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Mike the Dog

Mike was big for a Labrador, he ran 120 pounds and loved the water.  When he left the dock that was 6 feet above the harbor, the water scattered  for 12 feet on either side.

He was a little thick-headed; like the day he swallowed the mouse I threw to him from the dog food bin.  The mouse had been in there eating up our dog food.  Mike caught him in the air, swallowed the mouse and never batted an eye, he was so pleased that it was feeding time.  Mike could wolf down 4 cups of kibble, quicker than the wink of an eye.

Seeing our dogs hunting for field mice was a sight.  “Big Mike as we called him”,  was at one end of the mouse’s tunnel and our old Springer, Boots was digging at the other end.  The mouse was underground as the dogs dug toward each other.  My brother and I were cheering them on, when the poor mouse jumped 3 feet straight up and Big Mike caught him in the air and swallowed the mouse before he knew what was going on.  Then he sniffed out the area still looking for the  mouse, so excited, he had forgotten that he had swallowed it.

Recently, I told my brother Mike that I was writing about our dogs, and he passed along a memory of his own: “My favorite time was getting all three dogs and with a shriek of ‘Rat Patrol’, we would all run out into the field and they would begin sniffing the grass and soil like crazy.  Pan was always first to find a mole hole and get a hot sniff.  Boots meandered around a lot, maybe hoping to catch the recent scent of a pheasant running thru.....and Mike, he would watch Pan, then try and find the exit hole.  Once he did, he would dig like a crazy dog, dirt flying everywhere.  When the digging was only 2 or 3 feet apart, I would sit behind Mike, as he always just dug the mole right out and it would come flying back with the dirt, stunned!”

Dad had an old Greek friend who owned a restaurant in Seattle and exercised his Labradors on the beach at Alki.  Mr. P.  tied 150 pound railroad ties to his dog’s collars and then ran the dogs behind his pickup to toughen them up for hunting season.  We weren’t that religious about exercising our dogs, but we did take them hunting before the season opened.

Two weeks before hunting season, we were onto the birds and the game warden stopped by to see how we were doing.  The dogs were far out in the field when the game warden looked up from what he was doing to see Big Mike trotting in with a pheasant in his mouth.  The game warden said: “You know  that I’m going to ticket you for hunting out of season; just kidding”.  Dad had a good laugh because Big Mike didn’t know that hunting season hadn’t opened yet.

All the dogs loved chasing our cats around the yard.  The cats got so tired of being run down that they would just lie on their sides and wait for the dog to de-flea them.  Old Boots, our Springer Spaniel was especially good at de-fleaing and you could hear her front teeth clacking together as she searched the cat for the invisible flea; which may or may not have been there.   

Boots and Pan, both loved picking raspberries; it didn’t matter whether we were in the patch or not.  Old Boots would pucker up her lips in what appeared to be a dog’s smile and gingerly pull the berries off the bushes.  Her curled back lips helped her avoid the berry stickers.  She and Pan, only picked the ripe ones; so when we came to the patch to pick, all the berries on the lower bushes were gone.

“Howling and screaming coming from the kitchen”, brother Mike yelled and we crashed together trying to get through the kitchen door at the same time.  It looked like Big Mike was being murdered by a Siamese who had kittens.  He was standing on his hind feet in a corner where the stairway turns up to the top and Chakree or Meeko, I can’t remember which, was raking his chest with her claws.  The dog was in complete submission and howling for his life.  Our stumbling on the tragedy stopped the fight.