True Blue Lacy

by Peggy on April 28, 2016

For the first time in 20 years, there are no dogs in my house.

Except for a very short, disastrous period with a hyper Corgi named Tippy, we didn’t have dogs when I was growing up. But I loved dogs. I  studied all the different dog breeds. I read and re-read storybooks about dogs. I wanted dogs in my life.

Mark brought home our first puppy, Patch, when we moved to the farm in 1996. Part German shepherd and part chow, he grew to a gentle giant around the kids. A year or two later, a family we barely knew dumped their border collie mix at our place. We had tried once before, and failed horribly, with a rescue, so we worried about Rex. He had problems. But Mark had a good hand with dogs and slowly, but surely, Rex turned into a big, lovable lump.


Michael and Gus, January 2002

As farm dogs, though, they weren’t particularly helpful. My dear friend, Terri, was having good luck with an old Texas breed, Blue Lacy, at her place in the Hill Country. She brought me her pick of the litter in January 2002.

He’d only been with us for a few weeks when Paige got the flu. He wouldn’t leave her side until she was up and about again.


Paige and Gus, February 2002

Mark was a bit annoyed with me. Three dogs is a pack, he said, and they will be harder to manage.  That’s ok, I told him, I want Gus to be my dog.

Gus entertained the kids as a puppy with his incredible energy. Once I sat my coffee down on the porch and he drank it as I looked away. The kids watched in wonder as he ran in circles, without stopping, for about three minutes, and then laid down and slept it off.


Left to right on the front porch at the farm: Gus, Paige, Rex, Michael, Sam.

Mark saw that energy could — and needed to be — directed. In very little time, Gus became Mark’s dog. I did a lot of work on the farm, but Mark did more. Gus loved to work. All you had to say was “should we go do some work?” and he ran to the door with such excitement, bounding ahead of you outside. It really was his favorite time of day. With “go ahead,” he’d scout for you as you worked the fences or a row of trees, alerting you to snakes and chasing off varmints. With “get ’em up,” he rounded up the chickens and the goats when they got loose. He tried to help when other people’s livestock got on our land.

This photo is a classic shot of Mark having one of his sit-downs with a young Gus. I’m sure all that Gus heard was “blah, blah, blah” (I can’t remember what he had done wrong at this moment either), but more than anything, Gus wanted to please Mark. These little sit-downs were amazing bonding sessions.


So when Mark went to the store one night and never came home, Gus was as distraught as the rest of us. Twice he went looking for him and came home shot. Both times the veterinarian, Nub Nabors, shook his head as he looked at the x-rays. The first time Gus was shot, the bullet went clean through his chest and hit no internal organs of any kind. The second time the bullet went through the two bones of his front right leg as if threading a needle. Nub just stared at the x-ray in wonderment.

After that, Gus gave up looking for Mark.

Fast forward to life in the city, which I’ve written about before. He enjoyed these past 12 months of retirement.

Today was his last day. He got cancer and his haunches wasted away until he couldn’t hold himself up anymore. This morning, when it was time to get up and take our fake patrol in the ditch, his new favorite time of day, he gave up.

The humane thing doesn’t always feel humane.

Gus and I have been sleeping on the sofa together for nearly a year. I could sleep in my bed tonight.

But I won’t.




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The little things, again

by Peggy on April 17, 2016

Yesterday Sam and I went to a funeral. They are always hard on us, and this one underscored both the hope and the cruelty that comes in the march of time.

When it was time to go, Sam came out of his apartment clutching a tie he’d gotten from his brother, Michael. I didn’t consider it the best match for the shirt he was wearing, but it was acceptable. He needed my help putting it on. He’s always needed my help knotting his ties.

Before I even thought about it, I blurted, “I won’t be able to do this as well as Michael.”

Michael visited a month ago, when Sam rode both English and Western in an able-bodied horse show organized by North Central Texas College. When it was time to knot his tie, Michael helped him with a beautiful, neat knot that I knew he didn’t learn at home.

He was in the middle of his junior year in high school when Mark died. He went off to college at Texas Christian University knowing a lot of things about how to take care of himself. But he never learned to knot his ties other than the simple way I faked up trying to help my boys look good. He wasn’t going to get away with that at such a prestigious school.

Michael said he watched lots of YouTube videos to learn how to knot his ties.

I wish I knew why the little things always break my heart.


8 Mile: random thoughts running the hills at Possum Kingdom

April 10, 2016

When all your favorite trails for training have been washed out, or are under water, and you haven’t run a real trail race in a year, take an 8-mile romp to get your footing back. It’s not too short. It’s not too long. It’s just right. Drive two hours to run two hours and you will be […]

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Sam rides barrels for the first time

April 2, 2016

Sam says “well, that was fun.”  

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Riding Western

March 28, 2016

Sam competed for the first time in Western style horseback riding at the North Central Texas College stock show last weekend in Gainesville. He competes with “able-bodied” riders from time to time to challenge himself. This was great practice for next weekend. The regional equestrian Special Olympics are being hosted by the stables where he […]

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Other lessons stated out loud

March 9, 2016

“Our children are not us … and yet we are our children; the reality of being a parent never leaves those who have braved the metamorphosis.” – Andrew Solomon, Far From the Tree.  There are so many lessons from life with a child with autism, it seems important to share at least some of them. […]

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March 6, 2016

Sam has a certain smile that really sings. He’s such a deep thinker that we don’t get to see this smile very much. Like the smile-for-the-camera smile most of us have, his face looks posed in photographs, only more so. But when a happy moment comes — like that moment when sunlight makes it through the clouds and trees […]

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Cake in a jar

March 3, 2016

The first time I ever had cake in a jar was in Tokyo. The people who would become my friends and colleagues were kind enough to stock my apartment refrigerator when I first moved in. They filled it with things they thought a Westerner would like to eat. At the time, I had no idea what […]

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Advanced Arduino fun

January 28, 2016

For his birthday, I gave Sam two books with advanced Arduino projects after he worked his way through the initial project book over at The Forge, the maker space at Denton’s North Branch Library. He made a short video of one of his three builds Monday night.

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Chisholm Challenge 2016: English Equitation

January 15, 2016

Sam said he knew when he went into the ring, he was up against some stiff competition this year. He still had a great ride.

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