Not all dogs are good dogs. Some are ugly and cantankerous. Some are completely untrainable. Some won’t stop humping your leg. But the dogs presented here as part of our annual Dog Issue are all good dogs. They help keep us safe. They break our hearts. They bring happiness to lonely people. And they provide warm, fuzzy memories from summers gone by.
And they don’t ask for much in return: a little clean water and fresh food, a quick game of fetch, a good rub behind the ears once in a while. It’s a dog’s life, as they say. But here in the dog days of summer, every dog has his day, even in this dog-eat-dog world. So whether you’re a dog owner or just working like a dog, take a moment to appreciate these good dogs.
Memories of Peanuts by Keith T. Barber
While rummaging through hundreds of old family photos in search of a picture of me at age 11 holding my pet beagle, Peanuts, I witnessed my life play out over the arc of time. In that context, memories of Peanuts represent a very brief but joyous chapter in my life.
My extended family dove into a mountain of photographs last weekend to assist in my quest for the elusive picture. I could visualize the photo. I’m bundled up — wearing a down jacket and blue toboggan — and holding my puppy in front of my childhood home.
“Is this Peanuts?” my brother, Jamie, asked.
In the photo, my brother, Layne, is standing in front of our old brick home on West Oakdale Street holding a tiny Peanuts in one hand. He’s wearing a down jacket so my best guess is the photo was taken on Christmas Day, 1978. My father and his cousin Charles delivered Peanuts to me the previous night and I remember falling in love immediately.
I had never asked for a dog for Christmas but Peanuts remains one of the best gifts of my life. My favorite cartoon character of all time is Snoopy. Now I had a Snoopy of my own. She and Snoopy had a lot in common. She was full of energy, playful and mischievous.
We then discovered a photo of my mother, Nancy, holding Peanuts while Layne looked on.
My mother made it clear that Peanuts would be an “outdoor dog” so we bought a doghouse for the backyard and a pen to keep her safe. But Beagles are hunting dogs and they’re happiest when they’re gallivanting along with their super-sensitive noses close to the ground.
We weighed our options. Should we keep Peanuts in the pen? She would be safe and we would be in compliance with city ordinances. Or should we just let her run free and take our chances? Before we could make the decision, Peanuts became ill.
We took her to our veterinarian, who diagnosed Peanuts with distemper. A viral illness with no known cure, canine distemper is spread through the air or by contact with an infected animal, according to the website PetMD.com. In dogs with compromised immune systems, death can result as quickly as two to five weeks after the initial infection.
Our vet offered us little hope and gave us the option of putting Peanuts down. We decided to nurse Peanuts back to health and hope for the best. My mother and I took good care of Peanuts and, miraculously, she recovered. The following spring our vet told us he could see no signs of distemper. Peanuts had beaten the odds.
My fond memories of Peanuts include the time she went into heat and every male dog in the neighborhood came sniffing around and how Layne and I locked our baby girl in the house and stood guard on our front porch with BB guns in hand. Eventually we had Peanuts spayed.
She was cute as could be but not the most obedient or the most intelligent dog in the world. When she was 18 months old, we traveled just north of the Virginia state line and dropped her off at a obedience school. Much to our chagrin, we discovered Peanuts had chased rabbits and played with other beagles for six weeks. She was wilder than ever.
The next photo pictured TJ, the kid next door, holding Peanuts — still no sign of that elusive photo. Seeing TJ and Peanuts reminded me of how she became the neighborhood dog. Peanuts ran free with other dogs and made friends with all the neighborhood kids.
I vividly remember my afternoon routine of getting off the school bus and repeatedly calling, “Peanuts!” from my front porch. Eventually, I would see her barreling around the corner, then up the steps and into my arms. Peanuts loved everyone but she was extremely loyal to our family.
One fateful day, my mother picked me up from junior high and delivered the bad news: A car had hit Peanuts. Apparently, she was crossing the road to meet some children as they got off the school bus when she collided with a passing car. Luckily, my father was nearby when the accident happened. He took Peanuts’ body to my grandparents’ home and buried her beneath a row of pine trees. I was incredulous when I first heard the news. It wasn’t until I got home that I felt the wave of emotion. The neighborhood children stopped by that afternoon to express their condolences for Peanuts. She was a good dog, a true friend and a source of absolute love. I have not owned a dog since. Like Peanuts, I’m extremely loyal, too. Despite a thorough search, the photo I cherish never turned up. But no one can take away the image in my brain and the happy childhood memories that come from the special bond between a boy and his dog.
