Interlude: a SPiKE Poem

Every dog has a history, this you should know,
Especially a dog who has wandered from home.
Now the adventuring dog is the most fun to find
As when he is loved his stories unwind –
So in loving dear SPiKE some stories have come
As we've talked at siesta under Mexican sun.
I'd give a scratch and he'd give howls
As he told me of all his adventurous miles –

Like the time when SPiKE saved a boy at the beach
And the mayor of there gave a toast and a speech:
This I believe to be the greatest of beasts
To give of himself and accomplish such feats.
Then the mayor declared the day be named "SPiKE"
In remembrance of him and his courage in life.

Then there's that time before leaving from Texas
When SPiKE was out wandering just after breakfast;
He heard a strange noise, put his snout in the air,
Discovered a scent that should not have been there,
Then running on over to see this strange smell,
He found a fire beginning to swell.
Fast as a jet he took off in a run –
Alerted his master to hurry and come.
The fields of crops were saved that day
Because of a dog who was unable to stay.

Then there's this tale I'm fond to hear told –
The one that SPiKE barks about digging for gold.
He was up in the mountains in Washington state;
Seeking adventure while staying up late,
He came across miners cooking up stew,
Talking about gold and the things they would do.
He lived there for months and nothing was found
Till that day he was digging and there in the ground
SPiKE wrestled a rock up out of the earth –
Little did he know how much it was worth.

Then there's the story – a poet's delight –
A contest of limericks recited one night.
He was over in Ireland, which is another whole tale,
Making dear friends at the Bessy & Ale.
A local gathering of artsy types
Had gathered together, sharing their plights.
Drawing from some of his own painful past,
SPiKE shared his poem about a lost lass.
But it was the limerick that brought him his fame
And all over Ireland they now know his name.
Here is the limerick; I'll share it with you,
So next time you're there you can say you know who...
There was a young pup named Sneezy
Who would sneeze when it was breezy
One day his "Achoo"
Gave the whole town the flu
Now when he's seen he gets queasy.
The tales I have heard from this adventurous dog
I decided to write in my adventuring log.

This is a taste of what will be coming –
Adventure, adventure, and more of SPiKE running!

poem by Dan Haase
:: read more of his poetry at Articulation ::

#4: He-Dog, Not She-Dog

Riding down the highway in the front of the truck was much nicer than riding in the back with all the sheep. We had just pulled away from what they called the border with Mexico where all the trucks had to stop and be checked, when the lady made a call on her cell phone.

"Hello, yes this is Maria. My husband and I picked up a load of sheep from you this morning that are going to Jilotepec and it seems we accidentally got one of your sheepdogs in with them....Hmm, that's odd. Are you sure you're not missing any dogs? He's a golden retriever with a reddish coat."

She tipped the phone away from her mouth and said to her husband, "They say he's not theirs."

"Yes," Maria was talking on the phone again. "Well if you get any word about him, give us a call, ok? I'm sure somebody is looking for him. Adios." She put the phone away and looked back at me, "So what are we going to do with you?"

I wasn't quite sure myself, but I wasn't too worried. I am a hunting dog after all so I can always find my way home.

We drove for a long, long time. Now I'm used to traveling in the open back of a truck where you can see and smell everything that goes by. The windows were rolled up so I couldn't smell anything but I still ran back and forth from one window to the other trying to see things.

"Honey, that dog is drivin' me nuts. Could you please make him sit down," said the man.

Maria turned to me and said, "Sit." I sat down.

"Good dog," she said. "Someone has definitely trained him," she said to her husband as she turned back around. As soon as she turned around I figured that I could get up, so I stuck my nose over her shoulder to look out the window again.

"Ok, ok," she said, "Listen, I'm kinda tired anyway so I'll go back and lie down and you can come sit up here." She climbed in back and I happily jumped into the front seat. Once I started to cross over the man's lap to get a better view of what looked like horses on his side, but he growled at me so sat back down in the seat.

When it got dark and I couldn't see any more, I curled up on the seat and slept. I woke up when Maria moved into the driver's seat and the man went back to the bed to sleep. I would have liked to go back and lie down there too, but I didn't think he would like it very much, so I stayed up front. As it started to get light I saw that the land outside was very different from my ranch. Instead of being flat and brown, everything was green and hilly. I could see why Nosey's mom called them the green summer pastures.

