Jefferson Weaver • His Name Was Woody

Jefferson Weaver

His name was Woody.

He never got to run a deer, tree a coon or trail a rabbit. He never got to chase a ball, bark at a cat, or follow a little kid on a bicycle heading out for adventures. He never got to sneak under the covers on a cold winter’s night, or bark and growl at a bear in dreams by a fireplace. He never got to ride in a dogbox, or stick his head out of a car window with a bandanna around his neck, ears flying in the breeze.

Woody came to us after a sweet lady found him beside a country road. She thought he was dead, and was going to move him to the shoulder when he stirred. Not knowing what else to do, she brought him to us.

Miss Rhonda bathed him and spent 14 hours trickling Pedialyte through his puppy teeth, feeding him half-spoonfuls of a nasty but healthy combination of goat milk, liver and pet food. We groomed him of fleas and treated a gaping bite wound on his head. He was so weak and anemic that his blood was slow to clot. We sang to him, and tried to help him stand. We kept reminding ourselves that we had seen worse, and saved some just as bad, without talking about the ones who didn’t make it.

We figured Woody was six, maybe eight weeks old. He was a hound, solid white except for a few black and tan markings here and there. He had the smaller paws of a long-distance runner, maybe a Walker. His head was too big for his tiny body, which weighed about half what it should have. When he cried in pain, he had the voice of a hound. He growled and howled a few times, too, and I prayed the day would come when that voice would mature, and his voice would join in the joyous cacophony of our own hound chorus, a discordant harmony of blue tick and Catahoula and Walker and redbone.

But we got to Woody too late.

He died in his sleep – a peaceful sleep in Rhonda’s arms. I put his tiny little body in a deep hole a few feet from other dogs who have gone on to a place where there is cool water, soft dirt, green grass, warm breezes full of wonderful smells and no cruel people.

Had we been able to get him stabilized, we would have been pounding on the door of a veterinarian Monday morning. We were not going to subject him to an hour’s ride in a car to an animal emergency clinic, frightening him even more while he was poked and prodded in a cold but well-meaning place by folks just as desperately trying to save his life.

I do not know how Woody came to be beside the road, but I have my suspicions, and I know he didn’t have to end up there. It angers me to an unreasonable degree, stirring a past version of myself that God put the brakes on years ago.

There are any number of reasons why dogs and cats end up beside a lonely road. Harry turns out to be a Harriet. You opt to take a chance on waiting until next month to get a pet fixed, because the bills and the money just aren’t coordinating. Some get really and truly lost. Sometimes the whole world falls apart around folks, and for whatever reason they make a bad choice. And sometimes, people are evil.

That’s when bad things happen to good dogs.

The flailing national economy – no, that is not a misspelling – and the changing landscape of Southeastern North Carolina are making it harder and harder for houndsmen. Folks who ain’t from around here don’t understand the tradition or the practicality of hunting with dogs. Others see a hunting dog in fighting trim in the middle of a hard season and think the dog is being starved (there’s a major difference between a starved dog and a dog that’s in prime hunting shape). I understand some folks actually think that dogs can be trained to read posted signs. Others think there should be a mile-wide buffer around their few acres to prevent people from running dogs across private property.

I know there are some sorry excuses for human beings out there who consider themselves houndsmen, too. They lack manners or consideration of others, be they hunters or non-hunters. You can tell a lot about a houndsman (or houndswoman) by how they care for their dogs. Healthy, happy, engaged dogs mean someone you can allow on your land. Truly malnourished dogs without manners generally don’t belong to people you can trust to shut a gate.

The actions of the irresponsible deerclubbers make it harder for hunters of all kinds to gain access to land, leading to more and more restrictions on good hunters. The good houndsman, like any lawabiding citizen, is the one who is punished the most by the actions of the trashy few.

The dogs are punished, too. When the trashy hunters can no longer hunt, or can’t afford even junk feed, their dogs magically disappear. Sometimes they are shot and dumped in the woods. Sometimes they are just abandoned, especially females whose pregnancies are inconvenient.

I do not know how Woody ended up beside the road. Even had he been able to grow up, he  wouldn’t have understood the sociopolitics of cultural shifts and development and posted signs and gated communities, because dogs are dogs.

Some were designed by God to be companions and guardians, and some were designed to help man hunt for food. Although there are darn few humans left who truly rely on nature to provide their families with meat, hunting still plays a role in managing game populations as well as teaching the gentler lessons of stewardship, traditions and good manners. Hunting dogs are the teacher’s assistants in those classrooms, and indeed, some are university-class professors.

  Whether they hunt, keep an elderly lady company, or bark at strangers in the driveway, every dog deserves a home. Every home might not be climate-controlled with five-dollar-a-pound feed and weekly grooming appointments. For some a home is a warm bed of hay in a barrel under a roof, and the promise of a hot trail through a Carolina bay on a brisk fall morning when the frost hasn’t quite burned off and the bucks have necks swollen with pride and lust.

For others home is a doghouse beside a barn, eyes and ears and nose ever attuned to any danger that might threaten the lesser animals who look to the dog for protection, deep throaty barks warning off the howl of the coyote. Home might be beside a veteran who can’t defeat the enemies of a long-ago battlefield. For some home might be the foot of a little kid’s bed, or a place where a tired, frustrated human’s face lights up when the dog welcomes them home after a long, frustrating, heartbreaking day.

Every dog deserves a home, and to be loved – for his or her entire life, not just while it’s convenient.

For about 14 hours, Woody had a home. And he was loved.

He deserved so much more.

About Jefferson Weaver 2149 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].