Dogs I Have Known. (Part I)

March 27, 2008


Nard was a Sheltie. We got him sometime when we lived in the house on Jefferson Street. Today, I would not buy a dog like Nard. I prefer big dogs. But he was a very cute puppy, and this is probably our most famous photo of him, on the back of one of my parent’s bicycles.


I don’t remember a whole lot of specifics about Nard. I was very young during the relatively brief time we had him. I know of a few special stories though. One is that, apparently, I tried to kill him when I was two or three years old, by feeding him poisonous berries from the bushes in our front yard! I had no idea — I just thought I was feeding the dog. But he had to have a trip to the vet and get his little stomach pumped.

I have another distinct memory of coming home with my Mom one day after we’d been out on some errands. We walked in to the living room of the Glenwood Road house to see that Nard had gotten in to one of Mom’s knitting projects. I suppose “gotten in to” is an understatement. The scene before us was of cartoon proportions: it was as though the dog had taken a skein of yarn and went in to a frenzy. We could see exactly where he had been because there was a trail of yarn that had been left behind. And where he had been was: round and round and round and round the coffee table, among other things. I am not kidding, a cartoonist could have drawn this scene to get a laugh from readers who would never believe it could actually happen. I think my Mom started crying a little when she saw the mess. I am sure I was not much help to her, young as I was. I think it was a little bit funny to me. Like, ha ha Mommy, look what Nard did! (I was only three or four years old.)

Nard was later killed when he was run over by the Good Humor truck. At least, that was the story on the street that my friends later told me… the account of his death may have been exaggerated. He was hit by a motor vehicle, for sure. I remember that I was in my parent’s room watching Sesame Street. My Mom came in and told me a kid version of what had happened. He was hurt, they took him to the vet, but it was too late. I remember tears streaming down my face as I continued to watch Sesame Street. OK, yes, it was very hard to tear me away from the TV back then.


Shadow was a black Labrador Retriever, 1975 model, that we got when I was in third grade. I remember going to some house in Virginia to get him. The owners opened a door from their garage, and a bunch of black puppies came tumbling out all on top of each other. My brother and I had fun helping choose just the right one.

When he was still a youngster, he used to sit on our stairs like this:


It took a few days to name him. We sat around the fireplace one evening discussing all the possibilities. Dad was pushing for “Hamelcarbarka” (don’t ask… I really don’t know). He assured us we could call the dog “Hamelcar” for short. Yeah, right. I don’t really remember many of the other suggestions, I just know nothing was decided on that night. I think it was the next morning, Mom was walking around with the puppy at her heels (he had quickly figured out that she was the responsible one who would feed him). She said “he follows me around like a shadow,” and from somewhere in the house Dad said “that’s it! That’s his name!” So, Shadow it was.

Shadow used to get on our furniture when we would leave the house. He would sit on one end of our green patterned couch and chew on the armrest, among other things. He also had a habit of jumping up on the windowsill in the dining room, scratching the wood. Well… one day Mom had heard or read somewhere that one way to discourage a dog from doing such things was to get several mousetraps and set them out in all the places you didn’t want the dog to go. So when we were gone from the house — or really any time Shadow wasn’t being completely supervised — we would have these live mouse traps on our couches and chairs, and on the windowsill. But the trick didn’t work out as well as expected. For one thing, Shadow was a pretty good sized dog (about 60-70 lbs.). I recall at least a couple occasions when we came home to find him hopping down from his favorite spot on the couch, seemingly unconcerned with the traps that had snapped on him and were still clinging to his body as he ran off. Also… with traps set all around the house, they snapped on us probably just as often as they ever caught the dog. Eventually we abandoned that experiment all together.

I personally witnessed Shadow break through at least one metal choke chain; he was famous for leaving tooth marks on 90% of the mail that came to our house (when all we had was a mail slot in the door); and he could clear the coffee table with one swish of his tail. A friend who was house- and dog-sitting for us while we were on vacation, once reported that Shadow chased our mailman on to the top of her yellow Volkswagen parked in our driveway. I really wish I had been there to see that one.

Despite many health problems in his later years, Shadow lived to be 13 and finally had to be put down while I was away during my senior year of college. It took many, many months (years?) before I could open the front door of our house without expecting to hear him bark and come running to greet me.



  1. HAMILCAR BARCA (270-228 b.c.) Carthaginian statesman and general at the time of the First Punic War. Father of Hannibal.

  2. OK, well… I’m still glad we named him “Shadow.” — signed, your Uneducated Daughter. 🙂

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