When we finally stopped, Maria tied the rope around my neck again before she let me jump out. There were so many interesting smells, I wanted to run around and explore but the rope wasn't long though. Maria seemed to know the people there very well because she kissed them all on the cheek. Again it happened that I could hear what the people were saying but I couldn't understand them. I tried to listen for a while but they all talked very fast so i just sniffed around where I could reach.

But I tuned in when I heard Maria say to her husband, "Well, it's all settled then. Since he came with the sheep, they figure he must be a sheepdog so they'll keep him. They promised to take good care of him. I just don't know what else to do because it'll be months till we're back near that sheep ranch in Texas again." She tied my rope to a tree as they began to unload the sheep.

A short man with dark hair whistled and four dogs came running. They spotted me and came right over to where I was tied and started sniffing me all over.

"Oye, quien eres y que haces aquí?" said a little tan dog with a beard.

I could tell he had asked me a question but I had no idea what to say so I responded, "Hi, my name is Spike."

"Híjole, es un perro gringo," said a big black dog with a white face. "Hello Espike. My name iz Lobo. What chew do heer?"

"Um, what am I doing here? Well, I came down with the sheep," I answered.

"Chew she-dog?" the dog asked.

"No, I'm a he-dog," I told him. By this point I was really beginning to wonder about these dogs. What kind of dog can't smell that I'm a he?

"She-pah dog," he clarified.

The other dogs appeared to be grumbling amongst themselves. I heard a word that sounded like "touris-ta" and remember how the horses had complained about people they called
"tourists" who visited the ranch and wanted to ride them but didn't even know how to mount them. This made me think the dogs were talking about me.

"Sheep dog? Uh, no...I'm a hunting dog," I replied.

"No hunt heer. Chew come with she-p. You she-p dog."

Apparently the dogs were as tired of trying to talk as I was, so they then ran over towards the sheep who were pushing each other down a ramp out of the trailer.

When the sheep had all left the truck, Maria came over to me. She untied the rope from around my neck, petted me and said, "I sure hope you're happy here, pup. I hate to leave you so far from home, but I don't even know where your home is." She seemed kind of sad, so I put up my paw and shook her hand. Then she and the man got in the truck, waved to the people standing around and drove away.

#3: Truckin with Nosey

It might seem strange that even though I was trapped in the back of a truck with a whole herd of noisy, scared sheep and had no idea where I was being taken, it wasn't very long before I fell asleep...but then, I had had a long day. I had been so excited about going hunting that I had jumped around all morning until us hunting dogs were finally loaded into the back of the truck. Then I had an all-out chase after a rabbit, followed by a long run tracking the sheep. I had also almost barked myself hoarse when I realized that I was being herded up into a truck with the sheep. When the truck started moving, I figured I might as well stop barking because no one was going to hear me. Then I realized that I was all tuckered out, so I curled up on the floor of the trailer and fell asleep.

I have no idea how long I slept but I woke up with a start when someone stepped on me. "Ouwwww", I howled. All the sheep around me jumped, which removed the offending hoof from my tail. My tail still hurt a little bit and I felt stiff, like I'd been jostled around as I slept, so I reached my front paws out as far as I could to get a good stretch. I suppose I did nudge a few of the sheep just a bit and some of them near me started complaining, "Baaa, baaa, waaaa. No shoving."

"What are you doing in here anyway?" one of the sheep asked me. "Don't they have enough sheep dogs down at the green summer pastures?"

"I'm not a sheep dog. I'm a hunting dog," I corrected him. "But what are green summer pastures?"

"That's where we're going. My mother told me that in the summer it gets very hot at our ranch and all the grass dries up so we have to go where there is a lot of rain during the summer so there is enough grass for us all. She always stays home but she told me that it is very beautiful where we're going and that the people there like sheep a lot. They even walk alongside us sheep, watching out for us themselves instead of just herding us with dogs or from horseback. I'm Nosey, by the way."

"Hmmm, I've been called a lot of things: hyperactive, rowdy, even a scaredy-cat, by some stupid dogs who don't know anything. But I've never been called nosey before."

"I wasn't saying I am nosey. That's my name. My mother named me Nosey. Although honestly it's because I am nosey. I've always want to know about stuff ever since I was little and because I find out about things by nosing around she called me Nosey."

"Bahow wow wow," I laughed. "So I guess that explains why you wanted to know about me. My name is Spike, by the way."

As we were talking the truck slowed down and finally came to a stop. Nosey and I pushed our way over to the side of the trailer so we could see out the holes down to the ground. There were lots of other trucks, all around us. For a long time we would sit still, move forward very slowly and then stop again. The sheep started getting restless and began to complain, "It's so hot. It was so much nicer when we were moving and had that breeze coming in."

