The first time I saw him he was following Richard into the shop. He came about up to his ankle and his head was about as big as his body. He was cute and coal black. It was December. He was 5 weeks old. First thing he did was to lie down by the propane heater. I grabbed him away because of the fumes. He always did like to keep warm.
In a few days he had a name for him - - Big Foot. How little did I know how much he would grow up to his name. It was an Indian name. He was a Great Dane.
I remember him in the kitchen as it was winter. I had an old rocking chair there. He liked me to hold him. When he was older he still wanted to he held in the chair but by that time a third of him was over each side of it. Sometimes when he was grown he would back up and sit on the chair himself, his own idea.
He would eat almost anything. He loved fried cornmeal mush and pancakes without syrup. He ate eggs, too. One morning when I got up late, he had taken out a piece of bread and cracked an egg beside it - -gotten his own breakfast. It seemed like he could do anything. Also it seemed he could understand anything I said.
We had a different kind of candy for each chair. It was sort of a game. I never gave the dogs candy but I did this time. He knew the rocking chair in the kitchen very well. It was lemon drops he expected there. Later I found he was hiding them in a fold of cloth in back of the chair. He had quite a cache there. In the living room was an orange chair and I put butterscotch candy on it. He had to stretch to get it.
Another thing he liked was a green knit bolero. He got attached to it. Green was his favorite color then. He liked me to wear green. When he was older I gave it to him and he played with it with great zest and joy.
He always helped me with the clothes downstairs. One day I saw him trot off with something, but couldn’t make out what it was. Later I saw him in the yard chewing a pink toilet brush. After a few days most of the plastic handle was gone, but what he really liked was the brush. He would throw it up in the air and run and catch it and toss it again and again. It was his pride and joy. If I tossed it, he would get it too.
He had a penchance for brightly colored socks or little cloths. If he got a chance, he would get a sock sticking out of the clothes basket and prance away. He liked the smallest, brightest things, and would take them outside. Sometimes when I was putting them away upstairs he would make off with them again.
His very, very favorite were some tiger striped footlets on the floor of the closet. He couldn’t resist. If the door were open, he would traipse off with one, looking very serious. One time I didn’t notice him, but something seemed strange as he went out of the room. I put my finger in his mouth and sure enough, there was the tiger striped sock. He had gotten all of it in his mouth without any showing and then kept it closed.
Tonight he was in the closet nosing over the socks and put a tiger striped footlet in his mouth, his very favorite. I let him take it away. Later on when I looked, I saw the footlet in perfect place on my shoe. Again I marveled at this very human creature.
Once when he was young I put him on the kitchen chair and she in hers, and told them I’d be back. When I finally got back it was dark. How my heart was hurt when I saw the little fellow exactly the same as when I left him. He hadn’t moved a muscle. There was even a small dish of lemon drops close by but he hadn’t even touched them. Maybe he had been afraid.
Another time he got a fever and I stayed up with him several nights, coaxing him to drink water and several things I prepared. He finally got better.
When he was 4 months old I took him to the vest for his distemper shot. It was a February afternoon. After I had collected everything, I had to put him down again to get the door open, and wouldn’t you know it, he ran right out on the lawn. When I finally got him again I carried him to the cab. It was only a short way, but across a busy highway.
During the hour wait, he got away twice. There was my Dane back with the receptionist and bookkeeping. Finally it was his turn. I carried my little Great Dane and put him up on the table. I will never forget the expression on the vets face - - he just smiled. All he was thinking I was to know later, how heavy and strong he was to get. I asked him how long he would grow and he said 15 months. Actually he grew 2 ½ years. I think it is the last time I ever took him by myself.
Once when he was young he went over visit our neighbors, the Downings. At this time the main fence wasn’t built. There was a fence between the 2 yards tho. We had corralled him as best we could in front of the shop while the main fence was being built. It was next to their fence.
Richard got a call early one morning from Mr. Downing saying that the dog was on their back porch. At first he didn’t believe this. When he looked out the dog was already in our yard. However later he found it was true and watched him jump over himself. He could go back and forth as he please, and was always happy about it. He liked the Downings. When he was very young I had taken him over to shoe him to her and she had let him play in the yard.
He got out of the old fence 2 or 3 times a day and I had to chase him down. Once he was sitting in front of a house as if “King of the Hill”. He was happy and proud.
In The Yard
We had a big yard and many trees. There was a lot to explore. He probably knew it all.
I found out he liked fruit. One day in the spring I was eating newly ripened sweet cherries. I gave him one and he ate it. He started getting his own from the low branches. He was about 6 or 7 months old. When I picked the pie cherries, I left the ones on the lower branches so he could eat them.
The next thing to ripen were the apply trees, with large beautiful fruit. Bad spots didn’t bother him. Sometimes he would jump up for an apple. From a dead still crouching
position, he would take a flying leapt, or several if he had to, to get his apple. Altho the pear limbs were higher, he would get them too. He also played catch with the fruit.
