the back corner of our acreage. I would occasionally go back there to check it out. Sarge seemed to know where I was going and would go on ahead. He would be sitting by the well when I got there.
One day, Lucy answered the doorbell and there stood a boy, perhaps about 10 years old, who asked, “Can I see your dog?” About that time, Sarge appeared and the boy said “Yes, you are the guilty one; two of them look just like you.” Well, the Free Spirit had apparently paid a visit to the Golden Retriever down the street.
The event turned out well, because we got one of the puppies that looked like Sarge. Life would never be the same for Sarge after he became a father. (see the story about Bebe, his daughter).
Unfortunately, we lost our Free Spirited happy dog at about age 10 due to cancer. He was a source of happiness to everyone that he met.
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