Call of the Wild—Pt. 2

After Heidi let the Husky go, he crawled off into the forest. Brutus was now up and jumped in joy on Heidi, showering her with kisses as if knowing she saved his life. They continued chasing each other around, fully appreciating the results of this horrific event. Lenette and  I remained a bit in shock, although relieved and elated with the realization that Heidi saved Brutus’s life and us from injury or worse.

The campers and staff had been at camp for about a week when I told the full story one evening at campfire.  I concluded with a warning to be careful if they came across the Husky. I knew the dog offered little danger to people but was a potential killer of other dogs. In the early sixties, incidentally, there were no restrictions on bringing pets to camp.  This proved to be good for the kids, and few problems resulted from the dogs and their relationship with campers and other dogs. Heidi was the head of the pack, and none tested her.

We did not have our own Lake (which we created the following year), so we asked and were given permission to enjoy and use the hunter/dog owner’s large pond located a mile from camp and our horse corral. He learned to keep his dog chained since he did not want his neighbors to kill his dog to protect their own.

On one occasion, a gang of us were at the pond for testing and swim safety lessons. During lessons and fun, one of the campers yelled the Husky was off-leash. One of the staff had their dog with them, and the Husky was heading for it. I quickly grabbed the dog and headed out to the end of the diving board, looking for something to defend the staff member’s dog. But the campers membered the story I told them at campfire and began to scream for Heidi. When she heard the call of the campers, she leaped into action, crossing the field in seconds. When the Husky saw her coming, he turned and ran for his life, heading for his barn and safety. Even so, he couldn’t outrun Heidi. She struck powerfully, knocking him to the ground, where he flipped onto his back and surrendered completely. Heidi stood above him for a long moment before turning towards the campers and returning for a hero’s welcome. None that shared this experience will ever forget it.

Incidentally, Heidi spent almost all of her time with Kim, a wonderful horse wrangler. Amazingly, she kept the horses under strict control when kids were at the corral. It was her job to help Kim, and none could be better.


Call of the Wild—Pt. 1

We continue with animal stories. This is a true story.  I shared it around a campfire with campers and staff at Shasta soon after it happened.  And because of this, avoided a potential disaster.

It all began about a week before camp in June 1962. We bought the land in 1959, which is a great story because of how it happened, but I’ll save this for another time. In any case, Camp Shasta was located about 2 miles south of the original owner of the land camp was built on.  The man we bought the land from was a Gyppo-logger, a professional hunter, and a guide for people that hunted prize black bears and mountain lions. He also owned a large Alaskan Husky that he used on his hunting trips in the area. This dog had developed an ugly reputation as a “dog killer,” so this man had to keep his dog chained or face the likelihood that a neighbor would kill his dog to protect their own.

About a week before the staff and kids arrived at camp, Lenette and I decided to check out the forest and hike to Richardson Creek, our property line to the north. Brutus and Heidi, as always, went with us and played their way around every tree and smell they found. Near the Creek, we heard a growl and saw the big Husky heading for Brutus. The rope around his neck was torn, so I quickly surmised that he broke away from where he was tied and intended nothing good. I instantly grabbed Brutus and, with him in my arms, prepared to use the flat side of my machete to protect against the Husky. He dove at me at the same time as I hit him with all my might. The machete ripped from my hand flew to the ground, and the Husky had Brutus in his mouth. When the Husky grabbed Brutus, Heidi (all 125 pounds) hit the Husky, who dropped an unconscious Brutus. I instantly began to seek a rock or branch to attack the Husky and saw that Heidi and the Husky were engaged in a life and death struggle. I was in “Call of The Wild!” But this was not Buck and a wolf in fiction, but real and now.   Both dogs were on their back legs to gain height and traction. They boxed at each other, seeking an advantage, and Heidi found it. She grabbed the Husky by the neck and threw him to the ground. Within an instant, Heidi had his throat in her jaws.  I pulled on her tail and screamed for her to let the Husky go. Heidi’s eyes found mine; she hesitated but let go and backed off slightly. 

