While our 35-pound block of Welsh Corgi named Jamie is pretty well known for letting me help him produce a column now and then, there’s another dog that also roams the grounds of the remote Texas County outpost my wife and I call home.

Her name is Gertie, and at the risk of sounding like I’m exaggerating, I thought I would describe her without incorporating anything but truth.

I call her the Perma-Pup. She’ll be two years old in December, but she still acts like a puppy. Actually, I’ll take that back – few puppies have ever acted like Miss Gertrude (or dogs of any age, for that matter).

Her energy level is always on high, and from the instant she wakes up to the moment she turns in for the night, she spends the vast majority of her time on a quest for fun. It’s relentless, really, and there is little or nothing that deters her.

It’s pleasure and silliness or bust, 24/7.

While Jamie obviously possesses the classic long, low and wide physique of a pure-bred Corgi, Gertie is also of Corgi decent but with a twist. She’s a bit sleeker, and unlike Jamie and most real Corgis, has a tail any fox would be proud of, complete with a little white tip. It often curves forward, like it’s pointing the way to her next assignment on the mission of fun, and it frequently wags like a big feather duster.

Doug Davison

We’re not really sure what other breed is in Gertie’s blood, or what percent of her genes it comprises, but whatever it is, one thing is certain: it’s not large and sluggish.

Adding to her unique personality is a way of producing sound effects that most people who hear them indicate they’ve never heard before. The best example of her unique vocals can always be heard when she comes in from the rain and has to be toweled off before crossing the line between laundry room and kitchen. I don’t know if Gertie is ticklish or what, but she growls and snarls like a crazed banshee the whole time the towel is touching her body.

It’s impossible for the toweler not to crack up while the towelee displays this behavior.

Anyway, since she’s a “wonder dog” (we wonder what mix she is), and combines ultra-energy with weird sounds, I like to say she’s part Corgi, and part gremlin.

Of course, gremlins are not real – but then this dog is unreal.

Whether the temperature is 102, 6, or 74, Gertie much prefers being outdoors to indoors. Her typical day is spent outside dealing with “her animals.” My wife Wendy and I like to say “she has” six chickens, three cats, two horses and one donkey. If you saw the way she interacts with all of them, you’d know why.

She’s almost always hanging out with a horse, lounging with a cat, or observing the movement of some chickens. And she loves to chase them – well, not the donkey; Abe doesn’t move for her. But she gets a big kick out of getting the horses up to a gallop or making a cat run for the cover of an outbuilding. And she does it simply because she can.

But for reasons I’m sure they understand, the horses don’t always react to Gertie’s antics. Sometimes they just stand still and chew grass while she runs figure-eights around them and barks her little head off.

I think I once heard Big Sur say, “as if.”

She obviously has no fear, and seems to enjoy being around her gentle giants, but I guess do to some extent I question the wisdom of a 10-pound canine running patterns around 850-pound equines. But it seems to work for her, and so far she hasn’t injured any of them.

Speaking of barking, Gertie takes that to another level, too.

I’ve seen her barking like mad a few feet from a possum’s face, and in equally close proximity to snakes and turtles. I once even witnessed her giving a coyote an earful from a distance of only about 20 yards. The big cousin was doing that head-tilt thing, as if to say, “what in the world?” Then it saw me and trotted away.

When we go on walks, Gertie gets into this unusual sniffing mode that is accompanied by another sound effect that’s as exclusively hers as the banshee-gremlin-growl. It’s like a snorting, and I kind of compare it to a metal detector at work. I just know there’s some kind of primeval motive involved and it’s somehow helping her hone in on the good smells and glean information about them.

When most dogs sit, the bottoms of their hind feet are usually in contact with the surface of whatever they’re sitting on. Not the Perma-pup.

When Gertie sits, the insides of her thighs are on the ground. Same with when she lies down; her legs sort of go out to the side and her belly is on the ground or floor. We joke about her “chicken legs” when she does that.

When her day is done – usually at about 9:15 p.m. or so – Gertie just stops. It’s as if she’s battery-powered and someone turned off a switch (although if her energy truly was supplied artificially, a turbine or other major power plant would be required, because to my knowledge a battery hasn’t yet been devised that could deliver sufficient juice to keep her going). When the right time comes, she will literally walk into the living room, flop on the floor with a thud, and the perpetual motion comes to a sudden halt.

At that point, that’s all she wrote; another big day in a lifelong series of big days is over, just like that. And I must say, not one of those big days goes by when this little ball of furry fun fails to make us smile.

She’s not the Perma-pup for nothing. Forever young, forever energetic – forever silly.

