Gone with Gertie

 

A warm day in winter

 

Like many dogs, Gertie can never get enough of getting outside and walking aimlessly on a forested trail or around a lake.

“Aimlessly?” she said. “I think I have pretty good aim. I haven’t gotten lost yet.”

“It’s a figure of speech,” I said. “It means – oh, never mind.”

Anyway, on one of those warm days that have been so common this winter, the Permapup and I decided to get some exercise and take in the sights by strolling around Austin Community Lake in the far southwest corner of Texas County. For all you armchair outdoorsmen who aren’t aware of it, the lake covers 22 acres on a parcel of Missouri Department of Conservation land about five miles from Cabool.

It features a boat ramp, picnic areas, a pavilion and even a fishing dock. As soon as I opened the door of the 2004 Ford F-150, Gertie bolted toward the shore.

“This place is pretty cool,” she said. “Let’s go!”

As if she had been there before, the P-Pup took off toward the nicely groomed grassy area along and atop the sizable dam on the west end of the lake. Her nose went into hyper-data-collection mode as she went from place to place sniffing and learning.

“Frog, snake, deer, boot, fishing lure, beer can – wow, this is like snout paradise!” Gertie said.

“I know, girl,” I said. “And hey, I’m proud of you for avoiding the water and the mucky areas.”

Normally when she gets anywhere near a lake, pond or river, Gertie ends up soaking wet and smelling like something between a used dish cloth and a rotten fish.

“I thought I might stay presentable for a change,” she said. “But I can’t make any promises; if a slightly submerged T-shirt or a muddy hair band calls my name, I may have to change my mind.”

“I’d much prefer it if you didn’t get wet this time,” I said.

“Not even my toes?”

“Nope.”

“Not even that little white area at the end of my tail?”

Gertie (the Permapup) observes her surroundings on a warm winter afternoon at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County. Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald

Gertie (the Permapup) observes her surroundings on a warm winter afternoon at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County.

“No, not even the white spot at the tip of that feather duster protruding from your caboose,” I said.

“We’ll see,” Gertie said. “I don’t always have control over these things, you know.”

As we continued around the north side of the lake, we came to a sturdy bench on a point of land.

The view was great, with a large stand of shortleaf pines on the opposite shore and sun-bathed water on three sides of us.

“How about this?” I said.

“Yeah, nice,” Gertie said. “You know the MDC was formed in 1937 and has a big budget to work with thanks to a 1/8-percent state sales tax passed by voters in 1976. The tax has no ending date, so as prices increase, MDC’s revenue does, too.”

“Dang, Gertie, it’s apparent you’ve been boning up on your MDC knowledge,” I said.

“Yep, and the MDC administers more than 975,000 acres all over the state,” Gertie said. “About 63-percent of that is forested.”

“Interesting information,” I said. “Especially from a Corgi.”

“I’m just saying,” Gertie said, as she half-buried her snout in a tuft of grass near a stump.

“You know,” I said, “there’s no such thing as a government branch or agency that doesn’t have room for improvement, and sure, there are seriously bad examples of deception, corruption and selfishness and everywhere you look in government operations. But I happen to think the MDC does a good job overall.”

“Me, too,” Gertie said. “So why are there people who seem to hate them so much?”

“I’m not really all that sure,” I said. “But I’ve heard some guys who work for them say people are like that because it’s an easy target.”

“Maybe,” Gertie said. “Or maybe they learned to swim in the shallow end of the gene pool.”

“Gertie! Be nice!” I said.

“Or maybe they were born on a highway, since that’s where most accidents happen.”

“Gertie!”

“Or perhaps when they had a chance to drink from the fountain of knowledge, they only gargled.”

“OK, Ms. Insultasaurus, that’s quite enough,” I said. “Let’s move on.”

As we finished circling Austin Lake on the well-groomed swath that surrounds it, Gertie chased a squirrel into the woods, found a downed log to play queen-of-the-world on top of and generally made sure she added to the ongoing reality that every day is a big adventure in Gertie World. As we returned to the parking area, she found no way to get around a picnic table, but managed to go over the top of it and continue advancing.

“Must…reach…truck,” she said, tongue flapping in the breeze.

“Boy, it’s a good thing I brought the emergency supplies,” I said. “I’d say you’ve been in the wilderness a little too long.”

When we arrived back home, Gertie downed a gallon or two of water and plopped down on the floor with a rawhide chew stick – one of her favorite things, along with other variations of dog chews.

“That’s because you won’t give me rib eye steak or ham hocks,” she said.

“I’ve told you a thousand times, that would cause too much of a mess in the house,” I said. “Do you remember me saying that?”