One day I heard the noise of leaves and looked out in the yard. What do you suppose? He was going round and round the grape stump, thru the leaves. Pretty soon the vines would encircle him, and he would stand there stopped, his head poking out of the vines. There was sort of a blank look on his face, and he would back up and get free. It was sort of funny.
One the ground outside, I saw his toys. First was a log he’d been carrying around. It was part of a maple tree that had been cut down. It was at least 4” across and about 14” long. He put it between his paws and started chewing on it, spitting out the pieces. I bet he’d have it chewed up by the end of summer but he didn’t. Once, Richard saw his tossing it up in the air and catching it, big as it was. His other toys were an empty Clorox bottle (plastic) a red rag and a bone. We didn’t think of giving him a ball till late.
Richard fixed up the dog house for him to use. He put a heavy piece of carpeting on the floor. In no time he had dragged it out and sat on it on the lawn. The same with a piece of carpeting in front of the door to keep the wind out. He tore it off and sat on it too. He liked them whether they were wet or dry.
He didn’t seem to take the same interest in fruit the next year. In fact, he didn’t eat it. He did one thing that was wicked, tho. He jumped up and got a nice sized peach from a little sapling we’d planted a few years before. It only had 3 on it. I told him NO, don’t do that, but he made another sweep around an got another one. He didn’t eat either one, but he tossed them around.
When he jumped for the second one, the limb broke and tore down the side. I was very disappointed. I remembered seeing a tree taped up once, so I got some masking tape and bound it up. It worked. Several weeks later it was still green and lived.
Over the next months he chewed about everything. He especially liked blankets. He chewed a hole right in the middle of a silky comforter with cotton inside and almost tore it up. We finally had to throw it away. We still used another one with 2 holes in it. Next was a sleeping bag which we used as a blanket. It was heavy but he bit a huge hole all the way thru it. It didn’t seem possible. He also liked a pillow in the living room and tore out the cotton twice. He also chewed up a straw hat and bit the end off the lawn mower cord. Nothing to it. I later found out he had no memory of these things.
Next was Richard’s fur hat, a dark grey winter hat. He could not resist it. Time and again he would take it. At first he would chew here and there and then chewed out the whole lining. Gratefully he left the outside. It was still wearable but it was disappearing. Then he bit a hole in the side. It was exasperating but we saw the edge around the outside would just cover it. We finally put the hats in the linen closet.
I decided to give him a large stuffed poodle I had gotten at Goodwill and let him tear it up in the yard to let off his feelings. Sure enough, he shook it apart till the outside lay over some wires. I don’t think he got much out of it tho and forgot it right away. He left a long line of destruction behind him. There were also deep gouges in the doors where he scratched to get in or out.
Later on in his career he chewed several books. The first was Wilt. Not that he had anything against athletes he just resented me spending time with it instead of him. Next was Gibran. He really resented him. Of course the discourse was nothing to him. So far he has omitted the Bible. Perhaps he is beginning to realize that book-chewing can be a long, drawn out affair.
One think I didn’t give him was Bengi, a yellow and black striped, stuffed Tiger. I knew it was entirely too attractive. I kept it on a high shelf as being of an endangered species.
When he wanted to go in or out, he scratched at the doors. There were huge gouges in the doors. If the back door was open, he would come up the steps to the kitchen door. He took great interest in opening it. He put his mouth around the knob and turned it from side to side. Finally he got it one day, and pushed and it opened. If his paw were made the way our hand is, he could have done it. In fact, he could have done many things. He was the smartest of all our dogs, and the most innovative.
One of the windows was out of the kitchen door, so I hung a large towel there. When he’d come up the back steps he’d nuzzle at the towel and stick his nose in thru the hole. One time the whole towel came down and he stood there with it draped around his shoulders like a fighter.
One cold rainy morning, Foot sat out on the back steps watching the rain pour down thru the open back door. He sat there a long time. He may have been watching where the mouse came out, but I don’t think so. He sat there the whole morning. If I opened the door he would move his head, but he never changed position. It was raining hard and noisy, and dripping off the house. He really loved it.
From my experience a large dog likes FOOD. A little dog may be finicky. I gave him dry dog food and canned food and he ate it with relish day after day. When the retriever came I added treats on top and he came to expect them too. She needed a little bit of something good to get her going on her dinner. I had a large plastic bowl in the ice box where I saved treats. I called it my magic box. Sometimes I would give them half a wiener or chicken gristle or pork fat or gristle and pieces from a roast. I save a lot of things. They both loved them. However, I think he would have eaten without them if it hadn’t been for her.
He was the first dog I ever fed in the morning too. It wouldn’t all fit in his bowl at night. He wouldn’t eat without her, as I had to give her some too. He sniffed the bowls to make sure they were alike. If he left any, she cleaned it up. When she was grown too, I fed them for about $2 a day, not bad. They are not that expensive.
When he ate his food he sore of inhaled it - - one large mouthful after another. He scooped it up. I never could understand how it digested. His saliva was like glue. It must have been the only way he did it. In the yard leaves would stick to his mouth when he lay down. In less than 2 minutes after I gave him his bowl, he was thru. Usually I hadn’t finished cleaning the counter yet. You could have timed your watch by it.
