In 2005, we moved further into the county, and rented a house on 2 acres that was connected to a 7 acre plot my mother-in-law purchased. Not only did this move give him more land to claim as his own, but also provided him with a larger pack and an opportunity to meet other animals.
My mother-in-law had three dogs of her own – two of which were Twinkie’s puppies, making Worf a rather reluctant Uncle – as well as two horses. He made friends with a Tennessee Walker named Zephyr, and they would often bump noses and walk the fence line together, but he had no use for the Paint Horse who was unfriendly and kept to himself.
Our neighbors all had dogs that they let roam free, and the heavily wooded area behind them were populated by coyotes who you could hear howling most nights. This of course did not deter Worf, who even in his old age, was still firmly in charge.
None of the strays, coyotes, or neighbor’s dogs ever ventured onto our property, and even though there was no fencing, Worf never left his perimeter, which he had expanded to include my mother-in-law’s acreage. He was never the most imposing dog, but there was something about him that even roughneck country dogs didn’t want any part of.
Shortly after we moved in, one evening Worf accompanied me to the car to retrieve something I had left in the console. As we opened the door and stepped into the darkness, we were greeted by a cacophony of barking and howling from the mongrels on our road, who had apparently been engaged in a war of words with the coyotes deep in the woods.
Just as I was wondering how the “owners” of these dogs across the way could bear the unrelenting clamor, Worf had heard enough. With one, sharp, commanding bark, the noise immediately stopped. We completed our errand with only the sound of chirping crickets, and I once again marveled at him, as he never broke stride and led me back inside.
He asserted his iron will on everyone but me. He was the unquestioned Alpha of the three other dogs, and four cats, and could put any of them back in line simply by soundlessly showing them his teeth. They all knew that no matter how thirsty or famished or tired they were, Worf always had dibs on any of the water and food bowls, as well as the comfiest spot on the couch. Everything was at his discretion.
This domineering spirit even extended to Maggie, who would be the victim of a Worf drive-by anytime she brought a plate of food to eat in the den. If there was something she was having for dinner that he wanted, he would simply walk by and casually take it off her plate. In all honesty, she encouraged this and even got a kick out of it, but no one ever told Worf. We let him continue to think it was her penance for eating in front of him.
However, there was one animal we had that was beyond his posturing and dominance. Her name was Annie, and she was a Pygmy Goat. Maggie had always wanted a goat, so one day, after much persuading and cajoling, I relented, and she brought one home. She thought it was a good idea to let the new baby stay in the house for a couple of days, and she got what she wanted.
No one had consulted Worf though, and he voiced his displeasure each time Annie got in his line of sight. By this time, he couldn’t get around as well as he used to, so while there was no attempted cloven animal homicide, there was constant bleating, barking, and gnashing of teeth. So, eventually he got his way, and Annie made her permanent residence in a pen outside.
He gradually developed hip dysplasia, which manifested itself by him lying around more and not being able to walk across the non-carpeted floors. We couldn’t afford surgery, so we tried to combat it with supplements and massages and anti-inflammatories, but his condition worsened.
His trips outside lessened to only a few a day, but they increased in the time spent on his walks. He would be gone for what seemed like an eternity, only to show up at the porch, barking to be let back inside with his entire back half covered in sludge and dirt. He had found his own treatment in mud baths taken on the banks of my mother-in-law’s ponds. It was hard to be irritated at him, when he had a big smile on his face and a temporarily renewed pep back in his step. So, I would wash him off, dry him and gingerly carry him back inside.
When his appetite diminished, we took him to my brother-in-law Brett’s veterinarian practice, where I hoped against all odds there was something he could do. When he gently gave us the inevitable news, we travelled back home in my mother’s station wagon. I rode in the back with him, laying at his side while tears streamed down my face. I thought about all the stories I just laid out for you and wondered how I was going to get through the trials of life without my best friend.
It was extremely difficult, but eventually with the love of Maggie, and the companionship of our other animals, my grief passed. Now I am filled with joy each time I get to recount one of the amazing tales of his exploits, and I don’t care one bit if I’m boring the daylights out of the person who is hearing them for the first, or hundredth time.
The telling of those stories is as much for me as anyone else. They help to keep him alive and give me the feeling that he’s still in the other room, just a call away from being at my side again. He visits me in my dreams at least once a month, smiling, wagging his tail and being the best boy anyone could ever hope for.
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