Dog Friends – Real and Imagined

By Ann H. Gabhart

Have you ever had a super dog friend? I have. Several of them. I started begging for my own dog when I was about eight. I needed a dog like I needed air to breathe. Some of you may understand that and some of you may not. We had barn cats. We had calves and lambs we bottle fed, but I had the dog hunger that nothing was going to appease except dog fur under my hands.

My wishes were answered when dad must have asked one of his friends to bring me a pup. Ollie was a collie and Spitz mix as best we could guess, but I didn’t really care. He was a dog. That was all that mattered. Since then I’ve had many dog buddies. None any more loved than my current dog, Oscar. Sometimes a dog just seems to become an extension of you as though he knows your thoughts before you think them.

Click on cover to link to Amazon.

I wanted my heroine in These Healing Hills to have that kind of dog. Many of the Frontier Nursing Service midwives had dogs. The Frontier Service recruitment posters promised the nurse midwives their own horse, their own dog, and plenty of adventure to entice them to the mountains to deliver babies in the homes of their patients. So, naturally my heroine had to have her own dog. But he had to be a special dog that would matter in the story. And he was and he did.

The recruitment ad wasn’t the only reason I dropped a dog down into my story. I read the memoirs of one of the Frontier nurse midwives who had a great dog friend. Her dog chased rattlers out of her paths and even managed to block her horse and stop it once when in some mysterious way the dog sensed danger. A rock slide a few minutes later covered the trail in front of them. That’s the kind of dog friend I gave my nurse midwife character in my story. I was so glad Sarge made the cover of the book.

My Oscar hasn’t done any heroics, but he is a very good friend. He’s walked miles with me. He’s slept on his bed behind my chair while I wrote thousands of words. He’s been a good model for my fictional dogs. Trouble is, back in the summer he was diagnosed with an aggressive bone cancer in his back leg. I’m sure some of you have had to say goodbye to a furry friend long before you were ready. That’s where I am now. Not ready but knowing the day is speedily approaching when Oscar will head over the rainbow bridge.

Shelia said I could write a story about friendship. So that’s what I’ve done. My dog friends have given me unconditional love and friendship over the years. The dogs I’ve dropped into my stories have done the same for my characters from Maybe, a dog in my first young adult book, Chance Hero, to Zeb, Jocie’s answer to her dog prayer in Scent of Lilacs to Asher in The Innocent and now Sarge in These Healing Hills.

Have you ever had a special furry friend to make you smile and feel loved?

About the Author

This entry was posted in New Releases and tagged , , on by .

About shelia@sheliastovall.com

Shelia Stovall is a Southern, small-town librarian, and has an understanding of what women like to read. She is a member of ACFW and is currently the Treasurer of the Middle Tennessee ACFW Chapter. Shelia is a member of the Ky. Public Library Association and the American Library Association. Her short story, The Barber’s Sanctuary, won the fiction division of Kentucky Monthly’s sixth annual Writer’s Showcase in the November 2013 issue. Shelia is a weekly columnist for the Citizen-Times, based in Scottsville, Ky. Shelia’s Southern, small-town roots have given her an understanding of community and women's friendships. Her writing deals with difficult contemporary issues, but there’s always a thread of hope amid the calamity. Shelia is passionate about African missions and has traveled to Africa annually for the past four years. Community service is also important to Shelia, and she has volunteered as a crew chief for five years at Camp Habitat, (a Christian youth service camp that partners with Habitat for Humanity).

51 thoughts on “Dog Friends – Real and Imagined

  1. Robin

    Oh my yes, Ann. Several furry friends growing up. But, my current furry friend, a dorkie named Hank Williams, has stolen my heart. He is my shadow. ❤ him to pieces!

    Reply
  2. Nancy M

    Yes! We have a small Cockapoo and she always senses our girls and my pain. She likes to lay right where the pain is most and is so sweet. She stays right by their side. In the bed or in the couch she scoots up next to them where they hurt the most when it has been an issue. Such a sweet thing to watch!

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      That is sweet, Nancy. I got really sick once when I had a cockerspaniel. I’d been working in tobacco and had nicotine poisoning. Very, very sick suddenly. My husband didn’t notice but my cockerspaniel started whining and trying to climb up in my lap. Dogs are so tuned into us.

      Reply
  3. Lisa Bragg

    Lola was the best dog I ever had…She was a family dog but she was so smart and friendly. Whenever she was in the house we taught her to wink at us if she wanted out…she did! If she needed out really fast she would run through the house winking at everyone.She was 14 when she left one night…We never knew what happened to her.

