Doug & Jamie


So there are now about 300 black bears in Missouri.

That’s according to the latest information released by the Missouri Department of Conservation and its Grand Bear Poobah, Jeff Beringer (whose name couldn’t be better under the circumstances). The numbers come from a project now in its fourth year, aptly called the Missouri Black Bear Project.

Interestingly, Beringer and Co. seem to actually admit that bears not only exist in Missouri, but stay. A report from the project indicates that four separate “populations” have been identified in the state and that the presence of females can determine if a population is transient or stationary.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

Ya think?

This would seem to go against the MDC’s well-publicized cougar policy. Remember: There’s no breeding population of cougars in Missouri and all those you, your relatives or your friends claim to have seen or heard are simply passing through from states to the west to states to the east (never the other way, mind you) in search of mates or territory (because, obviously, there are no worthy mates amongst all the passers-through, and there’s no worthy territory in Missouri).

While cougars apparently consider Missouri a barren wasteland to be avoided unless used for passage to the beauty that lies beyond, the MDC apparently has determined the same isn’t true for bears. Apparently, bears somehow find Missouri attractive enough to set up camp and, well, proliferate.

A quick reset: Missouri bears are believed to mostly be descendants of a bear re-stocking project decades ago in Arkansas, when bears from Minnesota were released in the Natural State. So I guess now we’re to accept that many Missouri bears could actually be Missouri bears, and not just wandering wildlife wishing they were somewhere else like their big feline brethren.

To me, there’s reason to wonder why. The fact our state’s   conservation experts aren’t insisting that bears don’t stay and breed in Missouri begs the question: What is it about the Show Me State that would make a bear want to become part of a “breeding population?”

Just what exactly are “The 300” doing here?

Maybe they heard the hot light was on more often at Missouri’s Krispy Kreme Donuts locations than those in Arkansas.

Maybe they’re St. Louis Cardinals fans and their radios don’t pick up the voices of Mike Shannon and John Rooney very well from down in Arkansas.

Maybe they prefer the local craft beers brewed here to the ones produced there.

Or maybe, just maybe, there’s enough wilderness, food and other stuff in portions of Missouri to make up an ideal habitat for a large, omnivorous animal. Yep, maybe when bears are bedding down for the evening in some sheltered hollow deep in an Ozarks wilderness, their bellies full and their cubs happy and content, they look at each other and say, “Those cougars – they just don’t know what they’re missing.”

Either that or the cougars are bedding down in their own perfect spot a ridge away and they’re going, “Ahh, home sweet home.”

Anyway, I guess at this point we’re supposed to go with this mindset in Missouri: Bears, yes, cougars, no. Hmmm.

If you’re interested, the MDC has a really cool bear-tracking website that allows for following specific individuals that have been outfitted with high-tech electronic jewelry. Check it out at http://www.fwrc.msstate.edu/carnivore/mo_bear/.

In conclusion, I’d like to repeat something I’ve said multiple times in the past: I’m a huge fan of the Missouri Department of Conservation and unlike some other Show Me State residents (some of whom make a living in similar fashion to me by writing for news publications), I like all the guys I’ve ever met who wear shirts bearing the agency’s patch and I have a great appreciation for what they do.

I’m just not a fan of that weird cougar policy. But kudos to Beringer’s bunch for not trying to present bears as nothing more than traveling vagabonds who consider Missouri a place to enter only for the purpose of exiting on the other side.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

 

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The end of a journey

By DOUG DAVISON, Houston Herald

It’s undeniably true that all good things come to an end, and Jamie’s life journey ended last week.

To me, how and why he’s gone isn’t as pertinent as the way he lived, and I’ve definitely focused more on that over the past several days. He did it with gusto and a yearning for experience, and it was me who was the lucky one in our relationship.

A lot of people love their dogs, and they become more a part of the family than a pet. Jamie was certainly a member of our family, and he knew it, too, and didn’t for a moment take that for granted.

He would often make a point of stopping me from doing whatever I was doing, so I would crouch down and he could stand on his hind legs for a huge Big Lug hug. You could see the gratitude in his eyes, and he would sometimes make little woofing or rumbling sounds as if trying to verbalize his thanks.

I know Jamie knew the feeling was mutual, too. He had a knack for making me – and others around him – smile without even trying. His mere presence was enough to invoke joy and even laughter, and when I bent over to pet him and say “you’re such a good boy,” his expression made it clear he understood he was appreciated.

Jamie was such a character.

I miss hearing his nails clicking on the hardwood floor as he slowly and deliberately approached the kitchen early in the morning. I miss seeing his short little legs sticking up in the air as he napped on his back in the living room. I miss watching him run, I miss feeding him dinner, and I miss hearing him snore.

And I really miss the anticipation the Big Man often displayed for what was going to happen next.

But I’ll never forget the good times, and I’m so very thankful that God allowed him to be a part of my life (and my family members’ lives).

What fun it was to have him sitting next to me in the front seat of the truck as we headed out for an adventure. What a pleasure it was to have him at the end of a leash while we walked around in a place neither of us had ever before been.

How nice it was to rub his belly, stroke his ears or brush his back. And what a blessing it was to simply squeeze him.

It was all awesome.

I received an email the other day that had an attachment entitled “Just a dog.” I don’t know where it originated, (and it doesn’t matter, anyway), but it described how dogs can go beyond their status as a quadruped canine mammal (and how not everyone understands that). Tears came to my eyes as I read so many sentences I completely related to.

