Remembering Shiloh and Those Who Came BeforeMay 20, 2010
I’ve had the pleasure of living with many, many dogs in my life. When I was born, my parents raised Great Danes. Josie, a breeding bitch, was my first best friend and pretend pony. She played with me in the garden, even saving my baby-life from at least one Cotton Mouth.
Later, living in Northern California, I missed Josie, who we had given to a new home before moving to “the other coast”. I missed her so much, my imaginary friend was “Digger”. Digger, in my mind, was a Golden Lab, quite likely envisioned after a visit with my Uncle’s dog Sunshine who ate my crayons. Together, Digger and I would go on adventures out in the neighborhood together. In my imagination, he would dig holes to China where we would explore together, coming home with fantastical tales of the Orient.
When I was old enough to explore the local hills outside Tilden Park near our home, I one day found a neglected, matted, super-sweet Australian Shepard that I brought home, announcing to my parents he was Digger. I was quite indignant that they didn’t recognize my longtime friend. I could have cared a whit that I’d had them convinced Digger was a Golden Lab until that day. I’d found a real dog, and I knew it! We kept this new Digger for quite a while; he slept outside my sliding glass door on the deck, waiting for me at all times to run the mustard-filled fields of our hillside community. Digger was a good friend, but he moved to a new home when my parents divorced.
After the divorce, we moved to a house on the outskirts of a tiny cow-town in Norcal. There we enjoyed the company of a number of pets, from rabbits, which I bred to goats that tried to kill me to ponies I road in parades and on cattle round ups. We also had a number of fantastic canine companions. My step-father came with an old, howling Blood Hound who wasn’t long for this world. Later, we adopted a sweet German Shepard who died young. Then, Samantha — a terrier-poodle-spaniel something else mix. She was little and danty. She enjoyed being dressed up in my doll dresses as much as she liked rolling in crap with the big dogs in the cattle fields near our home. She was hit by a car, following me and my sister to a friend’s house one day. Her best buddy was Jiggs.
Jiggs and Samantha rank in the top five of my all-time dogs. And that’s saying something; I’ve lived with a lot of dogs. Jiggs was a German Shorthair Pointer. My stepdad came home one night with Jiggs tucked under his coat. Jiggs was jiggling -scared. But, quickly he settled down and became my best pal. He followed me on my pony all around our one cow town. He laid his head in our laps with sad eyes, asking for a gentle pet. Jiggs also had a wandering spirit that eventually got him into trouble. We moved from NorCal to our family farm on Virginia just before I entered my teens. Jiggs went wandering one day and never came back.
I like to think he was adopted by a farmer who loved the look of this beautiful, sweet pure-bred. More likely, though, he was probably shot for hunting some farmer’s chickens. Hopefully, I’ll never know.
Following Jiggs, we had a number of dogs on the farm. We started with Sooner, another less-than-Jiggs German Short Hair Pointer. Later, we adopted Vanessa — a fantastically beautiful Irish Setter with gas that could wilt the corn in summer. Joey, a coon hound, spent his puppy hood in my bedroom, pooping all night long; eventually, he became an outdoor dog along with a number of other coon-hounds. Phoebe became a favorite on the farm. She was an Airedale terrier we adopted. She was riddled with heart worm, but bounced back to become a fun, swamp-stinkin’ mess in winter. She lived to a great old age, following the family back to NorCal in the early 80s.
By the time the family had moved back to NorCal with Phoebe, I had moved to SoCal with my Dad. Together, we picked out Boo (aka Desmond Boo-Boo of Concord). Boo was a hilarious bear-cub of a chow-chow. He was dumb and cute and sweet and about as stubborn as they come.
He kept his girlfriend, a yellow pillow nobody wanted to touch, tucked into a special corner of the back garden where they had loving liaisons nobody wanted to see. He lived into a ripe old age long after I moved away to college.
During college, I adopted neighbor dogs in Isla Vista. Together with my (then) boyfriend Bob, we would stroll the beach with “our” dogs in tow. When we visited home, we enjoyed Bob’s parent’s dog Amber (a quirky Welsh Terrier), Phoebe, Boo, and later Laura – a crazy little Schipperke-Collie mut belonging to my littlest sister Sasha. Laura had a fantastic talent for cracking walnuts as a snack from the garden. Bob and I knew someday we’d have dogs together.
When we finished college, we eventually adopted Bronte. Bronte was a black lab mutt whose SPCA name was “Happy”. Sometimes I regret changing her name, but never do I regret adopting her. She wasn’t a great garden dog, despite learning from Laura how to crack walnuts (and eat them until she was sick). And, she eventually came to understand that “out of the garden” meant business.
After moving to Seattle and several years into Bronte’s life, we adopted Shiloh. We had recently lost one of our cats, and our pet-to-human ratio was just off. We had spent many weekends visiting shelters. I had spent a lot of time researching breeds and actually planned to get a small dog, and I swore I would not get a hound. That was my one rule. Then we met Shiloh at the Humane Society, and I ended up breaking the “no hound” rule I’d set for myself. Despite having hound-giveaway facial markings, I knew right away she was special, but we didn’t know exactly how special until a bit later.
We brought Bronte down to to the adoption garden to meet Shiloh to be sure they would get along. Bronte was dominant and picky about her friends at that point in life.
Shiloh flipped belly up immediately forging just the right relationship with Bronte. We took them home together. Shiloh quickly taught us how to keep a dog contained in the garden. She was one heckuva digger in the beginning and could escape out, under our fences in less than 5 minutes. It was amazing. Later, she evolved into an adult who could be left to wander the garden without a fence. She also came already trained to sit at corners, heel to the left, drop on command and much more. How anyone gave her up continues to amaze me. She was a quick study! Told twice to stay off the sofa, she never tried to get on it again. Told to stay out of garden beds, she almost always complied. Told to take a nap on a bed of thyme, she gladly did so, for hours while I weeded or napped on my own nearby.
Shiloh was truly a dog-loving, gardener’s dream. She wasn’t destructive — unless the plant was a brassica in which case she would devour the tasty morsels in a few quick snaps. So, sadly with a very heavy heart, today I announce the passing of the best dog I’ve ever had.
And, if you’ve read this far, you know that’s saying something. Heck, I haven’t even mentioned every dog I’ve ever had — just some of the key players that stand out in my memory. But, Shiloh, well, she’ll be a tough act for any dog to follow. Her personality was go-with-the-flow, she was gentle, she was never angry, and she was my best friend, and I miss her. Today, she has passed to the next place. I like to think she and her sister Bronte are together again now, romping carefree in the Elysian fields of doggy heaven together, caring not a whit for my gardener’s protective reprimand “out of the garden beds girls”. Their spirits are free, and sadly, my garden is empty without them.