My Dog: My Hero

John W. Pinkerton

I’ve noticed over the years that when the conversation lulls with people we barely know, dogs and cats are subjects about which almost everyone has stories to tell.  I’ll not tell you about every pet through the years, just the one who was my buddy.

We had other dogs before Joe Bean, but Joe Bean was the one dog that made the others dim in my memory.  Joe entered our lives via railway car: Mother ordered him from one of the Carolinas.  He arrived via freight car: a three day trip without water or food.  When he arrived, to say that he was in a sad state would be a mild description.  Mother was sure that she had been snookered by the folks from whom she had bought the dog.  Perhaps she was, but Joe Bean never complained: he was home.

Joe quickly grew into a handsome brute: I’ve never seen a more muscular dog.  As kids we would spin Joe Bean with his jaws firmly gripped on a towel until we surrendered.  Joe never loosened his grip until we did.  He seemed to really love the game.  I once watched him chasing an old truck down the road: apparently, the speed of the truck was not sufficiently entertaining, so he ran in front of the vehicle leading it down the road.  Unfortunately the old truck caught up with him: first the bumper, then the undercarriage and out the back, happy as a kid with candy.  If you question his muscularity, perhaps this will convince you.  Dad along with my brother and me aboard drove over Joe causing him no harm.  We saw Joe sleeping under the back wheel of the ‘57 Oldsmobile, but, of course, we assumed that he would move when the car was started.  Nope, as Dad began to back out of the driveway, the back of the car rose and settled as the tire rolled over Joe.  He did react: he walked a few feet from the car and stared at us accusingly.  No harm.  No fowl.

Joe loved people, that is, people he knew.  A stranger on the property was always met by a determined guard who placed himself between the stranger and his house.  He didn’t skulk about and whine at the visitors.  He never found it necessary to attack: his attitude told the visitor to wait until one of us welcomed the visitor.  This came in handy on a couple of occasions when folks from the nearby mental institution would wander off and come on to our property.

Joe loved no animal be they beast or fowl: his obvious disdain for animals led to some funny events.  Ducks on an icy pond could not go without an attack.  Joe galloped on to the ice at full speed: if a dog can have a funny expression on his face, Joe did as he slid half way across the pond when he tried to brake when he came to the ducks.  Of course, the ducks pulled themselves together and fled as Joe made his way to solid land as the ice crackled beneath his paws with every step.  Most of us really like ham, but Joe once took this affinity to an extreme.  We, mother my brother and I, were for some reason riding down an old logging road way out in the woods when Joe needed a relief break.  We all got out of the car to stretch our legs while Joe took care of his business.  Off in the distant woods a wild pig grunt invited Joe to run at full speed to his location.  Of course we followed.  It was a piglet about Joe’s size.  He quickly had the little fellow sprawled on his back squealing for mercy.  I jumped in and straddled the pig while my younger brother ran back to the car to retrieve a raincoat which we used to wrap Joe in and drag him back to the car.  We all expected the mama pig to show up and eat all of us, except Joe of course.  Cows were of no great interest to Joe: he tolerated them well as long as they didn’t come onto his property.  If they did, they only had themselves to blame for the nips taken from their shanks.  As for cats, they didn’t last long.

As for other dogs, Joe took on all breeds of all sizes and dispositions.  He truly had the heart of a champion.  The funniest encounter was with a big black dog he came upon in the woods one day.  It was instant hatred for each dog, and in the course of the struggle, they tumbled into a nearby creek.  Joe saw the opportunity to best his opponent and save himself by standing on top of the black dog.  Seeing that this was not going to end well for Blacky, my brother jumped into the creek to rescue him.  Joe sank to the bottom but walked out of the creek.  The worst whipping Joe ever got was from a couple of good sized hounds who lived near us.  Joe’s disdain for these fellows was expressed once when he jumped out of a moving car, bit one on the nose, and followed the car on to the house.  I think he was laughing.  The laughs were pretty limited when they fought one day until Joe was damn near dead.  Joe managed to drag himself home with huge open cuts all over  his body.  It was pretty obvious that those fellows were playing for keeps.  He was out of action, but he was plotting his revenge.  We doctored him as best we could and gradually he began to move around a little.  He spent a lot of time lying around in the sun slowly healing.  As he got better, he moved out to the edge of our property with his nose pointed up the hill toward the home of the hounds.  When he was back in fighting shape, he went up that hill and whipped both of those dogs.  Nuff said.  No more problems with the hounds.  Unfortunately, Joe intimidated all dogs, little fluffy ones and sweethearts like collies.  Many times I had to beat Joe off inferior opponents, usually with a handy log.  Although he seemed to question my judgement, he never held it against me.

Joe was with us for many years.  I was in my third year of college at LSU when I came home to learn that Joe had been missing for three days.  Although the sun had set, I had an urge to look for him.  Not having a flashlight, I took rolled up newspaper and matches and my younger brother with me.  We walked up the gravel road about a quarter of a mile where the road intersected another gravel road, walked east about 200 yards, stepped off the road about thirty feet and lit the newspaper torches.  There he was.  It was apparent what had happened: some loggers had been felling trees, and Joe couldn’t match that tree.

My memories of Joe will never fade: a good dog, a good friend.  He was everything I was not:  smart, strong, with a heart as big as Dallas.


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