A Nice Little Dog Story
By John R. Greenwood
In the mid 60's my father took me to an old country farm on Route #28 in the small Adirondack town of North Creek and let me pick out a beagle pup. They were out in an old barn on the property. It was early fall and I remember the smell of musty hay and the sound of whimpering pups. I picked the happiest one. I named him Snoopy of course, Snoop for short.
This story starts with the vision of him coming home with us, curled up in an old blanket on my lap. It ends with me sitting on the living room floor sorting through some old photographs. In between were many memories, mostly hunting stories.
The story of Snoop's last rabbit hunt is sad. I was a kid. I took it hard and my Aunt Ann felt especially bad. To ease the pain and help me remember him she sent me a gift. It was the life-like ceramic beagle pictured above. It was a little smaller than the real life Snoop but the resemblance was spot on. It was her way of consoling me. I am forever grateful for her compassion. That beagle sat quietly in my parents living room for years. When they passed away Snoop faithfully followed me home and has been loyally guarding our living room ever since.
One night as I sat on the floor sorting through some old photographs I happened upon one of Snoop and me when I was around ten. I suddenly had this strange feeling. Looking at the photo gave me a little chill. It was one of those Ghost Hunter moments they repeat a half dozen times to make it seem more believable. All I can say is it did stop me dead in my tracks and I immediately glanced over at the ceramic Snoop sitting a few feet away, minding his own business. My eyes were drawn to the thin red collar around his neck. It was the original collar that he came with but I never noticed the metal dog tag attached to it before. That ceramic dog had been following me for four decades and that was the first time I paid that close attention to it. I reached out, pulled the dog over and grabbed the tag. I turned it over and immediately I knew what had drawn me to it. It was the last dog tag from my dog Snoop. It had a date of 1970 on it. My father must have gotten it from the vet the day he died. He added it to the collar at some point--when I'll never know. Like a soldier clasping the tag of his fallen friend I sat there motionless staring at my discovery. I'm not sure what got to me more; the fact that I was looking at my dogs original dog tag; or the vision of my father adding it to the thin red collar around a ceramic dogs neck. Combined they were a true gift.
I thought of how many times I'd walked by that dog in the last forty years. It was the gesture that took my breath. The collar and tag were more than a prop, more than decoration. It was a four decade long hug my father struggled to perform in real life.
So on this Christmas morning as I sit here and listen to the snowplow slowly rounding the corner, I am reminded of what the holiday season is about. It should be a time to slow down and look closer at the things around you. Pay attention to the signs right in front of you. Sometimes the closer you look the more you see, and then again sometimes you have to step back and look at life from a greater distance or from another point of view. The idea is not to pigeon hole people or ideas. Keep an open mind, and open eyes. Be observant and understanding. Make compassion a priority. Don't be afraid to ask if someone is okay or if they need a helping hand. Don't take the little things for granted. There just may be a sign of love right under your nose--or around the neck of your ceramic Snoop.
Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year!
John R. Greenwood