Summer of 1996. I was on duty as deputy sheriff. I took a call from dispatch about a vicious dog in the northeast part of Jefferson County. I loaded up a dog crate in the back seat of a Ford Crown Victoria.
I drove to the reporting party’s address and made contact with the woman who called in the “vicious dog.” I was taken to the rear of the house, where I saw a smallish dog, which looked to be a cross between dachshund, beagle, and basset hound, playing with two fully-grown German shepherds. I watched as this “vicious dog” played vigorously, jumping up on the German shepherds and then running away.
I told the lady that the dog was not vicious, but was only playing with her dogs. She replied, “I know. I just don’t want her around here.” I walked up to the dog and petted her. I had her follow me to my patrol car, picked her up, and put her into the waiting dog crate.
I could tell that she had not been out on her own for very long, as she was not thin, and was in generally good health. I assumed that she had gotten herself lost. I must tell you, the part of the county where I found her is very rural, and is mainly farm ground, with not many houses to the square mile.
I drove the dog to numerous houses in the general location where I picked her up. I asked everyone I spoke to if they had seen this dog before, and if they might know where she came from. Nobody I spoke to claimed to had ever before seen the dog, and did not know of any possible owners.
After I had exhausted all avenues for this dog, I left the area, and headed for the “dog pound.” I pulled up to a stop sign at the intersection of US 59 and 134th St. As I waiting on traffic to pass, so I could make a left-hand turn, I heard a whimper from the back seat. I turned around and could see her black nose sticking out of a hole in the dog crate. I reached back and petted her nose with my index finger and said, “It’s ok puppy.” She licked my finger.
My wife Patti and I had, in the recent past, talked about getting a dog. I wanted a dog and Patti did not. I was told, “We do not need a dog right now.” And that was the final word on the matter. For as long as I can remember, I have always had dogs. My wife, on the other hand, had dogs on the farm where she grew up, but they were farm dogs, which are not necessarily considered members of the family.
I AM SUCH A SUCKER!!!!! I looked at the dog in the back of my patrol car, and as she was licking my finger, she gave me the saddest dog eyes you have ever seen (the basset hound in her). I knew full well that if I made a left-hand turn, this dog would be euthanized, and if I made a right-hand turn (to my house), I would be in the proverbial doghouse. RIGHT HAND TURN, CLYDE.
I did turn right, and for the twenty-minute ride to my house, I tried to come up with the best excuse my brain could conjure. I arrived at my home and parked the car in the drive.
I married into a farm family from western Kansas. Patti’s father, Joe, is not only my father-in-law, but a beer-drinking buddy, as well. My mother-in-law is the salt of the earth kind of person, and will do anything for anyone. They happened to be visiting us at this time, and when I pulled into the drive, they were sitting on the deck at the main entrance to our home.
I got out of my patrol car and walked around to the passenger side rear door. I opened up the car door and then the dog crate door. Out jumped the dog, who ran right up to my father-in-law to be petted. I told them that the dog had been dumped, and I could not bring myself to take her to the pound. Joe laughed out loud, and in his gruff voice said, “She looks like a Gertrude.” GERTY. Hmmm, I think I like it.
When Patti came home from work about an hour later and saw Gerty, I could tell that she was not pleased. Standing on the deck, Patti asked me about Gerty, and I told her the story. Patti walked past Gerty and said, “No, WE don’t want a dog.” She went inside, and Joe once again laughed.
It was quiet for a short time until Patti came back out to sit on the deck. I was preparing to plead my case, when Gerty, on cue, walked up to my wife, laid her head on Patti’s lap, and gave her the sad puppy dog eyes that had earlier sucked me in. Patti gave Gerty a pet on top of her head, looked at me and said, “She is kind of cute.” SUCKER!!!!!
Gerty had a home.
Gerty was happy to have a bed on the deck, with food and water at her disposal. Gerty was always waiting for either Patti or me to come home from work so she could greet us in the only way she could: bounding up to us, tail wagging, with a smile on her face.
It was getting well into the fall season, and the temperatures were starting to drop in the evenings. I was working the 3-11 shift. I came home one night, and Gerty did not greet me. I called for her, and still no Gerty. When I walked into the house, there she was in the mudroom, new dog bed, new food bowls, wagging her tail and smiling at me. Patti had also bought a child gate to keep her out of the rest of the house.
It was now my turn to put my foot down. I told Patti, not only no, but hell no. Dogs do not come into the house. Patti told me that she looked out the door and saw Gerty lying on her bed on the deck shivering in the cold. And once again, those sad puppy dog eyes got to her. SUCKER!!!!!
I agreed to let Gerty stay in the mudroom for the winter. Gerty appeared to be house trained, because she never had an “accident” in the house. We slowly integrated Gerty into the house, letting her lie on the living room carpet while we watched TV. Gerty always went back to the mudroom when we went to bed. But one night we forgot to put her up, and when we got up the next morning she was still asleep on the living room floor.
Gerty was now a house dog and a full-fledged member of our family. When we went on trips, Gerty went with us. Gerty loved to travel. Once we got on the road, she would sleep until we stopped the car.
In 1997, Patti and I bought a house on 3 acres. Gerty made the move just fine and loved the big yard. There was a sand box in the yard, left by the previous owners. Gerty would, at times, run at full speed, zigzagging all over the place, jump into the sand box and dig with her front paws like there was no tomorrow. She found numerous toy cars, army men, and other small toys in her sand box. She would dig them up, grab them with her mouth and throw them out of the sand box. I’m not sure if she was just playing with these toys or ridding her sand box of items that did not belong there. I would throw the toys back into the sand box and bury them. Gerty would dig them back up and “throw” them back out.
I could write a book on the experiences we shared with Gertrude the dog. I was told by our veterinarian that Gerty was about a year and a half old when I found her in 1996. Gerty was about 14 in the spring of 2009, when she was diagnosed with cancer. The vet said there was nothing we could do to prolong her life. We were given pills to help her feel better. Patti and I made her as comfortable as possible, but when a cyst under her tongue burst, we knew it was time.
The veterinarian arrived at our home that day and put Gertie to sleep, surrounded by the ones that loved her, and the ones she loved. I still tear up when I think about Gerty, but I know that the life she lived was good. Gerty gave us unconditional love and memories that will last our lifetimes. I know that if there is a Doggy Heaven, Gerty is one of its premier members. Sleep well, Gerty. I will see you later