    Reply
  4. Kathy Schnitz

    We have a Newfie named Ebony Moon, or Moonie. I’m not so much the dog person but my husband is. We live in the country so she is free to roam. She had her own recliner on our front porch, where she curls up with our cat, PC. She loves this time of year when she can go across the road and pull a cornstalk up and bring it over to eat!

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      We used to have a dog, a small Brittany spaniel that would get ears of corn off the stalk. Now we just have raccoons that do that. But sounds like your Moonie is a very nice dog and has a wonderful place to live.

      Reply
  5. Geraldine Ann Marshall

    I rescued a boxer/pit bull puppy that showed up in my yard and literally collapsed. This was on a Saturday during a July drought. He was dying dehydrated, and with all of his hair coming out. I brought him in and boiled some chicken and got broth down him every few minutes through the weekend and took him into the vet Monday morning. I could tell she was doubtful he would live, but gave me a couple of extra foods and asked how in the world I had kept him alive all weekend. Of course, by then he had a name: Stuart Little. As a writer of books for children, I am partial to names from CHARLOTTE’S WEB! Stuart did indeed live and grew into a Big and beautiful dog that loved and protected me during a difficult time in life. Unfortunately, he developed lymphoma at age 3. The vet said his early mistreatment before he found me had compromised his immune system. Though I only had him three years, he lives in my hearts–and stories. You can see his picture on my Amazon author page and read about my next dear rescue, Jackaroo.

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      Love your story, Geraldine. Rescued dogs seem to make the closest bonds with those who rescue them. Sometimes I think that’s why Oscar is such a great dog – because he was rescued after being abandoned on the side of a road. I’ll have to hunt up your website and check out his picture. Good that you can have him live on in your stories.

      Reply
  6. Marji

    I’ve loved animals since I was a tiny little girl, but, was never allowed to have a pet.
    When I was twenty one, and living on my own, Jinjer ( Chihuahua) came into my life. We had twenty one happy years together. During those years, and some after, I adopted Jeni (Toy Fox Terrier), Freckles (Brittany Spamiel), Sam (Hound mix), and Petey (Chihuahua). They were all rescues with health problems .
    Three beloved rescue cats, birds, guinea pig, squirrel, rabbits, and a few temporary rescues who needed a home….have also been part of my life.
    Loving them was easy….saying goodbye when it was time for them cross the Rainbow Bridge was heartbreaking.
    Two years ago, I adopted another rescue….Gracie (Chihuahua/Terrier mix)….she’s about 8 years
    old….yes, with some health problems….but, she is a love bug full of life.
    🙏🏻 For Oscar

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      You mae up for not having pets when you were a little girl, Marji. You have been an angel to a lot of needy animals. Jinjer gave you a lot of happy years. Thanks for sharing about all your many pets. Oscar isn’t doing well, but we’ve had some really good years together. He’s a real sweetheart. Thanks for the prayers and hugs.

      Reply
  7. Maria Farley

    When we were growing up we had a collie – a full size collie – named Tippy. Tippy was a true pal. She played with us, and she protected us. She went with us if we took a walk to the neighbors. She loved us like we were her own children. We sure did miss her after she died. I had another dog much later that was a beagle mix. Not sure what the other part of her was, I always thought she had some kind of terrier in her. Sadie was my true companion, and very loyal. She would cuddle in my lap, sleep on my bed, and chase the ball. She hated baths and riding in the car. I have not had another dog since Sadie. She was my best bud. She has been gone well over 10 years, but I still miss her. No matter how long you have a dog, they become a big part of your life and make memories that are ingrained for life.

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      I love collies, Maria. We had a great collie once that looked a lot like Lassie. He was a great family dog. But I like the mutts too. Well, then I like nearly all kinds of dogs. Sounds like Sadie found a permanent place in your heart. Dogs just don’t live long enough but they make sweet memories.

      Reply
  8. Paula Becker

    My best friend, watcher of grandkids, and helper to my disabled parents, was a collie mix. Her name was muggsie. I named her after a tv show from the 1970’s that I loved. I had her for 20 years, when I had to help her go over the Rainbow Bridge. My family and I still talk about her to this day. I still miss her even though other pets have come and gone.

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      Some dogs are one of a kind, Paula. Sounds as if Muggsie was one of those and then to make it 20 years is great. That’s a very old dog. I was hoping for 12 with Oscar but it’s not meant to be. Thanks for sharing about Muggsie.

