Posted 04-23-2004 at 04:56:48
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At eleven months old, Red dog is no longer a puppy. He stands about twenty-six inches at the back and weighs between ninety and a hundred pounds. He's a square-headed, well-muscled, Florida red cur and still sometimes acts like a dumb puppy, as he is young yet. But nowadays, when a stranger pulls in the yard, they think long and hard before getting out. Not that he would hurt anyone, but he has developed a habit of standing still and staring steadily at people he doesn't know. A habit that sometimes makes even me uneasy, and I've known him since he was five weeks old.
He will look you right in your eye, as though direct eye contact gives him the ability to read your mind. He doesn't flinch and he doesn't blink, he just stares, and if he's not wagging his tail at the moment, it can make you feel a little like potential prey.
The only thing Red Dog is really good for is cornering piglets. He's not sure why he's doing it, or what he's supposed to do when he corners them, but he causes enough of a stir that he is a help, as he will eventually distract one long enough for us to catch it. A little praise goes a long way with Red Dog. A simple "gooood dog" will have him wagging his rear end all the way up to his neck and grinning like a fool. So, when we have to catch piglets, Red Dog always helps, in one respect or another, and some days are better than others.
Last weekend, we enlisted his help to catch the last of the weaners, and he proved pretty well so useless. He ran around in circles and kept looking back over his shoulder as though he was waiting for intructions, and although the instructions came, they didn't seem to help him any. As the piglets were caught, given shots, castrated (if applicable) and released, we marked them with a blue livestock crayon. A big smear on the tops of their heads between the ears so it would be easy to spot the ones that we had already handled.
We were about halfway through with the process when I looked up at Red Dog and had to laugh out loud. Due to repeated contact with some of the marked piglets, the blue crayon, which is a lot like a grease pencil, had rubbed off onto his face. His face was now half blue. The fact that he had no idea that he was thusly painted, made it even funnier.
"Will you look at that dumb dog." I said to Fred.
"Yeah, he looks a little like Sir William Wallace from Braveheart." Fred said, laughing.
"He does!" I agreed. "Sons of Scotland!" I said in my best Scottish accent. "Here is Sir William Wallace! He is 7 feet tall and kills men by the hundreds! He's come here to consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse!"
"Hey, Sir William! Catch up that little red one with the black spots, will ye lad?!" Fred joked, and we engaged in a little idiotic giggling as red Dog stared back, his tail ticking back and forth, his silly half-blue face staring that stare that he has become famous for.
"He seems to like the name." I commented, and Fred glanced up at me, and our eyes met.
"It's as good a name as any." He replied. "It beats the heck out of 'Red Dog'."
I snagged the dog as he ran past and held him as I gazed into his brown eyes...
"Fight and ye may die." I said dramatically. "Run, and ye'll live, at least for a while, and dying in your bed, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that...for one chance...just one chance to come back here to tell our enemy that they may take out lives, but they will never take our freedom!?!"
Pant, pant, tongue hanging out to the ground, grinning that silly grin. I turned him loose and off he went in his quest for the next victim. Maybe it was my imagination, but somehow this time when he moved he seemed more graceful, more determined, a little bit better at what he was doing, and while he didn't corner the red one with the black spots, he did corner one that hadn't been handled and Fred and I were laughing so hard it was all we could do to follow procedure.
As he stood there, his tongue protruding from his half blue face it became official. His name was now Sir William Wallace. Later that day, while on my way out to collect eggs, I caught him poised at the gate to the driveway, his eyes fastened on the dirt road.
"What are ye about, Sir William?" I asked.
He turned on his heel and up the road he went. Maybe it was just the wind, but I would swear that I heard him whisper...