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Monday, October 8, 2012

Gentle Giants

About a week and a half ago, our friends Thayne and Marie invited us on a day trip. We went to the Pueblo, Colorado area and Colorado Springs to do some sightseeing. We were fortunate in that the trees were changing into their autumn dresses, and the sights were beautiful. We made a pit stop in Colorado Springs on our way south. As Thayne was fueling up the car, the rest of us headed inside the gas station in search of WCs and snacks. There was a man who was filling up his pickup truck and being supervised by an absolutely lovely long-haired Saint Bernard. She was quite friendly, and more than willing to spread her slobber among as many people as cared to fawn over her. This gentle giantess weighed about two hundred pounds, but I am pretty sure that she is two hundred pounds of marshmallow and other sweetness.

She made me think of another Saint Bernard, a short-hair, that belonged to my next door neighbors when I was in high school. Mugger (I doubt that he ever jumped on anyone and stole their purse!) was a sweet, droopy-eyed love of a dog. Oftentimes when I happened to be on my way home from school, or just in the front yard, he would come over to see me. Actually, he sort of shambled over like a four-legged John Wayne. And probably weighed more! After permitting me to pet him, rub his ears, and so forth, he was ready to play. 

Playtime for Mugger consisted of him taking my wrist or forearm in his mouth and leading me around the yard like his own personal human toy. His magnificent tail would sway gently as he led me up and down and around the yard. Mugger never scared me when he did this. Yes, he had my arm in his big, gaping mouth (big, gaping drooling mouth), but he never once hurt me. After I let him know I was finished playing, there was never a single tooth mark on my arm. Great slimy slobbery patches, yes, but never any mark of any other kind.

Most of the kids in the neighborhood were high school age, with the exception of Debbie and Mark, the kids I would end up babysitting full time. Oftentimes there were no kids their age to play with. That was never a problem for Mark, though. He would march his five-year-old self over to the neighbor's front door, ring the bell, and ask, "Can Mugger come out and play?" Mugger gladly came out to play with this little boy who weighed less than a quarter what he did. I am sure that not only did Mark get led around the yard, he probably also took Mugger for pony rides. Nobody, not even Mark's mom, ever worried about the two of them playing together. Mark would always be safe with this sweet and gentle giant.

Unfortunately, Mugger's life ended up being a short one. When he was about two years old, my neighbor took him to swim in a creek. She didn't realize that someone had spilled tar there, and of course Mugger didn't know it was dangerous. Even though she got him to a vet right away, the poisonous effects of the tar on his skin ended his life. His passing left a hole in the hearts of everyone who knew him, and I am sure that Mark was crushed at the passing of his best friend. Whenever I see a Saint Bernard, I think of two things. Buck in The Call of the Wild, and Mugger, one of the sweetest dogs I have ever known. Here's to gentle giants!