      Reply
  9. Holly C

    My muddy pawed friends name is Indy. Named after Indiana Jones for her adventursome nature and ability to always find trouble. She is a cairn terrier x foxy with long wheaten fur. She love saying hello very loudly to everybody walking by, chasing shadows, doing muddy paw print art work on the kitchen floor, dropping leaves from her fur for me to find, drawing pictures on the car windows with her nose when travelling and cuddles on the couch in the evenings. She is unique as when we chose her she was black all over (id always wanted a black dog) but at about 7months old her fur started growing out and she turned wheaten completely surprising us all the only black remaining is a small tuft on the tip of her tail. I love my little chamelion.

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      Indy sounds like a wonderful dog, Holly. Love the way you tell about all her “talents.” I’ve seen other dogs that start out one color as pups and then change. Sounds like she went blonde (well, sort of) on you. But I’m seeing a beautiful dog from your description. Thanks for sharing about her.

      Reply
  10. Karen Chaudoin

    When I was twelve my father’s job necessitated a move to a place I didn’t want to make. Living in an alcoholic home is so stressful and I was at the age where I knew something was wrong with our family and having a home and school and friends staying the same meant the work to me. We had a dog but it was understood it was my father’s dog. I cried looking out the back of the station wagon trying so hard to will myself back to what I knew. Of course the move was made. But in my loneliness I meant a friend by accident in the new place. It was a little golden pup who would play with me for hours in a nearby field. I think he helped me with something no human was able to do. He gave me unconditional love. We ended up leaving that place too within 3 months but 50 years later I remember his color and his kisses and the pure joy of being with him. I have another golden puppy now and I have talked to him so much that he now will move his mouth up and down to try to show me he cares. There is nothing like a dog, they are pure joy wrapped in soft fur. What more could a wounded heart need.

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      Sounds like that little golden pup was heaven sent to you just when you needed him most, Karen. I agree that there’s nothing like a dog to make us feel that unconditional love. I think that’s why Oscar is still wagging his tail even though his legs are giving out on him. He wants to be there for me. So glad you have a new golden puppy to love now. Pure joy in soft fur for sure.

      Reply
  11. Paula

    I had a couple dogs when I was growing up. We had several when the kids were young. The best one was Sarah, a Springer Spaniel. She was so great! Pretty, kind, energetic, smart, obedient. We gave her away when my daughter started to crawl at 5 months. She went to a family that had just lost their Springer to a bus accident. My hubby wants a dog now but we are retired and on a budget and can’t afford the deposit to the realtor or the upkeep right now. Maybe some day!
    I’m reading These Healing Hills right now and Sarge is a fantastic dog. He chose Fran just as Ben chose him for Fran! Great stuff, wonderful book!

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      Glad you are liking Sarge, Paula. He was a great dog to add to my story. I don’t think I’ve ever known a dog named Sarah, but she sounds like she was wonderful. Dogs can be expensive these days since we treat them like members of our family. I certainly do that with Oscar.

      Reply
  12. Connie Lee

    The dog we have now “Dixie” is a very loving yellow lab we have raised from a puppy, she is 4 years old. She loves car rides better than anything. She hangs her head out the window and is interested in everything and everyone she sees. She is also a chaser of squirrels and rabbits, most of them get away and hide too fast. Shes a very good companion especially to my husband, he spends a lot of time with her.

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      Thanks for sharing about your dog, Dixie, Connie. She sounds like a beautiful dog. I love labs. I’ve had a black lab, a chocolate lab and now Oscar who is part lab and part something else, maybe chow. But they are such sweet natured dogs and so loving.

      Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      Josie is a fun name for a dog and sounds as though she’s a good one, Donamae. I’ve been blessed by all the dogs I’ve loved through the years. Never more than by Oscar, my dog now.

      Reply
  13. Kay Garrett

    We have had several dogs, all dear to my heart. I will say there have been two that have tugged at every corner and molecule of my heart. The first one was Haunky, our daughter’s toy poodle. Jenet was only 6 when she just knew she had to have a black little bitty poodle. She got him for her birthday. Little did we know at that time at black poodle puppies with brown eyes will start turning silver at about 3 months of age. Of course by then we loved him so that he could have been purple. 🙂 Jenet was 17 when she died in a car accident just as her senior year was starting. Haunky was her dog so it was like part of her was still with us. We had him, through a lot of medical issues, until the vet said that to treat his heart caused his kidneys to fail and vice versa. It was a sad day when the decision was made to allow him to cross that rainbow bridge to be greeting by his true owner.