One time Richard gave him a big piece of meat, fat and gristle bone about 8” long and 3” wide. He may have chewed it 2 or 3 times on the way down but essentially he just swallowed it. We were surprised.
When we were gone once he cleaned out a can of bacon grease (he was young). He got sick though and never did it again.
He dearly loved oatmeal cookies. The only time he ever snitched anything I came back in the kitchen and found him cleaning off the counter. Another time he was so overcome he backed up and sat on the chair to get one. He got his cookies.
In the afternoon before dinner sometimes the dogs would snoop around in the weeds in back. Altho they ate them sometimes, I think it was to make a point.
Sometimes a dog will get in the habit of watching you while you eat, following each bite to your mouth. Although he did this for a while, he dropped it. I would usually make them leave if they did it.
Mr. Foot and His Rug
I don’t know when it started but as long as I can remember, Mr. Foot loved his rug. At the time we had no large rug in the bedroom where they slept or most of the other rooms. The first time I put a rug down for him he adopted it immediately. He loved it.
At night he would always fix his rug. He pawed it around and then he would take his nose and flip part of it over on the other part. Sometimes it would be quite small. He would work with it until he was satisfied. Sometimes it was so small that when he lay down most of him was off it. He arranged the smaller rugs in the house too. It was hard not to be amused.
Only when he was older did I realize the importance of a rug. The hair on his elbows and heels wore away and there were huge callouses. This was from his weight, lying on the floor or cement outside. By this time we had some large rugs. I felt sorry for the worn away parts. Much later, from licking them, some hair came back over the callouses.
At every age Mr. Foot liked his rug. He never tired of it. He also started picking it up in his teeth and carrying it around. He liked to lie in the sun on the rug in winter. He knew right where it was coming each day. He would take up his place on the rug and sure enough it would come there, even if 2 hours later. He waited for it.
When he was younger he had bitten a hole in an Indian rug made of iron wool. However when he grew older he took exceptionally good care of his things.
He also liked to get up on the bed on the quilt and blankets. When we went out we would leave him and the little one in the back part of the house so he wouldn’t go thru any more windows. We left the bedroom door open so they would have more room. Usually when we came back we would hear the thud of feet as he got off the bed. Sometimes however he would be lying on the bed amid the quilt and blankets. We didn’t punish him. He had watched the house for us.
He finally did get some formal training. Richard thought he should because he was so large and energetic. He found one he thought would be good and we left him there while we went away on a trip. He was 22 months. A girl trained him and she was very nice. Her husband asked if we would like to get a card from him while we were gone. I thought he was joking but wish later I had.
When we came to pick him up, she said just to watch and not say anything. She took him thru his routine and then brought him over. He didn’t seem to pay much attention and I was disappointed. It was his birthday too. She said to come back in a few days.
Next time it was completely different. She told us to be quiet, but he kept looking over. Soon she brought him over and he was very excited. I practiced with him for a while and soon we all went home, very happy.
It was a nice kennel and we took him there a few times while we were away. They were good to the dogs. He stared to get rebellious tho at being cooped up. I couldn’t blame him.
After his training he had a necklace around his neck which he wore most of the time. It was very heavy. If it slipped off, he looked more powerful that before.
She also gave him a bath. “Probably his first and last bath,” she said. It was.
At home I used to hit him on the rear when I didn’t like what he did. I almost broke my hand on his hip bone tho and had to stop. I don’t think he even noticed.
When he first came home from training he was a year old. I got up my courage and decided to take him for a walk. I mostly worried he would get in fights with other dogs. Even tho I had collected him from lawns, it seemed different.
We started out on a side street and made it around the next block. Then it started. He saw a little white dog about the size of a rat and lunged at it. There were small children in the yard so I hung on. I hit the sidewalk. The worst thing was that there was a car in the alley and it just sat there watching until I got up and went on. I never took him for a walk after that. He was too large. Also people would ask who was walking who.
Richard had good luck with him however. He took him for walks sometimes, usually early in the morning. They got a paper and walked around the block. At the least hint that you were going to the closet door he would start jumping up. He was very high spirited. He was so excited he couldn’t quiet him down to get his leash on. He would jump up and turn around. Finally he would drag him down the steps and jump up at the gate. Sometimes he would end up on one side of the gate and Richard on the other. After he was out, he was fine.
He would always prance when he walked along. He also always looked like he was smiling. Richard said when the police dogs saw him coming they would size him up and cross the street to the other side. When Foot was outside his territory he didn’t pay any attention to the people. Sometimes he took him to the gas station where he knew the people. What exclamations he drew. Richard said he was coming to collect.
Generally his reputation preceeded him. For miles around people had heard of Big Foot. This was even before he took him for walks. People would bring their children to see him. People who got signs from miles away would talk of Big Foot.
One day Richard was having coffee at a restaurant nearby where he knew the proprietor. They were talking about Big Foot. Somebody down the counter yelled, Big Foot, what a dog! etc, etc. People started chiming in about him. And so it was.
