My grandpa collected dogs. I don't mean to say he was an animal hoarder, he collected just one dog at a time. They were strays that would wander onto his land and if there wasn't a dog already living with grandma and grandpa, then grandpa would take pity on the poor soul and feed him. Grandpa didn't like to see any animal mistreated or go hungry and so when he could, he would take care of them and they would settle down and be at home on the property.
It was much the same way he treated kids that had rough home life's or the hobo's that would come by the old place on the trains down the hill. Kids could be taken in at times until things settled down at home. The hobo's were given a meal and then they went voluntarily on their way. The dogs just took up residence outside. Grandma would never let the dogs into the house. That was her rule. Grandpa could have as many dogs as he wanted to hang around but they stayed outside the house, and it was grandpa's chore to feed and water them. That changed a little as they got older and I noticed grandma buying some dog food once in a while and feeding the dog. but not often.
There are really only two dogs that I remember very well. One dog was named Bowser by grandpa. I was rather young when Bowser took to hanging around. I didn't care too much for Bowser. When I was young, dogs and myself did not get along very well. I was terrified of them and although Bowser wouldn't have hurt me in anyway, I stayed as clear of him as I could.
The dog I remember best though was christened "Snoopy" by grandpa. Snoop, as grandpa called him, was an ugly basset hound that made a lot of noise. He would bark at anything that came anywhere near grandpa's land. If a stranger came to the house and Snoopy was out front, the stranger did not get very close to the house.
Snoopy was a protector. He protected the land and the kids who spent a lot of time there. Once Snoopy got to know you, then you didn't have anything to worry about. You were okay as far as Snoopy was concerned.
Snoopy use to follow grandpa around the yard as work was being done in the garden and in the flower beds. Many times you would know grandpa was finished with a chore because you would hear him say, "Well, let's go Snoop" and the both of them would walk away from where the chore had been performed.
Even though it seemed that Snoopy was grandpa's favorite dog that he had taken in, there was not any special treatment from grandma. Snoopy stayed outdoors, keeping watch from the back porch at night waiting for the sun to rise and for grandpa to come out early in the morning to give breakfast to the old hound.
Many times as grandpa and snoopy aged together, I would stop to see them and Snoopy would be lying at grandpa's feet while the old man sat in his chair on the front porch smoking a pipe or cigar and watching spiders spin their webs for the flies. As I would walk up the steps of the porch, Snoopy would lift his head, look at me with those sad Basset Hound eyes and keep an eye on me until I sat and started talking to grandpa.
If I arrived and grandpa was not outside, Snoopy would stand on the porch at the top of the stairs, not exactly wagging his tail but not barking and howling either. As I reached him I would hold out my hand so he could get a whiff and a lick and then follow me to the front door, where he would stop, knowing he wouldn't be allowed any further.
After I met Barb and she started going over to grandma and grandpa's with me, snoop would check her out, but then figuring that I was there as well, Snoopy would let her pass. I think Barb got pretty use to Snoopy but I am not sure that he ever got use to Barb. He would let her by because she was with me, but then came the day Barb showed up alone.
I was in the kitchen with grandma watching her fix up the evening dinner and having a good talk with her. Barb was going to be coming over after work to have dinner with my grandparents and myself. Grandpa must have been upstairs napping or cleaning up from the day's work. At first Grandma and I just heard Snoopy howling and barking. It was his defensive howl and bark and I remember grandma asking what was up with that old dog. I figured that some kids were in the street or some other stray dog that snoopy was warning off because this was his home and there wasn't room enough for more than one dog on the land.
Pretty soon, I thought I heard someone outside yelling and when I mentioned it, grandma said she heard it as well. I went to the front door and look out over the front yard and down the sidewalk that led up to the house. Snoopy was standing his ground firmly at the bottom of the stairs to the front porch and at the other end of the walkway stood Barb, frozen and afraid to move. Snoopy had her stopped in her tracks and he was not going to let her trespass on his territory.
Barb called out to me to do something as she stood there never taking her eyes off of Snoopy who was still howling and barking at her. I let a little smile escape from my lips which probably wasn't the right thing to do since Barb was scared stiff and waiting for me to do something. I walked down and petted Snoopy and told him he was a good boy, which was good enough for him. It let him know he had done his job well. I then walked out to Barb and escorted her past Snoopy and onto the porch and into the house. Snoopy stood there with a little soft growl still emitting from his throat as Barb walked past. Snoopy would never really get use to Barb and I had to make sure from then on that she was safe from Snoopy.
Then came the night that I remember most. I went over to visit grandma and grandpa. It was late fall, early winter. Snoopy had been gone for over two days and grandpa had been worried about him. When I got to the house, I found my grandfather in the back room sitting in his favorite chair and there, in the house, lying on the floor next to him was Snoopy. A very quiet, barely moving snoopy with cuts and bites all over his body. I had never seen a dog so tore up before. Grandpa was trying to soothe Snoopy with soft kind words and very carefully placed pats on the old dog to let him know it was going to be alright.
Grandpa's love for Snoopy must have come through that night and opened grandma's eyes to how much that dog meant to grandpa. He was actually in the house after all. The first dog ever to legally get in the house with grandma's blessing. Grandpa held on to Snoopy as long as he could but it became apparent that Snoopy's time on this earth were numbered.
As Snoopy slowly went down, grandpa seemed to be at his side the whole way. You could see the love the old man had for the dog in his eyes. You could hear the love from his voice as he comforted Snoopy. You could almost feel those gentle pats from the old man's hands as he tried to give the old dog some human touch without causing anymore pain.
It wasn't long after Snoopy came home broken and beaten that he passed. I don't remember seeing grandpa cry or anything but you could tell he was hurting and was missing Snoopy. Snoopy had lived at the house with grandpa longer than any other dog. He had been grandpa's buddy out in the yard or on the porch.
Grandpa let Snoopy go but I don't think it was easy for him. It was another testament as to how loving and caring my grandfather was, not only to humans that jumped trains, but also to dogs that came to stay and become best friends. Grandpa was a kind of loving man to all creatures, and in the non-human world of the creatures he came across, Snoopy was certainly a special one.