Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

You may recall our dog, Fred, who succumbed to congestive heart failure in the spring of 2018. He was the poet laureate of The HCP before his untimely death at age 11.

Immediately on the heels of Fred came Broc, despite my declaration of “no rebound dogs.” We went to get Fred’s ashes at the vet’s and came home not only with his ashes, but also with Broc.

Broc has been with us over 18 months now. A 9-year-old neurotic shih tzu, Broc has to be carried up and down indoor stairs (negotiates outdoor stairs just fine) and exhibits other nervous behaviors as well. Since we live on three levels in our home, Broc gets carried a lot.

If one dog is good, two ought to be better, right? There was a time back in my Highland County farm days when we even had three for a short time.

So, now we have Cotton as well. Cotton is a Welsh terrier, about the same age, weight and coloring as Broc. Apparently handed around a lot in his earlier days, Cotton craves attention.

If one dog is a loyal companion, two behave like political parties. Broc and Cotton each vie for my attention and crave belly rubs. They politic to see who can get the closest and the most attention.

I try to treat them equally, but Cotton is a bit more aggressive and brings his firm snout to bear, much like a pig would, if I am too close to Broc. At night, though, Broc commands sleeping on our bed, while Cotton has appropriated Fred’s old bed beside me on the floor. It is seldom a two-dog night in the human bed, which suits Laura just fine.

This modern canine menagerie takes me back to the spring of 1957.

I must have pestered my parents enough, for one day Dad came home with a cocker-terrier mix. His litter mates had looked like cocker spaniels, he said. Buttons, as I named him, was a short, brown hair dog. He was just a pup. His tail was incorrectly docked, and he spent his life with a four-inch stub. The first few days he stayed in the house.

That first evening, there was a box with some straw in it in the house. Dad had brought him home in that. I played with him so much he was very tired and kept trying to go into the box to sleep.

We built Buttons an outdoor pen. These were our bifurcated years when we lived in Troy Sunday afternoon until Friday evening and at the McNary Farm in eastern Highland County on the weekends, holidays and vacations. Buttons knew when Friday evening was coming and got so excited when we went to his pen to get him for the trip to Highland County. He nearly did laps inside our ’56 Chevy when he got in the car.

Once we got to McNary Road, if the weather was good, we would let him out of the car, driving down the road slowly (from about where Mr. Fred Martin and family live now), Buttons in the headlights, racing ahead as we approached the lane and the old log house. Sunday afternoon, all exhausted, we would pile in the car and head back to Troy. This routine lasted until 1963 when we moved to Marshall.

Looking ahead, I am getting ready to make my second extended weekend trip to see my special friends on Sugar Tree Ridge.

Last year, I cheated and flew to Cincinnati, taking the bus from there to Seaman where I was picked up in a buggy by an affable gentleman, Scott Richardson. This year, I had planned to have the whole experience – “ridin’ the dog” all the way to Seaman. I was to leave here from the Atlanta Greyhound Station on Oct. 31 at 1:15 a.m., returning on Nov. 5. I guess that would have made it a one dog night as we made our way north on I-75 in the wee hours.

I was as eager as Buttons used to be. I’d get to turn off the phone, shut down the computer and move a little slower through life for a few days with great food, fantastic conversation and a moving worship service on Sunday morning. However, my better half was not thrilled about me being in the Atlanta bus station at one o’clock in the morning, so the long bus ride won’t be happening. I’ll fly to Cincinnati again and take the bus from there.

Still, I thank my Sugar Tree Ridge friends for inviting me back again. It is far richer, than this old curmudgeon deserves.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at jthompson@taii.com.