Good girl.

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

Gertie – a.k.a. the Perma-pup.

On the sale circuit


When my wife and I were making plans for setting up at a one-day, multi-vendor yard sale that took place last Saturday near Houston, it seemed only natural to comply when Jamie indicated he wanted to come along.

The Big Lug has spent more than his share of time in yard sale and flea market environments and you could say he knows his way around the used merchandise block. Heck, the whole pre-owned thing is in his blood; I even got him from a used dog store in southern California (a.k.a. the “pound” in Oceanside).

“Hey, I’m no pound dog.”

“Oh, sorry boy.”

“That was a spa for high-end dogs awaiting new owners that just so happened to have overnight accommodations.”

“Gotcha. I’ll try to remember that.”

Anyway, overly sensitive Corgis notwithstanding, we loaded up the truck with our saleable goods and display tables, headed into town to the location of the sale, and got set up.

Probably because the temperature was a bit on the cool side for a day in early June, things started out kind of slow. But that can happen even on a perfect day; you just never know in the world of yard sales.

Nevertheless, Jamie wasn’t deterred by the overcast conditions, and went to work engaging customers who stopped by our temporary little store. Sometimes he gets a little carried away, but I appreciate his enthusiasm and try not to curb it.

“Don’t overlook that folding wooden deck chair sitting over there. And that round, flower-pattern butter dish sure would look good on your dining room table. It’s made in USA, you know.”

Jamie and his sidekick Doug Davison.

As the sun burned through the cloud cover and a cool wind gave way to a warm breeze, more cars began to come and go from the parking lot and more bodies circulated around the area. By the time we packed back up, we hadn’t made a killing, but we had managed to trade several things for dollars.

Having Jamie there didn’t hurt. Whether he’s trying to close a deal, or just hanging out doing his horizontal dog impression, just having him around is usually beneficial in helping people feel at ease as they approach our price-tag-bearing stuff. His mere presence seems to sort of break the ice and make people smile, which in turn helps them feel good about their surroundings, and ultimately more likely to carry away a set of matching wooden salad bowls, a rusty snaffle bit, or a VHS copy of “Citizen Kane.”

To be sure, Jamie is aware of his role and doesn’t take it lightly. But he also keeps things in perspective and remains humble.

“I like ‘em to feel welcome. I think it’s cool that me being me can make that happen.”

“You do have that knack, big man. I think it’s a combination of your odd shape and that silly smile on your snout.”

“I like it when I roll over and they rub the underside of my odd shape.”

While he’s content being the mascot of our set-up and a doggone good sales-canine, Jamie figures a trip to an outdoor sale wouldn’t be complete without taking the opportunity to sniff out some of the best bargains being offered by other vendors. Of course, dogs are well known to have an ultra-keen sense of smell, so he can discern a whole lot about the history of a cast-iron skillet, an 8-track tape copy of a Perry Como album, or a porcelain Daffy Duck figurine simply by sampling the ancient odors permanently engrained in them.

When we took a walk around the other vendors’ set ups, it didn’t take long for the Big Lug to identify his favorite items.

“This old puzzle smells like it was once put together in a kitchen where lots of butter was used for cooking. And that pair of shoes over there must have been worn by someone who worked in a greasy fast-food joint. Mmmm…butter and grease. That’s the good stuff – along with scrambled eggs, chicken strips, cooked squash, oatmeal cookies, apple sauce…”

“OK, OK, you like all forms of food. Got it.”

As is always part of the deal, there were many things we didn’t sell that day, like the pig pillow, the wooden desktop bookstand or the 10-pound, 2,663-page Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (copyright 1993, with a bio of Noah Webster on the final page).

But that’s OK, the right person for each item might show up the next time we set up. Sometimes it just takes someone who’s thinking outside the box, and realizes a unique object like a giant book of words could potentially serve multiple purposes, like child booster seat or truck scale counter-weight.

And sometimes, you just have to be patient to achieve a proper return on an investment like the big Webster’s. Jamie completely understands that.

“That thing’s worth five times more than what it was marked at, anyway. Of course, I realize the market for an item like that is probably greater in the big cities. But still, you can’t come here and expect to walk way with something like that for a buck-fifty.”

“I agree, boy.”

Another thing Jamie knows is that you don’t set up at an outdoor sale thinking you’ll come away sold out. You do it simply hoping to take home less than you brought.

“Yeah, and there’s always next time.”

So true, Jamie. So true.

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 with a couple of his items at a yard sale last weekend in Houston. “I could probably let the ice cream dish go for a buck, but I’m firm at three dollars on the miniature thermos.”