Story to be continued.  Sy 


I have many “dog stories” to tell, and I’ll try to share them over the next few papers.

This is the story of Lizzy, an Otter Hound and one of the most unusual members of our family of animals. Most of you never met her, but she was about as unique as any animal we’ve ever had. This is a rare breed, about the size of a Shepard, slim, fast, and a lover of water.  Her most unique feature was her fur, which stuck out in a wild and independent way—which she most certainly was.  She had her own ideas about almost everything and showed those independent characteristics whenever we went out into the wilderness to play and hike.  Besides Lizzy, our animals at this time also included: Toulouse Lautrec, a Bassett Hound about as close to the ground as a dog could get, Bear, a big and gentile Mt. Pyrenees, and two cats that fancied themselves as dogs. 

During this period, we lived in the country south of Reno with almost nothing around but sage. To the west was Mt. Rose and a Ski area, Slide Mountain.  The three dogs and two cats spent much of their day in this country. Yes, the cats went with the dogs almost everywhere, keeping close to them regardless of where they roamed. Together they spent hours in the fields, often returning home as the sun set. At first, it was Bear that they followed, but as Lizzy grew, her breeding took over, and she became the group leader. In this case, it meant all followed her. Being a full-blood Otter Hound, her history was group, and that’s what she demanded from the other animals.  They were her group.

Lizzy seemed to always know where she was. One day we went into a meadow of deep snow, and the animals went crazy with joy. They loved the snow and ran wild for hours until exhausted before they followed us as we cross-country skied. They did, but not Lizzy. She took off for the hills near us. Some time passed, and we gathered up the animals for our trip home, but not Lizzy. She disappeared into the hills; we knew not where she had run. We called to no avail. We did not see her, but she saw us and played her game of independence. We had no choice but to start the motor and at least act like we’re heading home. It was getting dark. But Lizzy saw it all and understood she’d better join us…  or? Then, out of the darkness, Lizzy appeared with a look as if to ask the question: what about me? That was typical Lizzy, and we all left for home.


Our Beloved Animals

Animals have been an important and fulfilling part of our lives. I’m sure this is also true for many of you, so sharing a few experiences with our animals might bring back memories of your own. Perhaps you can share some of those in the comments.

After Lenette and I were married, we had three animals. Brutus was our first, a brown and black Beagle who entertained us with his math expertise and other antics. While sitting up in my arms looking like Charley McCarthy, he—so help me, responded to my questions with barks. If I asked him the answer to two times three, he barked six times. Two from four, two times, and so on. He could count, multiply, divide, and subtract numbers. I swear I gave him no help whatsoever. He knew.

Brutus’ best friend was our huge German shepherd, Heidi. She was a puppy brought over from Germany and given to us as a gift. She grew into a remarkable protector of our family, which, of course, included Brutus and Cleo (a pure white cat who in her lifetime arranged to have a total of 60 kittens). Every time Cleo had kittens, Heidi would stick her head in the birthing box, pick up each kitten almost as if to swallow them. Then she’d take them to her box and totally clean them before returning them to the birthing mother. Clearly, the three animals cared for each other.

At dinner, Cleo the cat would play games with Heidi’s bowl and food. Many evenings we would watch Cleo attempt to take over Heidi’s food bowl by slowly pulling Heidi’s bowl towards her. After each relatively successful move, Heidi would move slightly closer to Cleo until they were a head apart. This continued until Heidi’s bowl came within range of Cleo’s mouth. At this point, Heidi would let out a warning growl and a curl of her upper lip, showing a canine. Only then did Cleo withdraw to a safe distance. Regardless of the games they played, they loved each other.

There was a German Shepherd that lived on our street. This dog roamed off-leash looking for trouble and was known for attacking other dogs in the neighborhood. One morning, Lenette was gardening out front with Brutus on leash and was attacked by this dog. In our back yard, Heidi instantly leaped over the six-foot fence and went to the aid of Brutus. Cleo also did not hesitate and joined in the attack on the criminal animal. Had I not saved the attacking dog Heidi and Cleo would have torn the shepherd apart. Sadly, his owners had no choice but to put their dog down.