Jamie wasn’t just a 35-pound Pembroke Welsh Corgi, he was much more than that. He was a comedian, a companion and a reliable, trusted friend. He was something wonderful to be occupied with, and something to look forward to.

From the moment I first laid eyes on him behind a chain link gate at an animal shelter in Oceanside, Calif., I knew Jamie was something special. When I saw him willingly (even excitedly) jump in the truck to “go home” to Missouri as if it had been his destiny forever, I knew then that it really was.

When I saw he and our youngest daughter (in her mid-teens at the time) running at full speed up and down a deserted freeway onramp on a starlit night in the middle of New Mexico, I knew there were great times in store with him.

Jamie was indeed far more than “just a dog.”

He was an inspiration, a sight to behold and even a business partner. And he was an incredible example of God’s creativity.

It was great while it lasted, but the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Thank you, Lord, for such a fine gift.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie was a big ol’ Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Email ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie; Aug. 18, 2006 – Feb. 28, 2014.

Jamie; Aug. 18, 2006 – Feb. 28, 2014.

Jamie smiles during one of his last Journeys in the Jillikins, a walk through Texas County pasture on a warm February afternoon.

Jamie smiles during one of his last Journeys in the Jillikins, a walk through Texas County pasture on a warm February afternoon.

Jamie.

Jamie.

Jamie.

Jamie.

Jamie and his leash-handler Doug Davison hang out next to a rearing pond full of rainbow trout at Montauk State Park.

Jamie and his leash-handler Doug Davison hang out next to a rearing pond full of rainbow trout at Montauk State Park.

Jamie hangs out with his sidekick amongst some of the ancient exposed granite that makes up Elephant Rocks State Park in Iron County, Mo.

Jamie hangs out with his sidekick amongst some of the ancient exposed granite that makes up Elephant Rocks State Park in Iron County, Mo.

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Corgi correspondence and classification

By DOUG DAVISON, Houston Herald

Since he began working as a journalist a couple of years ago, Jamie has developed a bit of a following.

During his journeys and escapades in the Jillikins, the Big Lug has drawn some attention through his love of history, his sarcastic, almost cynical sense of humor, his incredible cache of knowledge about all things trivial, and his forwardness and opinionated nature. Basically, Jamie has some fans.

In turn, he receives a steady flow of email messages from his fan base (actually more of a drip than a flow), especially from other Pembroke Welsh Corgis. While he can’t reply to every message he gets (or any, for that matter, because of his lack of thumbs), he tries to respond to as many as possible (by taking advantage of the fact a human he knows does have thumbs).

A fellow Corgi named Cory – who resides in Kirkwood, in the St. Louis metropolitan area – recently dropped Jamie a line. Among other things, Cory said he likes peanut butter and ice cream and that he has ties to Texas County and comes here now and then to visit some of his human’s relatives in Cabool.

“Do you think it will be warm in April?” Cory said. “I hope so. I sure don’t like this cold weather.”

“Me neither,” Jamie said. “And we’re getting too much snow. Not enough ground clearance for that stuff.”

Cory said he outweighed the 35-pound Big Lug by 11 pounds.
“My vet says I should lose a little weight,” he said. “But, you know the routine – treats and yummy goodies from the table. And oh boy, I love the words ‘supper on.’”

“Yeah, I like it when a human in the kitchen says ‘here boy,’” Jamie said. “Mmm, treats and yummy goodies from the table. That’s the good stuff.”

Cory and Jamie share a dislike of water.

“Yuck, I don’t like water and I don’t like rain,” Cory said. “It’s like, ‘do I hafta go out mom? Well,

okay.’ Then I scrunch up under the eaves next to the house. I’m a wimp when it comes to rain.”

“I can relate,” Jamie said. “I get my outdoor business done in a hurry when it’s raining. And if I have to stay out, I just hang out on one of the two covered porches at my house and wait until I can go in again and lie down on my pad.”

A while back, a female Corgi named Apple – from Harrison, Ark. – sent Jamie an email after reading his account of a big day on the job. She was apparently inspired by the Big Lug’s dedication to hard work, but was attracted to his physical appearance as well.

“If we hook up,” Apple said, “I can show you a really fun time. Then you’ll work a lot less.”

Miss Apple even suggested combining her talents with Jamie’s, for the betterment of all of Pembroke Nation.

“Maybe we can use your work talent and my skill for social activities to start an Internet site called ‘corgismingle.com,’” she said. “Of course, membership would be limited to us highly superior Pembroke Welsh Corgis and those dirt ball Cardigan Welsh Corgis would be excluded. We could charge lots of bones for annual memberships, and even lifetime memberships.”

“That’s so crazy, it might just work,” Jamie said. “I’d probably have to have full control of the decision making, though. I’m not sure I’m ready to have a dog named after a fruit as an equal business partner.”

Apple said things she likes include herding, riding an ATV, drinking Dr. Pepper, and skinny-dipping.

“No dipping for me,” Jamie said. “Skinny, fat or otherwise. Not if I can help it.”

Apple said her dislikes include anything shorter than her, anything that can shed more hair and “those socially incompetent Cardigan Corgis.”