Therapy Dogs by Jordan Green
The women gathered in the parking lot at Westchester Manor, a skilled nursing facility in High Point, before 10 a.m. on Saturday. They introduced their dogs, giving their names and breeds, if not first, then immediately after identifying themselves.
“This is Cosmo Kramer, just like in ‘‘Seinfeld,’” said Barbara Marshall of Summerfield, introducing her cockapoo. “He’s got the black hair, and he’s kind of goofy.
“And he’s friendly as the dickens.” After greeting each other with some friendly barking, the dogs settled into a good-natured scrum, sniffing each other and waiting for attention from the doting women.
There was Muggs, an 11-year-old black greyhound who has been visiting retirement homes, schools and Special Olympics events since he was five. Tracy Eyre adopted Muggs from the Greyhound Friends of North Carolina kennel in Oak Ridge after his retirement from racing. Muggs wore a collar bearing multicolored peace signs, a symbol of both his own easygoing nature and his human’s free spirit.
There was 10-year-old Dorothy, a tan greyhound who, like Muggs, broke her back leg during her racing days. Dorothy raised three litters of puppies before Lori Petree adopted her from Project Racing Home in Randleman.
“From the minute I got her, it’s been painfully obvious she’s very social,” Petree said. “I hated to limit her to walking around the block…. She’s been in obedience classes, pet therapy classes. Any dog event we’re notified of, we go.”
Chrisi Santana and her two children, Jolie and Ethan, were there with Sasha, a dachshund, and Spencer, a chiweenie.
They trooped into the recreation room at the nursing home. Many of the residents were seated at long tables, waiting for a round of Bingo to commence.
Harold Ritch, Wiley Harris and Walter Allison sat against the wall. When Marshall held Cosmo up, Harris and Allison gingerly extended their hands to pet the dog on his head.
Then Muggs sauntered up with Eyre for a visit. Ritch peppered Eyre with questions: “How much does he weigh?” “Is he pretty expensive on food?” He told her proudly about Bogart, his collie-shepherd mix who died about a year ago. Ritch said Bogart was so talented he was invited to appear on television.
“You’d say, ‘Give me one,’ and he’d go, ‘Woof!’” Ritch recounted. ‘Give me two.’ ‘Woof, woof!’ And so it went, up to 10. The last stop was the Memory Care Center, a wing for residents with Alzheimer, dementia and related illnesses. Many of the residents gathered in a cluster of wheelchairs, but 89-year-old Ernest Shuskey sat on a couch by himself as the twangy gospel of Randy Travis played loudly from a CD player. A retired electrician, he slightly favors actor Robert Duvall in appearance.
“Today I’m doing nothing because I’ve got nothing to do,” he said.
Muggs poked his nose towards Shuskey, displaying an easygoing attitude and curiosity and friendliness, and then plopped down on the cool floor to relax.
“I love animals,” Shuskey told Eyre. “Yeah, they’re great, aren’t they,” Eyre concurred.
“Animals are good people.”
The delegation started down the hall to leave. When they got to the double doors at the end of the ward, Shuskey caught up with them. Santana held up Sasha, and Shuskey grasped the dog’s paw.
“You’re saying, ‘Where am I?’ Shuskey said. “I don’t know where I am.”
Eyre promised she would be back and Shuskey said, “I’m all I’ve got.”
The double doors closed behind them, and the gentle delegation of dogs and people headed for the parking lot.
“That’s a tough one,” Eyre said.
An Officer & A Gentle Shepherd by Christian Bryant
At around 5:30 p.m. on a temperate Friday afternoon, a maroon police-issue Chevy Tahoe sits in front of the police substation on Elm-Eugene Street in Greensboro. Opening the passenger side door reveals an L-shaped passenger seat that doesn’t allow a single degree for recline and a mobile computer terminal that encroaches on the passenger space. Cpl. Eddie Summers sits behind the wheel and he has a smirk on his face. Behind me sits a 72-pound, black-andbrown Hungarian shepherd named Ago.
