Twice-orphaned, the big white gun dog was running low on luck when we met at the local SPCA. We happened into the place on a whim, when my wise wife and daughter told me it was time to get a new dog, a year after our old collie died.
Mostly lab with a few other ingredients thrown in, he calmly followed me around the dog pound yard and leaned against my leg.
“Looks like he picked you,” the SPCA woman said.
I reckoned so.
They had called him Samson at the pound, because he is big and strong. But I thought that was a dumb name for a shorthaired dog. I call him Buck. That’s what Jack London named that big dog in “Call of the Wild.” It seems to fit.
He is a serious dog with yellow eyes, and he furrows his brow in obvious puzzlement when he watches his little buddy the cocker spaniel pursue a lizard into an azalea or when he regards a flock of ibises high-stepping across the yard.
He only loses his composure when he sees a cat come yawning up to the fence. Suddenly, you would think he had been poked with a sharp stick. All hell breaks loose. With voice that sounds like it is coming from inside a cave, he stands with his front paws atop the fence dog-cussing the cat, all her cat relatives and the very alphabet for containing the letters c, a and t.
Since he seemed to have been bred to be somebody’s hunting dog, I figured he might have learned a few commands along the way. And I discovered that if I speak his name sharply followed by “off” that he calmly stops, issues a low-disappointed moan and then trots over to me with his tail wagging.
My wife used this command, too, and found it remarkably effective. Then, one day, a neighbor stopped by the fence while my wife was out gardening to ask why she had been so upset the other day. It seems that while the dog’s barking had gotten the whole neighborhood’s attention, everyone was trying to figure out just whom my wife was telling to “Buck off!”
The Old Man can be found teaching vocabulary to his gun dog in the back yard of the Old House and occasionally typing his ridiculous and profane thoughts on an 1943 Underwood typewriter.