“My list would have to include ticks, empty dog dishes and ground hogs that pretend to predict weather,” Jamie said. “And dogs barking on TV. I find that distracting and annoying.”

An incomplete list

The other day, Jamie and I stumbled across something online that was both cool and unfortunate.

The cool part was it was a list posted on the BuzzFeed website of the 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013 (complete with photos or video of each one). The unfortunate part was that Jamie wasn’t even ranked, let alone at No. 1.

“What’s up with that?” he said. “Who are all these mutts anyway?”

“I don’t know big man,” I said. “My guess is the folks who put the rankings together somehow didn’t know about you and we’ll just have to give them the benefit of the doubt on leaving you out.”

“Yeah, ’cause if they knew about me, my position at the top would have been a no-brainer,” Jamie said. “And I’m not boasting – I’m just sayin’.”

While he was justifiably disappointed with being snubbed, Jamie did acknowledge that several worthy Corgis were on the list.

“I guess they’re not all total losers,” he said.

The Big Lug particularly liked a few of the honorees, including the five staff members of Corgis on a Lawnmower, who were collectively ranked 39th. They were tabbed as the year’s most successful small business owners and plan to expand their operation from Texas and Oklahoma to five other states.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Jamie said. “Corgis who get out and make something of themselves and for themselves.”

“I admire your appreciation of honest, hard work,” I said. “But I guess Apple noticed that about you, too.”

“A dog that earns his keep, keeps his earnings,” Jamie said.

“Wow, that’s profound,” I said. “Like a canine proverb.”

Jamie clearly didn’t agree with some of the rankings, like No. 2 Super Corgi, who donned a cheap looking Superman outfit while attending the annual SoCal Corgi Meetup on a beach in southern California.

“Super Corgi?” Jamie said. “More like Stupid Corgi. Look at those lame shades and that dime store bandana with an ‘S’ on it.”

“Hey, be nice,” I said. “That sounds like sour grapes to me. Or moldy dog biscuits.”

“I’m not bitter,” Jamie said. “I’m just sayin’.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Email Jamie at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie sits in front of a laptop computer last Sunday while pondering his reply to a fan.

Jamie sits in front of a laptop computer while pondering his reply to a fan.

Jamie fan and correspondent Apple, right, stands in a custom-made wooden box mounted to an ATV near her home in Harrison, Ark. With Apple are members of her support staff, including, from left, Sydney, Annie and head security officer Poo.

Jamie fan and correspondent Apple, right, stands in a custom-made wooden box mounted to an ATV near her home in Harrison, Ark. With Apple are members of her support staff, including, from left, Sydney, Annie and head security officer Poo.

Getting "yuumy treats from the kitchen" are, from left, Amber, Cory, Winston and Chloe.

Getting “treats and yummy goodies from the table” are, from left, Amber, Cory, Winston and Chloe.

No. 39 on the list of the 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, the five staff members of Corgis on a Lawnmower were the year's most successful small business owners. In 2014 they are expanding their business from Texas and Oklahoma to five other states.

No. 39 on the list of the 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, the five staff members of Corgis on a Lawnmower were the year’s most successful small business owners. In 2014 they are expanding their business from Texas and Oklahoma to five other states.

No. 1 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, brothers Corgnelius and Stumphrey are reportedly the two most famous Corgis in the cyber world (although what they're famous for is more than a little sketchy). It should also be noted how gracious the pair are; when informed of their honor, they tweeted “thanks 2 r fans. We r v. humbled.”

No. 1 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, brothers Corgnelius and Stumphrey are reportedly the two most famous Corgis in the cyber world (although what they’re famous for is more than a little sketchy). It should also be noted how gracious the pair are; when informed of their honor, they tweeted “thanks 2 r fans. We r v. humbled.”

No. 16 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, the Corgi That Ate An Entire Cupcake In One Bite played an important part in last year's popular body acceptance movement.

No. 16 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, the Corgi That Ate An Entire Cupcake In One Bite played an important part in last year’s popular body acceptance movement.

No. 7 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, Trinket is the most charitable entry on the year’s list, having gathered Twinkies for the poor.

No. 7 on the list of 40 Most Important Corgis of 2013, Trinket is the most charitable entry on the year’s list, having gathered Twinkies for the poor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Corgi’s look at 2013

Although he is well known to be a fan of history and historic events, Jamie has never been one to dwell on the past and he’s usually looking ahead – to his next meal.

But due to popular demand (he demanded because he thinks he’s popular), he recently decided to do a “year in review.” So here’s a look at a scant few snippets of what the Big Lug experienced during 2013, broken down by month.

JANUARY

“It’s cold,” Jamie said. “Wake me up in April.”

FEBRUARY

When a winter storm hit the Ozarks and dumped several inches of snow and sleet topped off with some freezing rain, Jamie had a blast hanging around outdoors in the resulting layer of what seemed like “frozen mashed potatoes mixed with cement.”

“This stuff’s weird,” he said. “My paws don’t go into it, and my claws can’t grab ahold of it. And if I get up any speed, I slide.

“I like it.”

MARCH

When an early spring storm brought wintry weather back to the area and dumped about six inches of snow, Jamie had even more fun since he was able to plow through it instead of having to walk on top of it.

Part of the Big Lug’s enjoyment came from trying to keep up with our other Corgi, Gertie (the Permapup), who is always on the go, but shifts into an even higher gear in the snow. Jamie ran after her as she would literally run in circles at top speed, and then stop suddenly and take a big bite out of the fluffy white stuff, like it was frosting on a gigantic cake.