(crickets chirping)

“Gertie, do you recall my saying that?”

(crickets)

“Gertie!”

“As I’ve told you a thousand times,” Gertie said. “I’m trying to figure out what the problem is.”

“Oh, brother,” I sighed. “There’s no problem, girl. No problem at all.”

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

Gertie egets close to the water at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County. Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald

Gertie egets close to the water at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County.
Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald

Gertie enjoys a warm winter afternoon at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County. Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald

Gertie enjoys a warm winter afternoon at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County.
Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald

 

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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.

D and J w:border

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.

A pretty good idea

By DOUG DAVISON

Sometimes a Corgi doesn’t have to go far to find adventure.

My wife Wendy comes from a fairly large Southern family and has four brothers. One of them, Steven, recently moved with his family to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River near St. Louis after retiring from the United States Air Force. Over the Labor Day weekend, Steven, his wife Sarah, and their kids, Charlie (14), Emily (12), and Joey (10), made their first visit to our remote Texas County outpost – and their first to the Ozarks.

Naturally, when Jamie heard there were going to be extra people around for a few days, he wasn’t at all disappointed.

“Maybe they’ll bring pork chops,” he said. “I like pork chops.”

With the remnants of Hurricane Isaac falling from the sky in the form of a misty, almost continuous rain, the first couple of days of the weekend were pretty damp. But the temperature was nice, and Wendy’s nephews and niece had no qualms about spending time outdoors, discovering and experiencing lots of aspects of south-central Missouri that they had no way to be aware of while living in Abilene, Texas, and Honolulu, Hawaii, where their dad had previously been stationed. They romped around, fascinated with all of the plants and animals at their disposal, and the fact that there weren’t a bunch of cars and buildings and noise (or B52s doing touch-and-gos).

Jamie enjoyed following the kids around the property in their endless, insatiable quest for fun. But as they did the stuff kids do, the Big Lug often found himself unsure that what he was witnessing had any semblance of logic or common sense, even if the young ‘uns (or whatever object they were playing with or on) weren’t in any real danger.

At one point, Charlie decided to climb on a large, tripod-shaped section of a tree that came down during the wild August 2011 storm.

Doug Davison

“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” Jamie said.

The boy came back to Earth when his dad agreed with the Corgi.

On more than one occasion, the kids took turns sending each other into virtual orbit by wildly swinging our heavy-duty hammock.

“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” Jamie said. Once or twice, I made a similar statement when the hammock-whaling got particularly intense. The kids even placed Jamie in the middle of the hanging bed and swung him – although not as hard.

“I really don’t think this is a very good idea,” Jamie said.

Of course, Isaac’s presence forced Jamie to be in wet Corgi mode for an extended time. Once or twice, he was offered the opportunity to set foot in the house by an unsuspecting youthful visitor.

“I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” Jamie said.

“Good boy,” I said. “Not before the Big Lug is thoroughly toweled off, and the water removed is used to irrigate portions of the Southern California desert.”

Despite all the extenuating circumstances, Jamie was inevitably rewarded for hanging near the youngsters, getting his furry frame petted and his ample belly rubbed dozens of times.

“This is what life in the Ozarks is all about,” he said. “I hope you children appreciate this. Someday you can tell your grandchildren about it.”

Despite the way Isaac gave the climate a gray, wet, Pacific Northwest-like look and feel, I spent pretty much all day Saturday outdoors monitoring the progress of the kids’ fun-quest. And I can certainly attest to the fact that Jamie wasn’t the only quadruped to benefit from the visitors’ presence. Our three horses and one doggie-donkey took full advantage of the situation, and ponied up to the attention bar for hours on end.

While the two Arabians (surly old Sur and big-motor Sean) got their share, our Tennessee Walker Bennie and John-boy Abe seemingly had a membership at the equine spa. They were both pampered for hours, as the three youngsters brushed them frequently, fed them about a million apples, and generally spoiled them in ways they never dreamed possible.

The kids even took turns riding them bareback. Bennie responded by acting as if that was his idea, walking cautiously around and stopping when asked to do so without the slightest fuss. In fact, I believe a lot of the activity he was involved in was his idea, as he would saunter right up to whichever kid was near him as if to ask what he could do to entertain them.

Kids kept saying, “he’s so soft – I can’t believe how soft he is.”

Jamie wasn’t jealous, but he knows an opportunity when he sees one.

“Hey, you want soft? We got soft over here 24/7,” he said. “You don’t know soft until you know Welsh Corgi soft. Here and now you have a chance to touch and know true soft.”

“Wow, Jamie,” I said. “Is that really necessary?”

