Raising a Ruckus

by Mark Blackwell

Some folks are just natural dog people but dog owning never came easy to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. Some of my best friends are dogs and the rest of ’em have qualities in common with dogs. But I confess to being ambivalent; my dogs have tended to be more popular than I have. They have tended to be more trainable, obedient, motivated and had better manners.

So, when the wife and I moved up here to the ridge we moved in with just about everything we were gonna need—except for a dog. I had a great dog but he died a few years before and I wasn’t ready to get another one. My wife really didn’t have a lot of experience with dogs so she wasn’t particularly invested in the idea of having one either. And so we spent our first year or so in Brown County dog-less.

Whenever possible I like to sleep with the windows open so I can drift off to the chorus of frogs and crickets and night birds. And that’s what I did until about two-thirty one warm moonlit spring night when a giant chasm opened in the earth and every shrieking, howling, screaming banshee, devil and demon from the pit of hell erupted below my bedroom window. When I finally got control of my senses I estimated that there were a dozen or more coyotes running around the yard in full voice joined by two, thoroughly terrified, humans sitting bolt upright in bed and screaming at the top of their lungs.

I wasn’t gonna put up with that sort of pandemonium ever again and the first order of discussion at breakfast was what kind of dog we should get.

We discussed the relative merits of St. Bernards and Newfoundlands, of Hounds and Great Pyrenees but came to no immediate agreement. We went along like that for several weeks when a good friend of mine asked me if I would consider taking in a dog whose owner couldn’t take care of him any more. Well, there ya go, not only was this feller my good friend but also a preacher. This was beginning to smell like divine providence, so I said I wouldn’t make any promises but I’d be happy to meet the pup and see if he might serve the purpose.

I had never seen a dog quite like him. Only six months old, he was tall, about 32 inches at the shoulder and long, 45 inches or so from his nose to his butt. He had a ridiculously big nose. He was light brown, shaggy and displayed all of the grace of a newborn colt. He clunked when he sat down and got all twisted up in his legs when he tried to stand up. I was thinking that the dog was pretty unlikely for the job but my wife was busy falling in love with the animal. His owner, a sweet young woman, explained that she had gotten him on a whim, not realizing how big he was going to get. She told me his history and gave him class ‘A’ bonafides. She told me he was an Anatolian Shepherd, a kind of Turkish mountain dog used for guarding sheep against wolves. Coyotes are like wolves.

So, we took him home. We named him Ruckus and while he was getting used to the place and we were getting used to him I started noticing some peculiarities. One was he liked to chew things. All puppies like to chew things but not all puppies weigh 150 pounds. Ruckus was a big furry chipper-shredder. He chewed up axe handles, rake handles, hammer handles and lawn furniture. He even chewed a couple of the porch balusters in half.

We discovered that Ruckus was somewhat of a juvenile delinquent when we received a series of phone messages one summer day. The first one was from the tourist lodge up the road. A ladies voice was asking if we were the people with the big dog. The voice said that he was up at the lodge and that we could come up and get him. The second one was the same voice with a touch of concern added, it said that the big dog was still there and would we please come and get him. The third message was from the owner of the lodge, he said that the renters had called him and said a big dog was on the porch and eating their boots. I went outside and found Ruckus lying in the sun and looking entirely innocent (he’s good at looking innocent).

Things were going pretty good for about a week when another of my friends came by. We went for a hike and when we came back we took our boots off on the porch and left them outside. After having some coffee, my friend got up to leave and we went to the porch to get his boots. They were gone. Not long after that my neighbor called and said he was missing a boot. We looked for the missing boot while Ruckus chewed on something and looked innocent. I have to admit that I found the disappearing footwear situation fairly amusing until I caught him red-pawed with one of my favorite hiking boots.

But time passes and so do our enthusiasms. This is true even for dogs. So Ruckus eventually abandoned his petty thievery and took up new pastimes.

As he has matured he has answered the call of his genetics and taken up chasing deer, chastening turkeys, herding pickup trucks and defending a self-defined territory against coyotes and wolves.

We still hear the coyotes but haven’t seen a wolf since he took up residence. And me and the wife are still raising a Ruckus up here on the ridge.