“That dog’s crazy,” Jamie said. “I like it.”

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

I told Jamie that Gertie can’t help herself, because to her, everything is exciting.

“Even a dead skunk?” Jamie asked. “Or a piece of rotten asparagus?”

“Well, maybe not quite everything,” I said. “But I’d say a dead skunk might just qualify.”

APRIL

Spring settled in, with far more palatable weather, and Jamie got outside and took advantage.

“This is more like it,” he said. “Why don’t we cook some hot dogs over a fire tonight? I might need a little help – no thumbs, you know.”

“Great idea, big man,” I said. “I think we can arrange that. The moon should be out and the coyotes will be singing.”

“Extra bacon grease and chicken gizzards on mine,” Jamie said. “And hold the mustard, ketchup, onions and relish.”

“Nice,” I said. “That’ll be a dog fit for a dog.”

MAY

Wanting both to see what all the hubbub was about and offer suggestions and criticism only a wily, 35-pound  Pembroke Welsh Corgi could, Jamie decided to accompany me on a day at work.

Highlights included having him help proofread stories and ads, select and add captions to photos, and even gather and share breaking news. But when he and I went out to take care of business around town, Jamie was in top form.

Especially at the Houston City Hall, where mayor Don Tottingham and Police Chief Jim McNiell discussed with him the possibility of forming a K-9 unit. But when Jamie brought up his keen ability to find pork chops hidden in fenders, it was apparent that his idea of the job didn’t match up with that of the city officials.

“Uh, Jamie, what they might need even more is an animal that can detect drugs,” I said.

“No chops?” Jamie said.

“Nope,” I said.

“No ginger snaps?” he said.

“Nope,” I said.

“Thanks for your time gentlemen,” Jamie said.

JUNE

Along with me, my wife, a friend and Jamie’s partner in crime, Gertie, the Big Lug more than once went to our favorite local lake for a grill-out and swim.

Unlike Gertie, Jamie’s not too fond of water, but he’s a master swimmer and has no trouble staying on top of the water.

“All right, who wants to race me to the other side?” he said. “Actually, I’ll just go to the edge of these lily pads and then back to shore and leave the rest to y’all. Wouldn’t want to make things too crowded out there. Around water, it’s safety first, I always say.”

“I don’t know, Mr. Phelps,” I said. “Seems to me like you’d simply rather be on dry land.”

“They don’t call me a land manatee for nothing,” Jamie said. “I’m a land lover, and proud of it.”

“I believe that’s landlubber, big man,” I said.

“Whatever,” Jamie said. “When do we grill the Oscar Meyers?”

JULY

“It’s hot,” Jamie said. “Wake me up in October.”

AUGUST

During the incredible onslaught of wet weather at the beginning of the month that brought close to 16 inches of rain to Texas County in about a week, Jamie managed to avoid catastrophe when he went outside to “do” his business – barely.

“A little help over here,” he said. “Throw me a rope or a life preserver!”

“It’s not that bad, big man,” I said. “You’re just standing on a saturated section of grass.”

“Saturated, smaturated,” Jamie said. “I think I just saw a shark fin go by!”

“You’re gonna to need a bigger boat,” I said.

“Funny,” Jamie said. “May a great white swallow your favorite fishing pole and capsize your canoe.”

SEPTEMBER

After finding out that a cat was elected mayor of a small Alaskan town 15 years ago and still holds the office, Jamie was inspired to ponder entering the political arena himself.

“I can neither confirm nor deny that I will seek office in 2014,” he said.

“Yes sir,” I said, “We’ll check back later with your PR people. So just out of curiosity, if you do run, what office do you figure you’ll go after?”

“That has yet to be determined,” Jamie said. “Maybe pork chop commissioner, ginger snap council member, or apple pie administrator. But I intend to announce my intentions soon.”

“Ooh, pins and needles, big man,” I said. “I’m sure your fans will be waiting anxiously for you to intentionally share your intended intentions.”

“Funny,” Jamie said. “Don’t expect to be my assistant.”

NOVEMBER

A visit to a local dog grooming facility allowed Jamie to make a new friend (spa owner Dianna Bennett) and share some of his unique canine perspective and wisdom.

Although he pulled the scared Corgi card when Ms. B got out her nail clippers, he for the most part enjoyed his stay.

“You know, in some parts of the world they would consider that Walmart bag full of fur you just collected from my coat very valuable,” Jamie said. “They would spin it into fine yarn and make shawls and blankets fit for royalty.”

“I thought they did that with silk, alpaca fleece and other softer, more supple forms of animal hair,” Dianna said.

“Yeah, the average woman might think course dog hair felt a little funny next to her skin,” I said.

“Alpaca?” Jamie said. “Why would anyone want to wear anything made from the dreads of one of those overgrown billy goats?”

“Because their fleece is known to keep people extremely warm, it makes smoother-feeling material than almost any other substance, and it’s just generally nice,” I said.

“Your point?” Jamie said.

“Um, well, I guess I’ll look into having a Corgi sweater made before spring,” I said.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Jamie said.

DECEMBER

A big-time winter storm dropped a foot of snow on the remote Texas County outpost where Jamie and his family live – more than the Big Lug had ever seen on the ground before.