“Uh, let’s see,” he said. “Yes. I feel it’s my duty to educate these young people. It’s important to eliminate ignorance whenever and wherever possible.

“They need to experience unadulterated soft.”

“How noble of you,” I said.

As everything calmed down a bit late Saturday afternoon, Charlie chilled out on the couch for a while and Jamie allowed him to have a dog in his lap.

“I’m pretty sure this is a good idea,” Jamie said. “Yep, this, young man, is what life in the Ozarks is all about.”

We grilled a pile of awesome turkey burgers Saturday evening.

“Mmm, turkey – that’s the good stuff,” Jamie said. “But man, those are some annoying birds. One time when I was down by the bridge messing around in the creek, one of those dumb things stole my baloney sandwich.”

“I think that was a buzzard, big man,” I said. “And if I remember right, it was Charlie’s cousin Alex who told that story – and I question its validity.”

“Turkey – buzzard – whatever,” Jamie said. “Actually, I think it was a turkey buzzard, and, um, I was with Alex when it happened. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”

“Oh, boy,” I sighed. “And I’m sure there was a crayfish in Alex’s shorts and one in each of your nostrils.”

“How did you know that?” Jamie said.

While Steven, me, Jamie, and the perma-pup Gertie chased the kids around outside, Wendy and Sarah spent part of their time putting together some amazing edible enjoyment – from awesome apple coleslaw to killer cake. Jamie was definitely on board with that program.

“I’m thinking we need to invite relatives over more often, because the menu seems to improve every time,” he said. “Or maybe put up a couple of houses in the pasture and let them stay.”

“They have their own lives, you know,” I said.

“I guess,” Jamie said. “Just wishing out loud.”

Before the visitors left, Steven said they might return sometime in the fall, perhaps equipped with tents so they can get an even better feel for the Jillikins.

“I guess that sounds like a good idea,” Jamie said. “Nobody went away with any broken bones this time around. At least no major ones.”

“I reckon so, big man,” I said. “I reckon so.”

“And maybe this time they’ll bring pork chops,” Jamie said. “That would be a good idea.”

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 allows his new friend Charlie to hold him on the couch during the Labor Day weekend.

“I reeeaally don’t think this is a good idea.”

 

Rockin’ with the elephants

By DOUG DAVISON

During the many hours of online research about southern Missouri that I did a few years back, I stopped for quite a while on the Missouri State Parks web site.

I couldn’t help but be intrigued by Elephant Rocks State Park (in Iron County), and the unusual natural granite formations that were apparently there for all to see. Ever since, I’ve wanted to see the place for myself and I knew that going there would be more than just worthwhile.

During June, my wife Wendy’s 15-year-old nephew Alex spent the better part of a week hanging out at our remote Texas County outpost. I figured this was the perfect time for a trip to a world where elephants and rocks collide.

Jamie agreed.

So after the Big Lug ate a couple of pecans for a morning snack and helped make sure the gate to the chicken family’s fenced area was open so they could come and go throughout the day, he and I set out for an adventure in the southeast Missouri hill country along with Wendy, Alex and our little perma-pup Gertie (she’s a year-and-a-half-old, spends almost every waking moment in hyper-energetic puppy mode, and likely always will).

None of us will ever forget it.

Doug Davison

Elephant Rocks State Park preserves an ancient, isolated outcropping of 1.5 billion year old granite (known as a tor) in the Saint Francois Mountains. It apparently gets its name from a string of large boulders that resemble a train of pink circus elephants.

But names notwithstanding, it’s arguably one of the most amazing landscapes in America. I’ve been in all corners of the Lower 48 and in Hawaii, and this is one of the most fascinating sights I’ve seen.

You don’t think of Missouri as a place where you’d see a gigantic chunk of exposed granite with huge boulders sitting all over it, but that’s what the park is all about. The patriarch of the Elephant Rocks – aptly named Dumbo – checks in at 27 feet tall, 35 feet long and 17 feet wide, and weighs a hefty 680 tons (a mere 162 pounds per cubic foot).

While the park isn’t all that big (there’s no campground), the state has done an exemplary job of preparing it for human enjoyment, and there is a well-shaded picnic area with lots of tables just below some awesome granite formations adjacent to the parking lot. But without a doubt, the highlight is a one-mile paved trail that loops all the way around the mammoth granite dome that is basically the entire region’s primary feature. Called the Braille Trail (because of its design that supports both visually and physically handicapped visitors), the path is equipped with many signs that offer information about the history of the area and sites along the way. It also includes lots of benches and strategically positioned rocks where weary feet can get some rest.

While walking the trail, as it zig-zags through some of the oddest real estate on either side of the Mississippi, visitors quickly notice that the place is quite literally littered with boulders, some of which resemble massive “dinosaur eggs.” There’s a unique atmosphere to the deal; you might say you can “feel” the rocks as well as see them.

