I had promised my friend Rachel two months ago that when it came time to let her current litter of Scottish deerhound puppies go to their new homes, I would come to Arizona for the big send off. I bought my ticket to Tucson cheap but life has been hectic lately, between the pressures of work and the constant buzzing of the chainsaws at home—we’re five weeks into major tree trimming and repairs of a seriously neglected irrigation system. By the end of last week, I had serious qualms about leaving for the weekend, and I expressed them to my good friend and traveling companion Robin who had also had some second thoughts. In the end, we both concluded that it might be good to get away, and so with promises to one another that NEITHER of us was taking a puppy home, we embarked. Some promises are harder to keep than others.
Rachel lives in the far southeastern corner of Arizona, where a triangle of towns including Sierra Vista, Bisbee and Tombstone serve up a little piece of the old West. Fort Huachuca, anchoring the western end of the triangle, is a living history museum. There, General Nelson Miles fought off Geronimo in 1886. In 1913, the fort became the base for the famous “Buffalo Soldiers” of the tenth Cavalry Unit, comprised entirely of African Americans. Later, and to this day, the base has become a center of strategic command and military intelligence. Needless to say, the area is not easy to get to, which makes it remarkable that prospective puppy owners made the long trek by car from Colorado, New Mexico, and California to claim their prizes. Some of us, including Robin and me, were there just to visit, to help educate new owners on the ins and outs of this rather quirky breed, and let’s face it—to smell the puppy breath.
What is it about a puppy that can melt the heart of a full grown man? Is it the remembrance of boyhood hours spent in the company of a scruffy dog, walking back roads while kicking a can, and trailing a stick behind? Is it the potential fulfillment of a primordial urge to hunt—to “bring home the bacon” by partnering with a sentient being who is fleeter of foot and keener of eye and nose and ear? Is it that need to nurture which is largely suppressed in our culture where it is not “manly” to be kind, and sensitive? I forgot to take my camera last weekend, but my cell phone is now full of pictures of happy new owners, their faces shining wet with kisses, and arms filled with awkward deerhound pups whose feet were nearly as big as their heads—puppies who will indeed make their owners feel like “The Laird of the Manor.” After they are through destroying the living room couch and shredding the oriental carpets.
Despite my insistence that I am not in the market for another dog, I found myself under the spell of the runt of the litter, a little girl with a blue collar and a kinked tail. She was feisty, that one—seeking attention from and bestowing kisses upon the gathered humans, yet fierce in mock battle with her brothers—a future Queen for sure. I was happy to be flying home, because if I had driven the temptation to put her in the car might have overwhelmed my good judgment. Still, I could not help feel a twinge of regret when Rachel called me today to say that the couple from New Mexico were so pleased with their male puppy that they were coming back for Little Blue Girl. Good choice on their part—I am quite certain that despite the tail she will knock ‘em dead in the ring and on the field. For me, there will be another puppy, another day. Count on it.
“Buy a pup and your money will buy love, unflinching.” Rudyard Kipling