You really can’t make it without friends. You know that. But frankly, making and keeping good friends takes time and effort and sometimes it isn’t all that satisfying. So I say – Thank Goodness for Rover! Not many people are so happy to see you every time you walk in the door, jumping up and down, running in circles, barking and smiling with their tongues hanging out. And people usually have to go off somewhere after a while. They can’t just lay around at your feet while you watch TV. Plus, sometimes they’ll hurt you. And desert you. Heck, they’ll take your soul if you let them. Ah, well, but you don’t have to let them, if you’ve got a friend in a loyal canine companion.
Henry Briscoe knew that and celebrated the great friendship of dogs and man in an article called “Dogs and Dawgs” about his house dog– a French poodle name Jacques–and his yard dog, a stray rat terrier named Quixote. Jacques the house dog was “smart and a real gentleman. You could set food on the floor, and he wouldn’t bother it. Also, he disengaged his barker when we went to bed. When a member of the family was gone for over two days and then came home, he’d give them his best welcoming performance–going into a barking and running fit and keeping it up for three or four minutes. Even if you were gone for a year or so, he’d remember and go into his act; it was rewarding. He would even recognize some of our long-time close friends and do his act. Jacques was separated from his family for only two or three nights in his life. Where we went, he went.”
The quixotic yard dog didn’t have Jacques’ refined table manners–because at first he was just trying to keep body and soul together, usually by raiding the garbage can. “When you’re ten inches tall, raiding garbage cans is difficult when the top of the can is two feet higher than you are. But Quixote did it. Somehow he’d knock the top off and then flat jump up in the can. Sometimes he’d be out of sight, but about every ten seconds or so, that head would pop out. He’d take a look around, drop back in, and get on with the raiding. He actually lost weight and I couldn’t stand it. When we started feeding him he became a little more gentle and quit raiding garbage cans. He’s now gained some self-respect, and every time anyone goes out in the yard, he’s there. He’ll stay with you as long as you’re there. If he can discern which way you’re gonna walk, he’ll get out in front, kinda prancing and proud. That’s a really strange sight because when he was undergoing the abuse that made him like this, someone apparently slammed a door on his tail, and when he’s marching northward, his ol’ tail comes straight up for about two inches then makes a 90 degree turn and points due west. Ya kinda want to look over in that direction to see what he’s pointing at.”
Henry also knew that if you look around, you can literally find friends everywhere. If a deer or a squirrel or a cow had a name, he’d made friends with it. There was Ol’ Lightning, the black cow who had a love-hate relationship with whoever was milking her, and Dumbo, a beautiful little three point buck that “we began to see before deer season opened when we were feeding corn. Almost every evening Dumbo would be waiting for his supper. Sometimes you could walk within forty yards, pour out the corn, and Dumbo would never move a muscle except to turn his head and watch your every move. Sometimes he would be looking over a pear bush, sometimes behind a mesquite, and sometimes he’d be right out in the open. Even if Dumbo had a large rack, I couldn’t have pulled the trigger because, you see, over the weeks, some sort of mutual understanding developed. If I’d shot, I would have “broken the faith.” It was another wonderful and mysterious connection between man and beast.”
Henry had a contingent of faithful friends and admirers in his small herd of cows. There was the graceful Beefmaster . . . “you could be standing in the middle of a dry cornfield on a still day and she could slip up on you. More than any other cow, ol’ Beefmaster likes to have her ears scratched, and anytime I’m out there, here she comes. If you’re not looking her way, you’ll feel this nudge–she’s there, ready to be scratched.” In a different article he writes, “There’s something peaceful about a cow. Sometimes my wife and I have to check on those bossies after dark. They’ll be lying down, and when we drive up, they’ll get up and come cruisin’ over to see what gives. They’ll come right on up to you and at a distance of a foot or so, just stop–ears forward, looking right at you, chewin’ that cud. They’ll stand there as long as you have strength. Really, it’s easy to get attached to some of those critters when ya only have a few like I do. I feel kinda bad when I have to load one of them sad-eyed, trustful bovines in the trailer and head to market. But then, there are some I can’t wait to get in that trailer and off my hands. Come to think of it, cows may really be a lot like people–stubborn, unpredictable, and loveable.”