Amidst heavy panting and faint whimpers from Ago, who knows a stranger is present, Summers looks to me and asks, “Are you sure about this?” I nod and we hit the streets for a friendly civilian ride-along. Summers began working for the Greensboro Police Department in 1985 and became a K9 unit dog handler three years later, and only after a required 10-week course.
“Any in-progress calls, we go to…. If something’s hot, we’re going to it,” Summers says. “It’s equally important to train the handler.”
Summers acquired Ago in 2005 and the two have been inseparable ever since; they live together and work together to solve cases throughout the city. In a way, Ago is an extension of Summers.
“We use our dogs to help with a case,” Summers says. “It runs down the lead [or leash]. If I’m excited, he gets a little excited.”
Law-enforcement dogs like Ago are immeasurably disciplined and trained to execute a number of different tasks from tracking or chasing a suspect to finding discarded items to sniffing out narcotics or explosive devices.
To demonstrate some of Ago’s abilities, Summers hands me two items and has me throw them into a large area of tall grass and thick foliage. Two quick tosses later, the items have disappeared and I’ve already forgotten the vicinity in which they landed.
Summers lets Ago out of the truck and after a few command phrases in Dutch, Ago is in grass looking for the items as if he saw me throw them and marked where they landed.
He leads with his snout close to the ground as he attempts to pick up the scent. At the edge of the grass he begins bounding like a gazelle toward one of the items and then seconds later, the first item is retrieved. It takes a while longer and help from another K9 to find the second item but the point is made: Ago quickly executed a near-flawless tracking and detection job.
But there’s no differentiation between playtime and reality with Ago. It’s all fun and games to him.
“Everything is based off the play drive,” Summers says. “This is good training.”
Essentially, work is play. Ago is a product of the famous Pavlovian conditioning experiment where commands are re-enforced with rewards. Law enforcement dogs like Ago are trained so extensively that they can sweep an entire building checking for criminals or explosive devices and return when the job is done, expecting a rubber ball to be thrown or an edible treat to be offered.
Nevertheless, Ago is still a dog. He makes that quite clear by squatting and defecating after a successful training exercise.
“They’re still animals,” Summers says with a smile.
Shelters & Adoptions by Eric Ginsburg Realizing she had time between her trip to France and the beginning of the fall semester, Heather Seaman decided to foster a litter of six puppies from the Guilford County Animal Shelter. “I just drove by the shelter and saw that they needed foster parents,” Seaman said, sitting on the fl oor in a room of her parents’ house that has been converted into a puppy playpen. She’ll watch the puppies for three weeks until they are old enough to be adopted and will go back to the shelter. Seaman volunteers at the animal shelter in Chapel Hill, where she goes to school, and hopes to intern at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah where she spent some time volunteering too. Cana King, assistant director at the Guilford County Animal Shelter, emphasized that they are always looking for people to foster puppies and kittens for as short as two weeks and as many as 10. Only people living within the county are eligible, and they must fi ll out an application to be reviewed by the shelter. “We get animals in all day every day,” King said. “For that one life they save [by adopting], they’re also saving another life for an animal that’s coming in.” At any given time, King said, the shelter has around 250 dogs available for adoption. Prospective adopters are required to spend at least 20 minutes with the animal, though most people spend signifi cantly longer with some people staying all day. For dogs that don’t get adopted, the future usually looks grim. That’s where the Missing Link comes in. The organization, based primarily out of Randleman, works with shelters throughout the state to take dogs that won’t be adopted to rescues primarily in the Northeast. They mostly work in less populated, rural counties where the number of dogs available far outweighs the demand. “I started out just taking some pictures and I realized just how many animals were coming in,” said Pam Cooper, who works with the Missing Link. “I think it’s very important for the shelters and the rescues to work together.” A large part of the problem is the lack of spay and neuter laws that exist in other states, and Cooper points out that a bill to help alleviate the problem was voted down last summer for the second time. “We’ve got to get the numbers under control if we’re going to be able to make a dent [in the problem],” Cooper said. The Missing Link has also seen an increase in the number of dogs at shelters because of people’s worsened economic conditions in recent years, which Cooper said contributes to the number of people who are able to adopt. Through the end of the month, Greensboro Roller Derby is coordinating donations to the Guilford County Animal Shelter, both monetary and food and litter donations for cats and dogs. Donations can be dropped off at boxes at the Green Bean and M’Coul’s downtown.