When he moved around outside, his long and low frame basically created a trench in the deep white layer.

“Up periscope,” Jamie said.

“Enemy vessel at two o-clock,” I said.

“How could you possibly know that?” Jamie said. “It’s only 12:30.”

“Never mind skipper,” I said.

All in all, Jamie made about as much as possible of his 2013, and he certainly left nothing on the table and everything on the field (so to speak).

“This was a good year,” Jamie said, “but it’s got me dog tired. Wake me up in 2015.”

“Right, Mr. Van Winkle,” I said. “Sleep tight, Rip.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie hangs out on a dirt road during one of his journeys in the Jillikins late in the winter of 2013.

Jamie hangs out on a dirt road during one of his journeys in the Jillikins late in the winter of 2013.

Jamie and Houston Herald reporter Doug Davison look for a word file in a desktop computer in May.

Jamie and Houston Herald reporter Doug Davison look for a word file in a desktop computer in May.

Jamie get a fur trim from Dianna Bennett during his trip to the spa in November.

Jamie get a fur trim from Dianna Bennett during his trip to the spa in November.

On his way to another journey in the Jillikins, Jamie lies on the seat of his sidekick's truck.

On his way to another journey in the Jillikins, Jamie lies on the seat of his sidekick’s truck.

Gertie, a.k.a. the Permapup, ponders entering one of several trenches left in deep snow by herself and her Corgi cohort, Jamie.

Gertie, a.k.a. the Permapup, ponders entering one of several trenches left in deep snow by herself and her Corgi cohort, Jamie.

Jamie hangs out with his buddy, Sharp Shooters Gun and Pawn store owner Gary Parish.

Jamie hangs out with his buddy, Sharp Shooters Gun and Pawn store owner Gary Parish.

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city's proposed K-9 unit during May.

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city’s proposed K-9 unit during May.

Jamie begins his planned lengthy recovery from a busy 2013. “This was a good year, but it’s got me dog tired. Wake me up in 2015.”

Jamie begins his planned lengthy recovery from a busy 2013. “This was a good year, but it’s got me dog tired. Wake me up in 2015.”

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A visit to the spa

Not too many weeks ago, Jamie was the winner of a gift certificate to a local dog grooming salon.

Last Thursday, he got around to cashing in on his prize.

“Not that there’s any room for improvement here,” he said. “But I guess it couldn’t hurt.”

“Actually big man, your claws are about as long as 16-penny nails and they could use a good trimming,” I said. “And maybe the folks there can help you lose a few pounds of fur.”

“A few pounds?” Jamie said. “Hmmm, I’ve been wanting a nice new pillow.”

Jamie’s female sidekick Gertie (the Perma-pup) was also in on the trip, and my wife Wendy brought them to their destination, Diane’s Pet Styles in Houston. I met them there and when everyone was present, owner Dianna Bennett quickly made friends with the stub-wagging 35-pounder at the end of the leash I was holding.

Then it was pampering time for the Big Lug.

After hearing me mention that Jamie doesn’t much care for having his toenails cut, Ms. Bennett decided to try tackling that portion of the program first and hoisted her bulky assignment onto a grooming table. Not unexpectedly, her guest whimpered and whined and put up a struggle.

“Goodness Jamie, she’s not going to cut off your feet,” I said. “All the antics really aren’t necessary.”

“Oh, that?” Jamie said. “I was just practicing for my next role with the drama troop in Willow Springs. They want me to play – um – a Pembroke Welsh Corgi who’s afraid of having his claws trimmed.”

“Wow, nice work big guy,” I said. “For a moment there, you really had me believing you were a scared Corgi.”

At that point, Jamie went “Master Thespian” on me (the character Jon Lovitz played in numerous Saturday Night Live sketches during the late 1980s).

“Acting!” he yelled.

I played along.

“Genius!” I said.

After the difficulty with the nail clippers, Jamie’s spa host switched gears and bathed his long and low body. She then towel-dried him and placed him in a metallic, dual compartment dog-drying contraption with see-through glass doors that sort of resembled a wine cooler or some sort of meat smoker.

“I’m already aged perfectly and I’m an excellent choice with any entree,” Jamie said. “But make sure you have the timer set right on this thing and I don’t end up overdone. I still want a little pink in my middle when I get out of here.”

“Ha, ha,” I said. “Wine and steak humor.”

While Jamie was in the drying room, Gertie got her bath and then entered the doggie wind tunnel. When the Big Lug exited, Ms. Bennett put him on another table and used an electric blow dryer to finish him off.

“You know, the first electric hair dryers appeared in France in the late 1800s,” Jamie said. “The first hand-held unit – like the one being used on me now – appeared in 1920.”

“Wow, Jamie,” I said. “I’m once again impressed by your knowledge of history.”

“Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘an investment in knowledge pays the best interest,’” Jamie said. “I’m after a high interest rate.”

“Nice investment, Big Man,” I said. “I’m sure Ben would be proud.”

At Jamie’s next stop on his spa tour, he received a full-on brushing. But in order to assure his security while she worked him over on the grooming table, Ms. Bennett first hooked him up to a set of straps hanging from an overhead apparatus – one around his ample rear end and another around his neck.

“A noose!” Jamie exclaimed. “Somehow I knew all this was too good to be true!”

“It’s just there to keep you from falling,” Dianna said.