The Next Summer
By this time he was large. The summer he was 1 ½ he stood over 5’ and weighed 185 lbs. The vets scale didn’t go that high but he and my husband made that estimate. I said we’d have to weigh him on a truck scale.
I didn’t realize how scrawny he still was till looking back at a picture later where he was standing at the gate. His skin hung on him and it looked like he hadn’t had a square meal. We wondered sometimes if he would grow into the loose skin. We found out that he did.
We also did not have his ears fixed. We liked them the way they were. I enjoyed seeing his ears bounce a he ran across the yard. I could never take him quite seriously. The girl at the kennel said it might account for his nice personality. He was always his bouncy self. She said it was quite painful to the dogs to have their ears done. She also said it was illegal in every country but this and one other.
If I went out the back door and reached over to the gate, he could race down to that back fence and back, over 100’ each way. He had both speed and power. Sometimes he ran in big circles around the yard, generally when the garbage man came. He probably never got his full speed, but it was alarming. He’d dodge shovels and trees with frightening last-instant motions. I always worried that he’d slide in the mud. I think he did hit something once, but he kept it up.
When he was almost grown, someone brought his mother to see him. They didn’t even get as far as the edge of the house. He had a fit. He barked so loud they had to take her back. He may not have known it was his mother. He never did see her. She was on his territory.
One time I took him on the other side of the fence to do some yard work. Later I looked around and he was gone. I didn’t see him any place. A neighbor came out and said he was in the parking lot of the business across the street. Sure enough, a head came around the wire fence. I couldn’t keep him close.
His great enemy was the garbage man. Not only the noise, but he didn’t like it being taken away. Once when he was about grown he chased the garbage truck. Richard saw him going down the driveway after it. At the next stop he was till there - - ferocious. The driver couldn’t get out of the truck. Richard tried to stop him but he bared his teeth. He didn’t have a chain then but it wouldn’t have done any good. He was very strong. He took after the truck. It went several blocks down the street. Richard went on back. After a while he saw the truck in front of our house and it tooted. There was Foot who had followed him home. He was soaking wet. He came up the drive and Richard got him in the yard. The garbage man had brought him back. I want to thank him.
Part of the trouble was, outside a natural antipathy for garbage men, was that when he was young a substitute man had shaken a garbage can in his face, threatening him. He never forgot this. Even tho the regular man was good to him, he never changed. He not only could get out at the corner, but I had to watch him in the house too, so he wouldn’t jump out the window. This meant every time. He had already gone out a window in the kitchen door and the back door too. There was no telling.
When they collected the garbage early in the morning, they tried not to make a sound. They snuck by the house and put the lid back on very quietly.
By the next spring, at 2 ½ , the loose skin was filled in and he was about 210 pounds. He stood over 6’. He had a very heavy chest. People who had raised Danes said he was one of the largest they’d seen. Some said he might be mixed with Mastiff. He did look rather like a bulldog, especially in his head and chest. Each muscle stood out clear and distinct. He was very fast too and slimmed down in back, with narrow hips and legs. He had both power and speed. He was in fighting trim. There was no excess on hi. The vet said it was his natural size. You could tell if he’d had a meal. He never overate, but stopped when he’d had enough.
One example of his strength I didn’t see, but Richard told me later. He had the shop door open at the end of the drive. The little dog was in the doorway. A police dog came down the driveway toward her. She kicked up her hind feet as if to attack. Foot came over the gate, 2 feet higher than the fence, and grabbed him by the side of the neck and walked with him like a man. Blood squirted on the house as well as the pavement. Richard was afraid he was going to kill him, so he hit him with a board enough to get his attention, and he dropped him. He crawled off and probably died. Foot was none the worse for the combat. He did it to protect the little one. We probably never knew how strong he really was. The occasion never arose.
And thus his reputation grew and many people met him at the fence.
At the Fence
Even though we have had a big dog before, it had never gone over the fence, even when it was partly down. Mr. Foot was entirely different. He went out whenever and however he could. It was a constant thing. He got out 3 times one day and almost got run over. It didn’t stop him however.
Finally Richard built a new fence. He set the posts in cement and painted hundreds of boards, redwood color for the uprights. It was a work of love. It went all the way around except for the blackberry bushes. It was 6’ high in back but only 4’ between the house and the shop where the people passed. It took a long time to build. Mr. Foot didn’t get out then, although he could have in places if he wanted to. Customers were properly awed by him, and tho he kept his side, it was doubtful.
The driveway went beside the house to the shop. In between the house and shop was the side of the yard, with the 4’ fence along it. Some of the biggest dramas took place here. Even the people could walk along the drive they didn’t avoid meeting him, for there he was. He would run to the fence and bark as loud as he could. If he stood up the top rail only came to his chest. Most of him hung over it. There was also red around his eyes which made him seem ferocious. Most people took a dim view of going any further.
Then he would hurtle himself against the gate. It cracked as if it were going to break. This would startle many people. Some would retreat behind the house till Richard came to the door of the shop. I thought myself it would break but it never did. It was T1-11.