    The second dog is the one we have now – Snickerdoodle, a chihuaha. We had went several years without a dog and don’t really know why we thought this was the time to finally open our hearts up again, but the timing became clear a few years later. Snickerdoodle is the first dog that I can say that my Dad loved, loved. They were inseparable whenever they were together. We laughed and said they were napping partners while Mom and I did housework. Dad was the first to speak up and say they would keep him if we needed to go on a trip. We got him in November 2004 and Dad passed away in July 2005. I cherish the photo of the two of them together. After Dad’s passing, Snickerdoodle went to live with Mom so that she wouldn’t be alone. As hard as it was to not have him home, I know Mom needed him. Six months later Mom said it was time and she sent him back home. Then in 2010 Mom came to live with us after cancer surgery and the onset of Alzheimer. Once again, he was her buddy and gave her great comfort. After Mom’s passing in 2014, it was just the three of us again. I know know why we got him when we did – so he could give that unconditional love to my parents even after showering us with his affection. My husband and I love our fur-baby. Now when we take a trip it’s planned around where we can go and who can accommodate our fur-baby. He is our ray of sunshine. He may be slowing down but that’s ok cause we are too. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      What a touching story, Kay. So sorry for the loss of your daughter at such a young age. Such a tragedy when auto accidents steal our loved ones. It’s good that Haunky was there to give you love at that hard time. And sounds as if Snickerdoodle was a dog who came at just the right time to bring the right love to all of you. Dogs have a way of warming our hearts and loving those who need loving.

      Reply
  14. Donna Harmon

    I’ve had lots of dogs & cats over the years but my most special would have to be, “Precious,” a cat I raised from a few hours old. She was born of a litter of twelve kittens to a mother who had no milk. By the time my daughter’s friend called me 10 had already passed. I took the remaining two tine kittens home ( which were so small I could hold both in one palm). I began with a dropper with feedings every two hours and kept them in a pet carrier with a lamp, after two days despite all my efforts one of the kittens died. I worked at an elementary school at the time and taught some of the sixth graders how to feed her & how to stimulate her into pottying. After ten days I lengthened her feedings to every three hours and upgraded to a tiny bottle, then after another week we went to every four hours. I stimulated her with a warm damp cloth before and after feeding and even in her old age she loved a warm bath. She would sit on the side of tub and trail her tail in the warm water if she could sneak in when we bathed. Our Precious thought she was human and understood some verbal commands better than any dog we ever had. She died of luekemia a few years ago but she will always be our most “Precious!”

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      What a sweet story about those other furry pets we can love, Donna. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a cat that liked baths or getting their tails wet. 🙂 Sounds as if you definitely imprinted some human feelings on Precious. I’m guessing that was a great experience for your students that year too and that they fell in love with Precious too. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I loved it.

      Reply
  15. Judi Burns

    We have had many pets over the years. While I have loved them all, I will say that Cassidy, our Rottweiler, was probably our best dog ever. She knew my husband was disabled and was always there for him. She did this on her own. Would help him up and down the stairs. Hated when he was laying on the ground. Was just always by his side. She aquired bone cancer and while we had her leg removed and chemo treatments for her, she trooped forward for another two years. Thankful for those years! Her fist time out with three legs, she found her big ball and played soccer in the back yard. I cried and cried! Cassidy was a great dog for us~

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      You’re making me wonder if I should have tried that with Oscar, but the vet didn’t think it would work for him. Sounds as if Cassidy was a wonderful dog and just what your husband needed to help him. Dogs sometimes seem to sense what we need. That’s what makes them so wonderful. Thanks for sharing your story, Judi.

      Reply
  16. Pam K.

    It’s been about twelve years since I’ve had a dog. We always had dogs on the farm when I was a kid. They were very important to me, especially during those angsty adolescent years when it seemed my dog was the only one who understood me!

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      Dogs can be the most understanding friends, Pam. They never tell us we’re being silly or dumb. They just keep looking at us as though nobody could be as wonderful as you. Glad you had some of those kinds of dogs to get you through the adolescent years.

