Pat Stuart

Newspaper Columns

Lakshmi, the Library Dog

Powell Tribune, 10 November 2020

Newspaper photos show Lakshmi, the standard poodle library dog, lying or sitting next to girls and boys, a book in front of them, a little arm around her neck.  She seems to be listening. 

I seriously doubted at the time that she was.  Which didn’t matter.  To the child, she was an uncritical audience who didn’t care about the mistakes or if the words weren’t exactly what was written on the page.  Each child and each book was a learning experience.

Laks … that’s what we called her … came to me as a basketball-sized, eight-week old puppy, thickly coated in silky curls, who hated laps and hugs and shied away from me and people in general.  There were legs buried in those apricot locks, and she used them, streaking around the farm chasing rabbits, her nose elongating to poke into everything and anything.  As she grew, her attention focused on deer, cars, and trucks.

We had white tail deer in our local Heart Mountain band then, and they ran from her, their tails flashing, inciting her ever onwards.  Until she met her match.  One afternoon, about the time she’d achieved her full growth, she streaked off, looking like a white arrow aimed directly at a small herd of mixed mule and white tails grazing in a recently harvested barley field below the bench we’d just climbed.

Two were slower than the rest …

Helpless to stop her (why hadn’t I bought a shock collar, anyway), I watched as she closed on two of them who appeared slower than the rest.

Slow?  Strange, I remember thinking.  Injured, maybe?  They were both mules.  Then, the two stopped and turned.  Laks slid to a stop.

That was a sight.  The bunch of white tail does disappearing into a draw.  The standard poodle, complete with top knot and fluffy ball on her tail, frozen in place.  The two big mulees with heads back, staring … maybe trying to figure out exactly what the creature in front of them might be.  Clearly, we had a stand-off.

I started laughing.  I actually think the mulees might have been laughing, too, in their own deerlike way.

And that was the end of that …

Long moments passed.  One of the mules dropped her head.  Aggression?  Whatever, Laks turned and trotted off … not back to me, of course.  Once she’d cleared the field, I didn’t see her again until I’d almost completed my walk, but I didn’t doubt that she had an eye on me from somewhere.

That was the end of her deer-chasing days.

It would be a mistake to tell you that Laks belonged to me.  In her mind, I’m quite sure, it was the other way around.  Once she’d resigned herself to a life with people, she came to tolerate my presence as her personal servant.  At the same time, she accepted the responsibilities of being an adult dog with a servant.  To her, that meant putting as good a face as she could on the jobs set before her.  She did her best to listen attentively to the children who came to read to her in her role as library dog.  She traveled the country with me, hating the car, but knowing she had responsibilities and accepting them.  So, she’d jump in and take her seat.

She learned to talk, too, developing a considerable vocabulary of growls, yowls, barks, and body language accompanied by flashing eyes and grinning lips—all totally incomprehensible to me but God forbid I should laugh.  If I did, she walked away.  If I engaged in conversation, she’d keep it going.

RIP, Dear Laks

Like most of you with beloved pets, I could tell Laks stories all day.  Our pets are family members with their own personalities and foibles, accepting us no matter our sins or what me might ask of them.  In return we love and care for them and brag about their idiosyncrasies never mind how bizarre.

And, if you’re a columnist, when they leave, you take a break from serious human matters and venture into the world of the heart to share one thing we all do…grieve for departed and much-loved friends.



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