If he really got worked up he would run and crash against the fence. It would shake. Richard had to put in new posts 3 times. The grass naturally was worn bare and in the summer clouds of dust would float overhead at each assault. It looked like a battlefield. It never ceased to amaze me. Others marveled at it too. If they stood there very long he would get irritated at Little Bit and charge at her to get out of his way. They would bark at each other. It was his job to bark and she was supposed to stay out of the way. This drama repeated itself many times. I don’t know how the gate and fence held. I also wondered that so many people came. In spite of everything they never failed to remark what a beautiful dog he was.
We never knew how strong he was. No one ever challenged him. No one crossed him or irritated him or did anything to make him mad. Mostly they kept their distance.
When the fence was done, Richard put a sign over the gate which read - - The Home of Big Foot. True to form as the days went by he chewed off the corners of the sign.
When Foot Went Thru the Window
The mailman was an enemy too. At first he would stand calmly at the front window, watching him walk across the porch to the box. But when our little dog pitched a fit, clawing and tearing at the drapes and window, he did likewise. Soon he pitched a fit whether she did or not. I had to watch him when he was in.
My husband could make him be quiet when the garbage man or mailman came. He could make him sit, and he wouldn’t move until they were gone. However I had to put him in the back part of the house. He wouldn’t do that for me.
I was sitting in the kitchen in the rocking chair and Foot was lying down beside it. Richard was gone. I was always apprehensive around mail time, but there were so many hours between when they might come, I couldn’t watch him all the time.
I didn’t hear anything but he did, for he got up and spun his wheels and took off. I knew what he was going to do. I was hoping the mailman would be gone, but I heard a crash almost instantaneously. I walked toward the front door. There was a huge hole in the front window.
Outside the mailman had passed the hedge and was walking toward the drive holding his leg and yelling - - Get him off. Actually Foot wasn’t near him. He was at the edge of the grass by the sidewalk. He didn’t know if it was his territory or not. I got him back in the house in the kitchen, for the window was open. He was quite quiet and had a cut on his ankle. That was all. I swept the glass on the porch.
After a while the mailman came back, and said it was just a little nick on his leg from the glass, and a small cut in his trousers. I told him we would pay for the pants. I admired him for coming back. He was small too. We did pay for new pants. He said he hadn’t bitten him.
As it was almost Christmas, all our cards came marked Vicious Dog. However we were straight with the postman.
When Richard got home he boarded up the lower part of the window and we left it that way to avert other things happening. He had planned on taking him to the kennel. He went ahead and took him and we left. He was about four.
He had already gone thru the windows in the kitchen door and the back door. Once he was in the kitchen when the garbage man came. He turned and leaped out thru the glass. It went into the yard. One pane was already broken. He finished it off. There was not a scratch on him, or cut. He got off scot-free.
Richard put in some plastic panes when we fixed them. At least they wouldn’t break. As it was, there were huge gouges in the door where he scratched to go in or out. He dropped this somewhat later on.
Big Foot and His Ball
One afternoon about 2 hours after some guests left, I noticed him with a ball in his mouth. Then he dropped it, or threw it, and pounced on it. Then it seemed like it was everywhere. It bounced and he got it. Later he would sort of chew on it, and when it slipped out, he would have it in an instant. He really loved it.
I wondered where it had come from, and finally decided her little boy had left it behind. Mr. Foot was so happy I let him have it. It was bright orange, his favorite color. It filled many winter days.
Sometimes of course it went some place he couldn’t get it. I’d ask him where his ball was and start looking. Usually he would look blank and start following me around, but finally he would stick his nose under a bed or chair, and sure enough, there it was. He knew where it was but made me look for it.
After a few days he would start chewing it around in his mouth. He wouldn’t bite it, but kept it bouncing around.
I was there when his ball split apart. It was a hollow ball. Half went on way and half the other. He looked back and forth from on half to the other, as it was unexpected. Then he pounced on one half and it skitter her and there in quite unexpected ways. Then he pawed it again and it rolled on its edge in a perfect semicircle. The halves seemed to do such different things that the whole. It was very interesting. You never knew what would happen. Once when he stepped on it, it bounced in the air like a ball would. Halves were going everywhere. He tried getting both of them in his mouth at once.
He loved it so much I got him a hard rubber one. He kept it two years without losing it, even out-of-doors. Later I got him some bright yellow ones, which he loved. He also kept these years. He always knew where his ball was. In the winter I wouldn’t let him take it outside. He got so he would faithfully drop it at the door, risking its loss (till he got back). If I questioned him as to whether he had it, he would yawn to prove his innocence. Once he left it in the bathroom and went out. I went to look for it and didn’t see it anywhere. It was puzzling. Finally I looked behind the scales tilted against the wall, and sure enough there was his ball, squarely in the middle of the back of it. It was really clever. Of all out doge, he was the most intelligent and innovative. I guess he didn’t want anyone to find it.
One night he was playing with his ball in the kitchen and it went in his water bowl. He was really surprised. He backed up and looked at it. It was the first time it had happened. It was only about half full and covered it half way up. He looked at it form several angles, but stayed away. I encouraged him to get it and he lapped some of the water, but didn’t get it.