“I better not fall,” Jamie said. “If I do, I’ll be the first Corgi ever to be hanged in Missouri! And I’m innocent, I tell you!”

“Settle down,” I said. “You’re not in danger of any capital punishment.”

“You can’t be too careful when it comes to the wrath of the hangman,” Jamie said.

“You’re not on death row,” I said. “You’re at a spa.”

“I want to talk to my lawyer,” Jamie said.

“Dianna, never mind that nonsense,” I said.

After Ms. Bennett somehow survived the fur storm that blew through the room over the next several minutes, she proceeded to trim the heavy coat that still remained on Jamie’s frame. Combining the use of scissors and an electric trimmer, she carefully contoured his coiffure from front to rear.

When she worked on the USS Jamie’s stern, she even lifted his “lid” (a.k.a. tail, or stub) and shaped the poofy growth on his caboose. She also eliminated some of the excess down under.

“Hey, watch where you put that thing,” Jamie said. “There’s some important real estate in that neighborhood.”

“I think she’s got you covered, Big Man,” I said. “I’m pretty sure you’ll still be a baritone when you leave.”

Next it was time to go back to the claws. To give Jamie less to focus on, I stepped out of sight, and while Dianna’s assistant held him tight and told him how nice he was, Dianna successfully snipped away.

“I have to admit,” Jamie said, “those things you said about me are all true.”

Miss Gertie got the same overall treatment, and took several opportunities to display the growling, gurgling and half-crazed sound effects that lead me to often say she’s part Corgi and part Gremlin (although my wife is probably right that she’s just the world’s most ticklish dog and can’t stand it when someone’s toweling her off or something like that).

Before Jamie said his goodbyes, he was thoroughly spritzed with some Corgi Klein cologne. He left feeling completely refreshed and was soft and smooth to the touch.

“I look good,” he said. “But then, why should today be any different?”

“That’s a bit on the conceited side, don’t you think?” I said.

“It is what it is,” Jamie said.

“Maybe,” I said.

“When something’s good, it’s good,” Jamie said.

“Suddenly you’re a cliché machine,” I said.

“I’m just sayin’,” Jamie said.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Dianna Bennett tends to Jamie as he stands on the grooming table during of his visit to a spa.

Dianna Bennett tends to Jamie as he stands on the grooming table during of his visit to a spa.

Dianna Bennett trims Jamie's caboose. "Hey, be careful where you put that thing."

Dianna Bennett trims Jamie’s caboose. “Hey, be careful where you put that thing.”

Jamie and his little sister Gertie (the Perma Pup) take a break in a set of automated dog-drying rooms.

Jamie and his little sister Gertie (the Perma Pup) take a break in a set of automated dog-drying rooms.

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A full day’s work

For quite some time, Jamie has been bugging me about going to work with me.

After years of hearing me talk about what I do, he has time and again insisted he could perhaps help.

He would often say, “you need a Corgi’s perspective.”

Last Thursday, the Big Lug got his wish.

The day began as usual, with Jamie heading outside to do his business, and then getting a bite to eat on the Sidewalk Café on the east side of our house, and me sitting down for a couple of cups of coffee. Then I brushed a Walmart bag or two of fur off of his 35-pound frame, and we were ready.

“Let’s do this,” Jamie said. “Stay close to me and I’ll get you through.”

“We’re not negotiating a field of land mines or heading to the front lines of a battle,” I said. “We’re going to work. I do this five days a week.”

“I’m just saying,” Jamie said.

When we got to the Houston Herald office, Jamie wasted no time getting started. He worked with editor Jeff McNiell on processing some digital photos that were downloaded in a computer, helped production manager Leesa Smith proofread an ad or two, and looked over accounting paperwork with publisher’s assistant Deanna McKinney. He then sat with me for a while proofing more ad copy.

“I think you might want to try a different font for that phrase right there to make it really pop,” Jamie said. “You have to do something that gets peoples’ attention.”

“That’s not bad, big man,” I said. “It’s almost like you know what you’re talking about.”

“Almost?” Jamie said. “I’m not here for my looks. Although that would be a valid reason.”

After tackling several other tasks, Jamie turned his focus to a lady who walked in to renew her subscription to the newspaper. She said she wanted to renew her “prescription.”

“So did your doctor tell you to take two Heralds and call him in the morning?” Jamie said.

“C’mon, Dawg, don’t be rude,” I said.

“You never know,” Jamie said.

One of the office women with thumbs took care of the customer, and I took the canine jack-of-all trades on the road to take care of some of the day’s out-of-the-office business.

We stopped first at the Houston Police Department station, and Jamie looked over some incident reports submitted by officers. He then met with Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham about the prospects of beginning a city K-9 program.

“This is something you really need, and I’m your dog,” Jamie said. “No law enforcement agency should be without state-of-the art ability to locate clandestine pork chop stashes hidden in vehicles or at crime scenes.”

“Uh, Jamie, what they might need even more is an animal that can detect drugs,” I said.

“No chops?” Jamie said.

“Nope,” I said.

“No ginger snaps?” he said.

“Nope,” I said.

“Right then, moving on,” Jamie said. “Thanks for your time gentlemen.”

Next we went to the new Farm Bureau Insurance office just south of town, where an open house was taking place to celebrate the firm’s move.

“Where’s Flo?” Jamie asked. “I want Flo’s autograph.”

