One afternoon, when we returned home, we found we had a new member in the Adams household. A furry black puppy with bright eyes met us at the door and wagged his tail so hard it nearly pulled him off his feet. We named him Blackie. It was love at first sight and I immediately bonded with that dog. I’m sure my brothers and sisters would lay claim to him too but I always felt he was mine. Blackie was the only dog we ever had and I still miss him. Overnight, he grew into a sturdy good-sized dog that probably out weighed me by fifteen pounds. He was a friendly dog- fearless, kind, and obedient when he felt like it, anyway. He was a cross between a lab and something. His coat was long, coal-black and shimmered in ultramarine hues. He was as handsome as a dog could be.
Blackie was a loyal companion and we shared many adventures together discovering the new world. With my brother Joe, my best friend Wayne, and occasionally the Taylor twins, we set out to explore the deep woods in every direction as we discovered the treasures of nature and history in our journeys. Along the way we encountered many a wild beast and poisonous snakes.
Blackie wasn’t perfect because he was a free spirit. He didn’t wear a leash, and like my siblings, wasn’t watched over as carefully as he should have been. He would roam occasionally, disappearing for a day or two then show up barking at the back door, hungry and ready for the smothering attention we lavished upon him. Quite often, when he returned from a nightly roam, he would smell to high heaven, actually more like hell; it was awful. We’d fill the tub upstairs and scrub him with a shampoo and dry him off. Afterwards his fur would puff out into a wavy mass and his girth would double in size. The indoor bathing was banned eventually because it ruined too many towels. You could not get the stink out of them. So we washed and hosed him off outside after that and he air-dried before he was let back into the house. I discovered on one of our woodland treks why he smelled so bad. If Blackie came upon something that really reeked, whether it was the rotting remains of an animal or an ample pile of its droppings, he would promptly roll into it and become one with the stink. That was pretty gross.
I wondered if Blackie was part wolf. Maybe he was rendezvousing with a roaming pack of wolves deep in the forest when he disappeared into the night. If he did, he had to be the leader of the pack, like Buck, in The Call of the Wild. Maybe there was a she- wolf and baby Blackies out there somewhere. He was tough and would never back down from another dog or take the opportunity to hump a clueless bitch whether she was in heat or not.
Blackie was a hunter-predator and augmented the dry dog food we fed him with fresh game when he could catch it. (I sampled his bland dog food once to see what it tasted like, so I can’t blame him there.) If any creature dared showed its furry little face, he was off in swift pursuit. Man, he was fast and could run down a rabbit if it zigzagged into his path during the frantic chase. He would quickly dispatch it with a violent headshake and carry it away to eat it in private, or feed the little Blackies back in his wolf den. Blackie was at the top of the food chain and didn’t hesitate to prove it.
He spotted a bobcat one day crossing an open patch in the woods, his turf, and was off in the blink of an eye, cornering it in a huge bush at the base of a rocky crag. That bobcat’s angry howl was spine tingling as it balanced itself above on swaying branches ready to tumble down at any moment. Blackie was under it, barking, ready to fight. My brother Joe recklessly … or bravely … depending on your point of view, went into the bush and dragged Blackie out by the tail. They were both lucky they weren’t torn to bits.
I saved him one time myself…
We were at the creek behind Timmy and Tommy’s in the middle of winter. It was so cold that the running waters of the creek’s surface froze rock-solid. I tested it cautiously, grasping onto a long branch held out by the twins, taking a few steps out to see if it held my weight. Blackie followed and walked passed me, way out onto the ice as we held our breath. Not a crack to be heard. It was solid… but not for long.
After dares to walk across and touch the other side, we ran across the crunchy snow-covered patches and slid across the slick spots to see who could go the farthest. We threw stones that pinged off the icy gray surface. As the size and weight of the projectiles increased, so did the sounds they created upon impact. When the rocks were around football-size in proportion, the ice groaned in concussive thuds that echoed in resonant shudders below the surface. We cracked the ice finally and were prying up even larger stone from the rock face on the far side at a frenzied pace. Soon we were hurling down big boulder-sized chunks that exploded into the ice, leaving crater-size holes and exposing dark indigo torrents of water in the gaps. Some of the holes were five feet across after bombing the same spots multiple times.
While assessing the damage we inflicted, the ice suddenly collapsed beneath Blackie and he fell through, disappearing under the ice. Thank God we made so many holes into the creek, because he popped up after a heart-stopping eternity twenty yards down in another gap in the ice. He was gasping as his legs pawed frantically at the ice edge, desperately clinging to it as the water pulled his lower half under. But the ice was too slippery and the water too swift to climb out. I crawled over on my belly and grabbed his neck and pulled him up, enough so, that he could escape from what would have been a certain death had he gone under again. That was the last hole in the ice.