Later the phone rang, and I saw that in all the excitement he had his ball. One time when we took them to a park, Richard said he didn’t seem to know what the river and lake were, close up. He had never seen them.
He was always enthusiastic. He never lost interest in his ball. He pestered Richard to death. Early in the morning, even when it was dark, he would start parading around the bed with the ball in his mouth. He never lost interest in this. He wanted him to play. I tried diversionary tactics sometimes, but he wouldn’t be diverted. He would play with me sometimes, but he wanted to play with the pro. Likewise when Richard came in the house, or finished breakfast, he wanted to play. Richard would always make some surprise moves, or play hard, and he liked this. I told him he had a real ball player.
One time the ball landed on his head and rolled down his nose. He opened his mouth and caught it. He was very quick, like lightening. Also it was a game to try to get the b all out of his mouth. Even though he played easy with me, it was hard. He would move his head at the last second and go by. As these characteristics persisted, we compared him with Ali sometimes. He always liked to play with the pro.
He and Little Bit later would drip the ball on the floor and catch it as it bounced. They were pretty good at this. Richard called it dribbling. He would say they were practicing their dribbling.
Another trick which he found was to hold the ball loosely in his mouth and roll it along the furniture. It was his own invention.
Sometimes after we got up he would leave the ball on Richard’s side of the bed. He left it for him when he came back. It was always touching to find the ball on the bed or one of the chairs for us.
When Little Bit Came
One morning Foot was barking continuously. I didn’t usually go out but it had been over and hour. He was over by the lilac bush. I went over and there was a tiny puppy. If it had been a cat it would have been gone, but it was a puppy. He wanted us to know.
I took her over by the back door. You could carry her in one hand: she was very light. She was black with a white chest and some white paws. I set her down. She was so tiny. She stood still as before. I got her some milk in the dog bowl. She was so tiny she couldn’t reach over the side to drink. I finally found a plastic tray from under meat and she drank out of it. Later she tore it up sometimes when she was thru.
I couldn’t decide what to do. I didn’t want to clean up after a puppy again. As time passed I decided to keep her. The vet said she was a retriever. I couldn’t believe she would grow so big. The next year her hair grew long. She was very pretty. I liked it better long than short. This must by why someone had put her under the fence.
Mr. Foot raised her really. Wherever he was, there she was too. He took care of her all day. I couldn’t see her in the tall grass but I knew she was trying to catch up with him. He didn’t let her go under the fence either, which she could have done about anywhere. She was about ankle high to him. He was always good to her. He was a big brother.
When they came in from outside, he would always wait at the top of the steps to see if the little ones were getting in alright. He was protective toward them. If I spoke harshly to them or got mad, he would growl. He stuck up for them.
One of their main activities was what I came to call mouth wrestling. She almost always started it, lunging at his head, with her mouth open. He would fight too, but he rarely got excited. Although it started easy, it became more realistic as time wore on. When she became about 3 mos. old, Foot started baring his teeth, and looked vicious, but the tussling was about the same. It seemed as if he were going to higher levels in their “fighting” bouts. Even when she was 4 mos. old, he would remain lying on the ground when she “attacked” him, and wouldn’t bother to get up in their play. If he wanted her to slow down, he would just lay his paw on her and hold her down - - without any effort. It made you wonder how strong he was. He never hurt her at all. I called it mouth wrestling, and said he was taking her up to her black belt. Sometimes he would let her win, and she stood there with her paw on him like a gladiator.
They spent many hours at mouth wrestling, and played many games, but this is in a book on Little Bit.
Over the years, Mr. Foot got many possums. They were all over town. Nothing was allowed to live that came in the yard - - cats, birds, etc. After a couple years he didn’t pay any attention to the birds. However by that time we had Little Bit. She got after them. She could walk so quietly they wouldn’t even notice her coming. She got the young birds. The next year I got her to stop, even tho it was her nature. I talked to her and persuaded her and she never took another bird.
They agreed about possums tho and were out to get them. Once he got 2 at night and 1 the next day. That was when the possums were getting careless. After he cleaned them out, they would stay away for a while, even a whole summer. Then they would start coming in again and he would get them.
There were wood piles in back and sheets of old plywood on the ground. She would sniff around the wood piles at night, to catch their scent. If the possums were there they would dig furiously, but the possum would stay underneath. There was also and old tool shed near the shop. It had a hollow place underneath and sometimes a possum would be there. They were highly excited and would pace back and forth, covering all sides. They would dig, too. Altho the possum would usually stay underneath, sometimes it would make a break for it. Then Foot would chase it and bite it in half. Only a small piece of skin held it together. He never had a scratch.
When they were pacing around the tool shed or out-sitting a possum it was an all night affair. As it got late, we would call them. No answer, just silence. It was hard to get them in. She was very reluctant to come. Only a hard rain or strong wind would bring them in. When she did come, she was always greatly excited and wide awake. Her eyes were dilated and she would be panting hard. Altho she never actually caught one, she was greatly excited by the sport.