“Uh, wrong insurance company big guy,” I said.

“What about that British lizard?” Jamie asked. “Where’s he?”

“Again big man, wrong company,” I said. “Farm Bureau’s advertising campaign has to do with a guy named Dan who hangs out with a puppet named Clay who cracks corny jokes and says ‘you don’t have to be a farmer to get insurance from Farm Bureau.’”

“Oh yeah, him,” Jamie said. “His jokes aren’t that funny.”

“Yeah, that’s what Dan sometimes says,” I said.

“They need a better mascot,” Jamie said. “I can think of one that would draw millions more customers.”

“Let me guess – you’re referring one that’s long and low and has big ears,” I said.

“Yeah, that’s the ticket,” Jamie said. “All I’ll ask for as a salary is unlimited pork chops. And maybe ginger snaps.”

“Right,” I said.

“Speaking of food, I smell grilled hot dogs,” Jamie said.

“Yep, they’re offering a free lunch here,” I said. “You want a couple of weenies?”

“Does a Corgi shed in the spring?” Jamie said. “Mmm, that’s the good stuff.”

After making another stop of two, we headed back to the office and Jamie sat in for publisher Brad Gentry while he left for a spell. The interim boss didn’t take many calls.

“Just transfer them all to my voice mail,” Jamie said. “I’m a little busy over here trying to get a paper out.”

When the Big Lug was no longer needed at the helm of the good ship Herald, he helped print manager Tyson Troutman get some brochures put together for a local business.

“Hold that a little closer so I can read the fine print,” Jamie said.

As is seemingly the case with many Thursdays, the day went by quickly and late afternoon arrived before Jamie and I knew it. We finished the day by visiting Emmett Kelly Park to view the completed tree planting project.

“Wow, what a difference,” I said. “This is going to be awesome when they get big. It’s already awesome.”

“Yeah, but it looks like I need to get busy,” Jamie said. “Drop me off here and come back in about 45 minutes. I should be done by then.”

“No way, chief,” I said. “There’s a leash law in this town and I’m not going to escort you around to the base of every tree here.”

“Aw man,” Jamie said. “A great opportunity wasted.”

When we got home, Jamie almost immediately went horizontal on the hardwood floor. He was completely exhausted from a hard day’s work.

“I’m dog tired,” he said.  “Make sure to wake me up in the morning – I’ve got a lot of unfinished business to take care of.

“There’s work to do.”

“I know what you mean, big man,” I said. “I know what you mean.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Welsh Corgi. Past versions of this column are posted on the blog page at http://www.houstonherald.com. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie proofs ad copy with Houston Herald reporter and advertising representative Doug Davison.

Jamie proofs ad copy with Houston Herald reporter and advertising representative Doug Davison.

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city's proposed K-9 unit.

Houston Police Chief Jim McNiell and Mayor Don Tottingham check out the city’s proposed K-9 unit.

Jamie and Houston Herald editor Jeff McNiell work with digital photos downloaded to a computer.

Jamie and Houston Herald editor Jeff McNiell work with digital photos downloaded to a computer.

Jamie assists Houston Herald publisher Brad Gentry with paperwork.

Jamie assists Houston Herald publisher Brad Gentry with paperwork.

Jamie looks over accounting paperwork with Houston Herald office worker Deanna McKinney.

Jamie looks over accounting paperwork with Houston Herald office worker Deanna McKinney.

Jamie prepares to look over some incident reports at the City of Houston police station.

Jamie prepares to look over some incident reports at the City of Houston police station.

Jamie proofreads a copy of a brochure being held by Houston Printing production manager Leesa Smith.

Jamie proofreads a copy of a brochure being held by Houston Printing production manager Leesa Smith.

Jamie squints to read the fine print on a brochure being held by Houston Printing print manager Tyson Troutman. "Hold it just a little closer."

Jamie squints to read the fine print on a brochure being held by Houston Printing print manager Tyson Troutman. “Hold it just a little closer.”

Jamie takes care of some publishing duties in the Houston Herald office. "Go ahead and trasfer that call to my voicemail, I'm kind of busy trying to get this paper out."

Jamie takes care of some publishing duties in the Houston Herald office. “Please transfer my calls to voice mail. I’m kind of busy trying to get this paper out.”

Jamie hangs out on the Sidewalk Cafe before heading out for his big day at work.

Jamie hangs out on the Sidewalk Cafe before heading out for his big day at work.

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Handling the weather when the weather’s hard to handle

By DOUG DAVISON

The weather over the past few months has prevented him from doing much journeying beyond the boundaries of his front yard, but for a big ol’ Welsh Corgi like Jamie, just getting through the lengthy wintry mess has been a journey in itself.

Jamie typically likes spending plenty of time outside, enjoying activities like rolling on the grass, lying on the porch, sniffing odors wafting on the Ozarks breeze, and marking select spots around the remote Texas County outpost where he lives with me, my wife Wendy, and our collection of other hoofed, winged, and claw-bearing tenants.

But the extended period of cold, wet, and often snowy weather that has dominated the climate in south-central Missouri during the early stages of 2013 has caused this particular canine character to alter his style a bit and spend the vast majority of his waking hours indoors.

In fact, the conditions have frequently been so sloppy, sloshy, or slushy that the big guy has at times only wanted to be out long enough to make a deposit in a corner of the yard, while otherwise remaining in suspended animation in one of his favorite rest areas in the house.