Excited to be in another new environment, Jamie got into his “Corgi-on-the-move” rhythm as soon as he set foot on the trail, claws clicking on the well-traveled asphalt and baloney tongue flapping in the hot, early summer breeze. But at first, there was one thing he didn’t seem to understand.

“I don’t see any elephants,” he said. “Where’s the dang pachyderms?”

“I’m not sure you’ll be seeing any stampedes today big man,” I said. “I think the name comes from the immense size of the rocks – like elephants.”

“Yeah – or me,” Jamie said. “Corgi Rocks – that has a nice ring to it.”

About a third of the way around the loop, a trail spur leads to the ruins of a building where trains were serviced back in the late 1800s and early 1900s when a large quarry operation cut granite from the dome. Not surprisingly, the structure is made of rock, but amazingly, the mortar holding the rocks together shows virtually no sign of wear or aging.

When observing the overgrown train tracks whose story now disappears into the adjacent deep woods, one can’t help but imagine what it was like during the quarry’s heyday when iron horses came and went and dozens of men toiled for dollars.

“Smells like a bunch of dogs were here a long time ago,” Jamie said.

“I’m sure the workers had dogs,” I said. “Maybe even Corgis.”

“Yeah, if they were smart,” Jamie said.

About half way along the loop, hikers encounter the choice of negotiating a narrow opening called “Fat Man’s Squeeze” that splits two granite formations with walls about 15-20 feet tall on either side, or taking the bypass route around the sliver-like passage.

Leading the way at the end of his blue leash, Jamie took the squeeze.

“No problem,” he said. “Thirty-five pounds of canine muscle, comin’ through.”

“Don’t get cocky, Slim,” I said.

About three-quarters of a mile from the beginning, the trail passes the location of the quarry, a large hole carved into the side of the dome that is now filled by a 40-foot deep lake.

Near the end of the loop, another spur twists through a 100-foot section of scattered boulders called “The Maze.”

“This way,” Jamie said. “No this way – wait, this way.”

“You’re 18-inch height puts you at a disadvantage here, buddy,” I said. “Let me direct you so we can get out of here today.”

“Fine,” Jamie mumbled. “But I could have done it.”

The Big Lug always tries to get the most out any day trip, and he worked hard in that respect from beginning to end at Elephant Rocks. He sniffed about a million spots near the paved path and left his mark at the base of about a hundred trees.

“J-a-m-i-e was here,” he said. “Yeah, that’s the ticket.”

Not far down the highway from Elephant Rocks are two more Missouri state parks: Taum Sauk Mountain and Johnson’s Shut-Ins. We’ll be back to check out Taum Sauk (and the nearby Fort Davidson State Historic Site, near where the Battle of Pilot Knob occurred during the Civil War in September of 1864), but we took a shot at Johnson’s, a place featuring its own wild-looking granite formation through which the Black River flows.

Shut-ins was a name used by early settlers to describe a gorge, and this one is surreal, with numerous pools and channels of water intertwined amongst granite walls and bulges. But unfortunately, Jamie was shut out at the Shut-Ins, as park rules prohibited dogs from going past the parking area below the access trail that led to where literally hundreds of people were swimming in the unusual series of aquatic openings.

The good news was that there was a dog-friendly access to the river a short way upstream, and we all took a dip in the clear, chest-deep water.

As we did, the Perma-pup reiterated her status as a true water dog, coming and going time and again from the shore to the middle. Meanwhile, Jamie got wet for a while and then hung out in the shade of a solitary bush a few feet from the river’s edge where we had placed our belongings.

“I’ll be over here if you need me,” he said. “I’ll guard our stuff.”

As we headed back home, construction or some other factor detoured us from the regular route onto a remote highway that allowed us to see some forest and hills of Reynolds and Dent Counties that we might otherwise have never laid eyes on. As he lay sprawled out in the far back of the Honda SUV, it was obvious Jamie had thoroughly enjoyed the outing. But he had one regret.

“I never did see any elephants,” he said.

“Maybe next time, big man,” I said. “Maybe next time.”

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 and his sidekick Doug Davison sit among some of the granite boulders that are said to resemble giant dinosaur eggs at Missouri’s Elephant Rocks State Park.

Jamie checks out the ruins of a building where trains were repaired during the days when the granite mountain that now comprises Elephant Rocks State Park was home to a major quarry operation.

Jamie takes the opportunity to cool off on a hot June day in a small pool of rainwater he found at the summit of the giant granite outcropping at Elephant Rocks State Park in Iron County.

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