We had a possum cemetery on the other side of the fence. I don’t know why they never came back. Over 30 of them were buried there. On Foot’s tail there were some bare places where he hit it against things. I said they were notches for the possums. However you would have to multiply it by a great number.
Mr. Foot and the Camper
Mr. Foot loved to ride in the camper. Getting his leash on for a drive was a major problem. If he even thought you were going to the closet he would get extremely excited. If you reached for the leash he would stand up on his back legs and dance around in circles. It was almost impossible to get it on. Then he would pull Richard down the back stairs at a dangerous pace. The gate was another problem. Sometimes they would end up with Richard on one side of the gate and foot on the other. After he got out he was fine. In fact, besides trips around town, he took him to the vets in the camper. He wouldn’t fit in the car. I usually went along to watch them. He stood on the motor cover in front, next to Richard. He usually stayed there unless it was a long ride. If anyone looked up and saw him generally they were startled, but sometimes they would wave. Richard said he knew where they were on the drives they’d taken before, and knew when we were close to home.
One time we took him to the coast. He finally got him in the camper but the gate closed in front of our smallest dog and she thought she was going to get left behind. What a howl. After we were all inside it quieted down. Foot stood up in front as usual.
When we got there we stopped at a small park on the water that was crowded with people. He was well behaved and mingled in with the people and no one seemed to pay any attention. It was rainy and the water was rolling and wavy with white caps.
At lunch we got some hamburgers and one for each of them. While I was gone he stood in front as usual and looked at all the people. They seldom looked up but if they did they were amazed. When I came back he just kept looking and didn’t even eat. I guess he had never seen so many people. He looked and looked, and didn’t pay any attention to us.
When they all took a walk on the sand, they liked all the smells. He didn’t look at the ocean much, but the walk along the sand was interesting to them. We were pleased with the trip. He had done real well.
At the Vets
Mr. Foot went to the vets again to be wormed when he was fully grown. I wondered how it would work. Two ladies led him away.
We came back late that afternoon and waited. Finally a girl said they hadn’t been able to worm him. It took all of us and he wouldn’t take them (medicine). She made a face of Foot not taking his medicine. It looked like a devil. I was amused. She was a very high spirited girl.
We went in to see the vet and he said he wouldn’t take the pills. When he showed them to us I could understand why. They looked like little blue footballs. I said I couldn’t use those either. Then he found some flat ones and I said they would be O.K. So we led him away and wormed him at home.
We had an excellent vet however, head of all the vets in the city several years. He took care of all our dogs and we were fortunate to have him. He was also an excellent surgeon.
Another time we took him in for an operation. He had a tumor on his side. It was early in the morning. Richard stayed there until he was sedated. The girl told us later she could hardly lift her end of him on the table.
When we came to pick him up, she said he hadn’t stood all day and might be weak. However, when she returned he was dragging her along. He had heard our voices and she could hardly hold him. He had his bandage off before we got home. he recovered.
Either end of Mr. Foot was something to be reckoned with. His tail would whip like a lash when he wagged it hard. He never seemed to notice it. When it hit against the wall or furniture sometimes it would leave blood. He never seemed to have any consciousness of it. Sometimes when they played ball his tail would hit all around the room but he didn’t notice it. If you got in its way it was like a whip.
Finally the end of it was almost off. We almost took him to the vets but he bit it off one night. We took him there anyway and the vet wrapped it up and said to get some bitter medicine so he wouldn’t take off the bandage. It was off on the way home. The medicine still sits on the shelf.
When he was about 8 we took him to the vet to see if he had calcium on his hip, which hurt him when he walked. The vet had me walk him in a small circle in back. After the first round he said to walk a little faster. Foot walked faster but I couldn’t keep up with him. O f course it looked like he was walking me. After each round Foot would look up at the vet and smile. Afterward, I noticed the vet was wiping a smile off his face.
All the dogs liked to go to the vets and were well behaved, I guess because they were off their own territory.
Other Days in the Yard
Usually it was peaceful except when he was at the fence. On a very hot day I would giver her a bath, and just a little for him. I managed to wash part of his back with a brush. His limit was about 2 minutes, then he was gone. I had to yell at him to get the last water poured over him. He seemed to like it tho.
Actually he cleaned himself more than any dog we ever had. He cleaned everything he could reach. Sometimes he would get a suction going in the hollow of his chest.
He swallowed bumble bees. They never seemed to give him any trouble.
Usually he was ready for a drink. He liked cold, clear water right from the outside tap. He drank it as it fell while the large pan was filling. He always came over when I put in fresh water. Sometimes they drank from the fountain bowl or bird baths though. If the water was old I didn’t like it, but I think sometimes he did it to irritate me.
In the summer they ate their dinner outside. It was pleasant.
The other day when he came in and lay down, he made a little squeaking noise. He did this several times when he moved or turned over. It seemed to be underneath his arm. He cried as he turned, but when he walked he didn’t limp. He ate his dinner but was definitely subdued.