      Reply
  17. Joan Kurth

    Quite a few years ago we got Callie, Springer Spaniel, from the Humane Society. When we had only had her for 6 months, my husband got severe pain in the middle of the night. He got up and no matter what he did, sitting, laying or pacing the floor, the pain kept getting worse. I must have been very tired that night because I didn’t wake up. Callie knew something was really wrong and she came and woke me up and ran to the living room. I ended up taking him to the emergency room and he had kidney stones. She was a smart dog and seemed to know if one of us wasn’t feeling well, she would lay on the floor by the bed and keep a watch on us.

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      It is remarkable what a dog can sense and figure out, Joan. Spaniels are such beautiful dogs too. Sounds like Callie was a nurse dog who took her job seriously. Thanks for sharing about her.

      Reply
  18. Betty Owens

    I’ve had several good dogs in my life and would love to have another, but circumstances won’t allow it right now. So, I comfort myself by spending time with friends’ dogs. They seem to know how much I love them and end up in my lap, or right beside me. It’s such a wonderful feeling when I return and they remember me!

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      I’ve had a lot of friend dogs like that, Betty. I had a Saint Bernard that lived across the road from me and she would watch for when I went out to walk and walk with me every day. She slobbered a lot, but I figured clothes are easy to wash. Roxie was a very sweet dog. She actually died on one of our walks. Her heart must have given out. I was sad forever when she wasn’t there to walk with me.

      Reply
  19. Duanne Steele

    Black Jack was his name. He waited patiently at the end of the driveway for us to return home in the evening. I never understood how he was able to tell time.

    Reply
  20. Kristi Kitzmiller

    We’ve had many dogs over the years. But, my husband and I agree that the best one was our first dog we found the first year we were married. He was a stray a friend found at a local gas station. She brought him home, but had too many dogs of her own. So we took him. His name was Bernard and he was an old soul. All he wanted to do was look out the windows, so if we kept him contained in the kitchen he would leap over the gate or chairs. If we said don’t get on the furniture, he would find his corner to sit up like a person and rest his head on the sofa. He was loyal, funny, sweet, patient, and comforting. He was the best!! He died a few weeks before the birth of our first child, but he holds a special place in our hearts!!

    Reply
  21. Karen G.

    I had a cat who lived for 18 years and a Dalmation for 13 years. The cat was the only pet I had that belonged to me and I loved her. The Dalmation was really my husband’s dog even though I was the one who took care of him the most. They both went over the rainbow bridge many years ago and my husband and I haven’t gotten another to replace them. I guess it’s watching them suffer when they get older that is stopping us from getting another pet.

    Reply
  22. Megan Hamsher

    I’m a solid owned-by-a-cat person.
    That, however, doesn’t mean I don’t have other people’s pooches to love and spoil!

    “Muttley” was just that – a mutt.
    “Harper” the daschund and “Sophie” mixed breeds
    (Neighbors next door on street I grew up on)

    “Molly” is the friendliest Pitt bull I’ve ever met
    (My present next-door neighbor)

    While “Petey” would rather eat me and “Chico” could care less, “LuLu” loves the attention and giving kisses
    (All 3 Chihuahuas in the same house, shared by cat named “Cooper” …
    no wonder why she wants housekeeping most weeks)

    “Diablo” is St Bernard/English Mastiff mix (like a mini pony…lol) – believe it or not, he’s the jumper of the trio
    “Angel” the barking loudmouth, is Beagle/English Walker mix;
    “Halo” the Cocker Spaniel, the sweetest and calm one
    (Favorite pet-sitting job)

    Reply
    1. Ann H Gabhart

      What an array of dog and cat friends, Megan. I’ve had some neighbor dogs that I really grew fond of too. Several became walking companions. One of them was an American Staffordshire (a type of pit bull). After I was around Ginger, I understood why people loved their pit bulls so much. She was the best dog. I would have adopted her in a minute.

      Reply
  23. Carol Brown

    Sadly, our almost sixteen year old Shih Tzu died in January. I had said for several years prior that he would be our last dog, but for some reason, I just found myself drawn to a Shih Tzu rescue website. I would look at the pictures, show them to my adult children, and then tell them why that particular dog wouldn’t work for us. A few months later, my daughter, who lives at home, decided she wanted to adopt a Yorkie. I insisted it was too soon for another dog, but she told me it would take months to be matched with one, so I agreed (somewhat reluctantly) for her to apply. She was actually in a conversation about adopting with a rescue volunteer when the volunteer got a call to go pick up a Shih Tzu that was being starved. Less than two weeks later, that little dog came home to us, (where she eats all she wants :)) and we’re very happy she did!

    Reply

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