A Good Dog Is Hard To Find

Liam, my two-and-a-half year old nephew ran up the stairs. Lena, my Border Collie was right behind him. I was a couple seconds behind her. When I got to the top of the stairs, they were staring at each other, Lena blocking the stairway. Three seconds of eye contact. One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three.  I stepped around Lena and scooped Liam up.  "Don't let Lena eat me." Lena sat down at my feet. I tried not to smile.  "Ok honey. I won't let her eat you but you can't go up the stairs without me, OK?" "Ok." ***** Lena is just one in a long line of Bonogofsky dogs that have participated in babysitting. None as good as Blackjack, a big, awesome Doberman that didn't let my sister or I out of his sight. Truth be told, he was much better than Lena because he actually cared about us. Lena sees my nephew more like a goat that needs to be herded, separated or stopped. She monitors his movements with a slight predatory look in her eye, glancing at me to see if I'm alarmed at his behavior. Blackjack and Alexis Blackjack was always by our side. He went for walks with us. He herded us away from the creek. He played with us. He slept with us. He protected us. When I was a kid, a couple of guys walked through our pastures and came up to the farmhouse. My mom, sister and I were alone. They were aggressive and belligerent, probably drunk. My mom told them to leave. The hunting dogs barked and snarled but Blackjack remained at my mom's side. His hair was stiff along his back, his eye teeth bared. A low growl vibrated in his throat. Only my mom could hear it. When they took a step forward, he took a step forward to meet them. When they took a step back, he took a step back. My mom wasn't scared of them because she knew Blackjack had it under control. They were afraid that if they turned to go he would attack them. She told them he wouldn't but what he would do was escort them off the farm. They turned to go and Blackjack followed them a quarter mile up a dirt road, on their heels, teeth bared until they hit the edge of our property. He stopped at the border and watched them until he couldn't see them anymore and came home. When he was eight, Blackjack died of dilated cardiomyopathy. It is a genetic disorder in Dobermans. His lungs filled up with blood and he drowned. He died in my mom's arms on the way to the vet. She still cries when she talks about Blackjack. He was a damn good dog. One in a lifetime. ***** Although Lena doesn't have the same attachment to my niece and nephew that Blackjack had for my sister and I, she is attached to me. That means she is interested in what I'm interested in. When I'm with the goats, she feigns interest. When I'm babysitting the kids,  she's totally into it. IMG_1448 Fast forward a couple of months from the stairs incident to Christmas night.  After the family gathering I helped my sister get the kids in the car. Liam was jacked up on new people and Christmas cookies and didn't want to get into his car seat. I had the baby and couldn't chase after him as he ran out into the dark farm yard. Lena watched him out of the corner of her eye and then looked up at me. "Lena, get 'em" She took off and within two seconds had blocked his route at the end of the driveway. He turned and started to head toward me and then broke off again away from the car. "Lena, bring him." She was one step ahead of me.  He ran three steps and she stopped him again. Their eyes met. One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three. He turned and ran toward me and grabbed my legs. Lena trotted up and sat down at my side. I looked at her and thought, she's a damn good dog.   Blackjack and me. Me and Blackjack. My sister and I and Blackjack. My sister and I and Blackjack. photo-5 Blackjack in the Beartooths. Lena and Alexis Lena and I (2011)

5 Comments on “A Good Dog Is Hard To Find

  1. Alexis~I loved Blackjack, too. What a wonderful dog! I love the way you write–you brought back so many great memories. What great pictures, too!

  2. I liked that story and the pics. I think my border collie Bear is a great dog, just like the one that preceded him, who also died from heart related congenital disease. I got over the crying, but I still miss her. She was a great dog and maybe the most beautiful I’ve ever seen; of course I’m waaay biased. Anyway, nice story. Mike sent me a link to it. Hey, I’d like to read them so I’m checking the box below.

  3. You are so right! Lena is a damn good dog but then she has a damn great owner! You are both lucky! Love it!!

  4. Heard you on the radio this morning in Walnut Creek California, was checking out your website and found this – brought tears to my eyes. My first dog, Buster is a good dog too. He’s a Bassett Hound, a gentle soul and a lover of all things. He recently had his spleen and a huge tumor attached removed – feeling better, but gave us all a scare. If the cancer doesn’t come back, we’ll have him for a couple of more years. Not sure what I will do without him ….

    • Thanks for the note James. It is so hard to lose your dog. I really hope Buster is doing well and that you have him for many more years. My old lady Maggie is around 14 and I think this is the last winter I’ll have her.