Richard thought most likely he strained his muscles in the yard, maybe sliding in the mud while he ran. It continued most of the next day. The following day however, he was his bright and shining self again, and seemed fully recovered. We were happy to see him well.
Another time he came in hobbling, and making a clicking noise on his foot. When I looked carefully, I saw he had half a walnut shell over one pad. This doesn’t happen to everyone.
Once when we were bending over looking at something in the garden, he merely raised his head and it hit me. I thought I had a concussion.
Another time I had the misfortune to be on their running path which circled the yard and they came full tilt. They didn’t see me behind a chair. I thought I was broken in pieces. I lay there a few moments and went in the house. I don’t think he knew he hit me. Even unintentionally he was very strong.
When she was young, Little Bit ran beside him on the running path. She thought she was keeping up with him. Once he stretched out and lapped her while she only went a few feet. She was so amazed that she sat down on the concrete and watched him run. We probable never knew how fast he was or how powerful either. I think however that he was more of a sprinter than a long distance runner. It was also interesting that he always ran counter clockwise just as we do on our tracks.
One of the funniest things was when I tried to put flea spray on Mr. Foot when he was fully grown. I got it from the vets. They don’t like the hissing sound at all. Although you can manage a small dog, this was different. I put him in the bathroom as it was very small and he couldn’t go fart. He tried to get away. I thought maybe if I weighted him down I could held him still, so I leaned over his back. He started galloping around in small circles. I had to dodge the sink, etc. as he went around. It was even hard to get off. I couldn’t weight him down. I finally used flea powder. He always looked dappled with the gray on him. I found much later that if I put flea powder on her, outside, that he wanted it too. He even got so he wanted it first, before she had any.
When he was trying to slow himself down, for us and not be so excited, he would yawn. He thought of it himself. If he wanted to shut out some of the noise, he would hook his paw over his ear. Once I put some perfume in back of my ear. For years later he would still check to see if there were any there.
One Christmas he peed on the Christmas tree. While natural, it was entirely unexpected.
Mr. Foot loved music. Even when he was young he would curl up and listen when I played. He never moved. Even when I played classics he would be perfectly still. I was really surprised.
Later I played folk music. The only one he didn’t like was John Henry, I guess because it was loud. Otherwise he liked everything. He was my best audience.
The other night Richard started singing, “Give me some men who are stouthearted men” and Foot got right up and went over to him. It seemed as if he were volunteering to be one of the men.
Once when it was Richard’s birthday I thought the dogs should give him a present. I got 2 sports magazines and they helped me wrap them. I put in a thank you note from each of them. Mr. Foot took his right to Richard, but Little Bit just looked around. He could take the paper to him too, but sometimes he dropped it. Other times he just played and wouldn’t give it to him.
His hearing was so good that he could hear a cat walking on the driveway outside the window. He’d get up and bark too.
Mr. Foot and the Fireplace
Mr. Foot dearly loved a fire. He rushed in the room when we started making it, and watched till it was ready. After it was warm he would stretch out close to it and lie quite still. He liked it very much. It made a good evening for him. He would stay as long as the room was warm. If everyone left tho he usually did too. Occasionally a piece in the fireplace set, as the tongs, would fall out in the room where he was. He jumped up immediately. I finally laid most of them in the coal bucket so it wouldn’t happen again.
Mr. Foot and Little Bit liked to go upstairs with me. They would snoop around and go from box to box. At Xmas they enjoyed looking for the decorations and bringing them down. A trip to the attic gave a break from the long winter. They knew almost everything up there.
When we came down, he would always wait at the landing, and looked back to see if I were getting down OK. He was a gentleman, and he did it all by himself. Also when the dogs came in from the yard he would wait at the top of the steps till the little ones got in.
Mr. Foot and the Bull
One time when Richard went to see a house he took Mr. Foot with him. On the side of the house was a young bull behind a fence. I always wanted him to see a larger animal so he would know he wasn’t the biggest, but that wasn’t how it was. Richard could hardly keep him from getting at the bull. He was determined to go over. The bull didn’t pay any attention.
Foot always slept at the foot of my bed. When Richard wasn’t there he would like on the floor with his nose stuck out the door. No one could come in.
Richard often went bowling at night and at first he wouldn’t let him in. He came home around midnight. He would even growl. Richard had to convince him that it was him. He finally got used to it and let him in.
Where is it?
Sometimes after he had barked real hard I would open his mouth real wide and look inside. Where is all that noise, I would say. It wasn’t there.
Mr. Foot and Richard would tussle in the yard. He said he loved it. Sometimes they would both be muddy and he would rinse him off with the hose. I didn’t find out about this till much later.
Toward the end of his life he couldn’t keep anything on his stomach. I thought maybe the dry food was too hard, especially as he didn’t chew it. I started making rice and mixing it with the canned food. It stayed down. He ate this for the last several months.
Mr. Foot died peacefully at the bottom of the bed in February. It was probably a little too cold. He didn’t suffer. He was 9 years and 3 months, an old age for a large dog the vet said.
Goodbye Mr. Foot. We hope to see you again. There’ll never be another Foot.
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