Gary Heintz, Prairie Memories: Prairie Memories
Mike came to live at our house about a year before Debbie was born. He fit right in, having golden red hair and fearful respect for my mom. We were living behind Dad’s barbershop at the time, and Mom, although she loved Mike, wouldn’t let the Irish Setter pup enter the apartment. He could lay across the doorway, causing Dad to have to step over him to get to the barbershop, but Mom would shake her finger at him and warn him of the consequences if he tried to wiggle his way into the apartment. He finally gave up and resigned himself to inhabiting the barbershop.
Mike’s role as door monitor started when Debbie learned to crawl. She would hear Dad in the shop and crawl towards his voice, only to be barred from entering by Mike’s body flopped in the doorway. He seemed to sense, maybe from watching Mom chase and retrieve Deb from the shop, that she wasn’t supposed to go there. When Deb crawled up to Mike, she would jabber at him, pull his hair and ears until he would whine, but the dog never left the doorway until she had given up and crawled away.
His job became even more important the next summer when Deb was playing in the backyard. The path alongside the building led to the main street, and although Harrold was never a big town, there was steady traffic up and down the street. Mike would snooze on the cellar door as Debbie roamed the unfenced backyard, but if she started towards the pathway, he would jump in front of her and not let her pass. She would scream, pound on him and pull his hair, but she could not get by him. If she tried to go into the alley, he would herd her back into the yard. Mom never worried about Debbie if Mike was there.
Many years later, when we lived across the alley from Hoffman’s, Mike would visit their poodle, and play like a pup with the little dog. One afternoon Mike was sleeping on our back porch when a pack of dogs came barking down the alley, chasing the poodle. Mike scrambled off the porch, running after them. Mom saw him go, and was fearful that he, in the excitement, was chasing the poodle too. She ran across the alley to Hoffman’s, where she saw the little dog cowering against their door and Mike standing between him and the pack of stray dogs, growling a warning to them to keep their distance. They finally wandered away. Hoffmans weren’t at home when this happened and later, when they drove into the yard, they saw Mike and their little pup sitting side by side on the step, waiting for them. When Mom told them what had taken place, Hoffmans were so grateful for Mike’s loyalty and courage that they pulled a steak out of the freezer and fixed it for him.
Mike was a part of our family for fourteen years. He was a fixture in Harrold, and everybody was his friend. More importantly he was my best friend. My sister Debbie and I have many memories of this beautiful dog, and I will try and share some of them in future articles. God bless dogs, especially Mike.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News