On numerous occasions this year (especially since February began), the yard at our property has more resembled a wet sponge than a chunk of land. Of course, the clearance between Jamie’s underside and the ground is only in the neighborhood of about two inches, so when the ground’s wet and muddy, his belly tends to be the same.

When he comes in from a short jaunt to one of his designated drop zones, Jamie inevitably bears slimy, grimy signs of the times, and the smell of wet Corgi permeates the air in the laundry room. Mucky conditions notwithstanding, he’s never one to miss an opportunity to share his knowledge. Like one day last week.

“You know, that soil you’re toweling off of me has a fairly significant lime content,” Jamie said. “That’s due to the area’s karst geology. Of course, the word karst comes from a German word with the same spelling that describes landforms created by mildly acidic water affecting soluble bedrock, like limestone. And limestone is very common around here, you know, because the whole region was covered by salt water many, many years ago.”

“Wow,” I said. “You obviously know something about this area’s geology.”

“I’m just sayin’,” Jamie said.

Not that the Big Lug hasn’t enjoyed some quality out-time this year. When wintry storms have covered the landscape’s miry mush with a clean, fresh blanket of white, he has taken advantage of the situation and gone doggone giddy in the frozen groundcover.

Due to his God-given, long-and-low physique, romping in a winter wonderland is, in effect, another form of journey for Jamie, and definitely presents a challenge. But he seems to love meeting that challenge, and does so with a unique outlook that only a land manatee like him could have.

Like during that February storm that dumped several inches of sleet and then topped it off with a bunch of freezing rain. The crusty result was so rigid and strong that our car and truck didn’t even break through the surface. Naturally, 35 pounds of Corgi didn’t make a dent, either, but that didn’t deter Jamie from having a good time.

“This stuff’s weird,” he said. “My paws don’t go into it, and my claws can’t grab ahold of it. And if I get up any speed, I slide.

“I like it.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty unusual,” I said. “It’s like a layer of frozen mashed potatoes mixed with cement.”

“Don’t tease me like that,” Jamie said. “And actually, I already tried taking a bite of it and just about broke my face.”

“Be careful, big man,” I said. “No reason to damage that handsome mug of yours.”

“You’re right,” Jamie said. “Blemishing this masterpiece of a profile would be an awful shame.

“And speaking of cement, some kinds can harden underwater because of their chemical make up, you know.”

“Again, big man, your general knowledge is amazing,” I said. “Have you considered Jeopardy?”

“Yep, I gave it some thought, but me and Alex Trebek agreed it might not work out,” Jamie said. “It might be kind of hard for me to press the button on that little thingy the contestants use. No thumbs, you know.”

And then there was last week’s early spring storm that dropped about six inches of snow in these parts. Since that’s about four inches more than Jamie’s ground clearance, he basically plowed a trench everywhere he went.

“Now this is more like it,” he said. “This stuff gets out of my way when I move forward. I like it.”

“You look like one of those snowplow trains,” I said.

“Gangway!” Jamie said. “Snowplow train comin’ through!”

Our other Corgi, Gertie (the perma-pup), is always on the go, but shifts into an even higher gear in the snow. She’ll literally run in circles at top speed, and then stop suddenly and take a big bite out of the fluffy white stuff, like it was frosting on a gigantic cake.

“That dog’s crazy,” Jamie said. “I like it.”

“Yeah, fun’s her middle name, big man,” I said. “She can’t help herself – to her, everything’s exciting.”

“Even a dead skunk?” Jamie asked. “Or a piece of rotten asparagus?”

“Well, maybe not quite everything,” I said. “But I’d say a dead skunk might just qualify.”

Now that the weather has perhaps taken a lasting turn away from winter, it won’t be long before Jamie (and me, his appointed chauffeur and wordsmith) can get down to some real journeys in the Jillikins. Among other things, the Big Lug has plans of swimming in lakes and rivers, going for a boat ride, doing some fishing, and visiting a few more state parks.

Along the way, the he intends to learn more about the Ozarks, make some new friends, and eat plenty.

“Yeah, like french fries and ginger snaps,” Jamie said. “That’s the good stuff.”

“You say that about pretty much all food,” I said.

“Yeah, food,” Jamie said. “That’s the good stuff.”

Spring will no doubt provide Jamie ample opportunity to enjoy great weather in great places. Hopefully, he’ll also be able to keep going all summer long in temperatures a bit further south of 100 degrees than the past couple of years. Whatever the case, he’s ready and raring to go.

“Yeah, let’s roll,” he said. “I like it.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Jamie is a big ol’ Welsh Corgi. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Jamie displays his favorite solution to handling the run of cold, wet, and even snowy weather that has been common in the Ozarks for many weeks.

Jamie displays his favorite solution to handling the run of cold, wet, and even snowy weather that has been common in the Ozarks for many weeks.

Jamie stands atop a rock-solid sheet of frozen H2O following a February sleet storm that was followed up by several hours of freezing rain.

Jamie stands atop a rock-solid sheet of frozen H2O following a February sleet storm that was followed up by several hours of freezing rain.

Jamie plows through snow after an early spring storm in Texas County. Wait, that's a snowplow train.

Jamie plows through snow after an early spring storm in Texas County. Wait, that’s a snowplow train.

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