(Here I have to say that I know I heard some of them complaining when we were moving that it was too windy, that they were going to catch a cold and that they were tired of rocking around so much. If I learned one thing about sheep it was that they can always find something to complain about, oh and the fact that they might be small but their hooves are sharp.)

Finally the truck stopped altogether. We heard the doors of the driver's cabin open and close. I heard people talking outside but I couldn't figure out what they were saying. All my life I've been able to understand the people at the ranch, but now I couldn't understand a word they said. I pushed closer to the holes in the side. I recognized the lady I had seen when we had been loaded up. She was talking with several men and they were walking along the side of the trailer towards where I was.

I started barking as loudly as I could. They looked up at the trailer. For a minute they just listened and then the all started talking very fast. I still couldn't understand them, even though they were right below me, until the lady called to someone up by the truck's cab, "Honey, you better get back here. It sounds like we've got a dog in with the sheep."

I didn't want to leave Nosey, my first sheep friend ever, but I didn't have much choice because pretty soon the lady opened up a door in the trailer and called me over to it.

"Where are they taking you?" called Nosey, as I pushed my way through the sheep.

"I don't know. But I'm sure they'll get me back home."

"Bye, Spike," I head him say over the bleating of the other sheep as a big man lifted me out of the trailer.

The lady tied a rope around my neck before the man put me down. I didn't care about the rope because I was so happy to be outside. As I ran around sniffing everything I could reach, I heard the lady say to the man, "I guess we'll just have to take him with us across the border into Mexico. Why don't you get him up in the cab and I'll call the sheep ranch before we're out of cell phone range and let them know we've got one of their dogs by accident."

Now that I could understand what she was saying I showed them how helpful I can be by jumping up into the cab.

"Did you see that, honey?" she said. "He jumped all the way up by himself." As she climbed in after me she said, "You can't sit in the front seat though."

Obediently I moved behind the seats and when they were both settled in we drove away.

[Click here to see the area of Texas where I grew up]
[Click here to see where this adventure took place]

#2: Good Sheep Fun

Now sheep are funny animals; they're about the same size as lots of dogs, but they don't smell, sound or act like dogs at all. I could tell from the sheep tracks I was following that there were lots of them and they stayed very close together. There seemed to be some dogs along with them and maybe even a horse or two. Horses make me bark. They're tall and even though I usually see them just standing around, they always act like they're doing something so important that they don't even notice me. So I bark. Sheep make me bark too, but that's different.

Like I said, I've never been able to get very close to the sheep but when I have seen them from far away they are always sort of huddled together. I don't know if they're kind of stuck up and don't want to be with other animals, like the horses are, or if they're scared of everyone else. I think maybe they're a bunch of scaredy cats because they do whatever the sheepdogs tell them to do, even if there's just one dog and a hundred sheep.

I was thinking about all this when I heard the sheep. There were hundreds of them. I was so excited I started barking and bounding as I ran. Some sheepdogs heard me barking and came running towards me, calling out, "Hey, you." "Who's that?" "What's going on here?"
I wasn't about to let them stop me. I had rested quite a bit since my rabbit chase so I ran as fast as I could and reached the sheep before the dogs could catch me.

There were so many sheep I couldn't see the end of them. I bounded right into the middle of the herd, barking happily. They were terrified and started running away. Sheep can't really run very well it turns out, their legs don't move very fast and they kept knocking into each other. It was funny to watch. But I couldn't really enjoy it because the sheepdogs were right behind me. They kept barking at me, telling me to go away because I was scaring the sheep.

I guess all the barking attracted the attention of some humans because pretty soon two of them rode up on horseback. One of them called out, "Shep. Get with it, boy."
One of the dogs following me then said to the others, "We've gotta round up the sheep. We'll take care of him later. You two go left, and you two go right. The rest of us'll get the stragglers and we'll meet up again at the stockade by the truck."

I could tell by the tone of his voice that he had work to do and was annoyed that I had scared and scattered the sheep. I decided to stop barking and try to blend in with the sheep, hoping I could get to know them a bit while the sheepdogs did whatever it was they had to do. As soon as I got quiet, the sheep seemed to forget about me. They were all preoccupied with the dog's instructions, "Move in. Move in. No shoving." "Get back in line." "Don't even think about going over there." "No, you can't stop for just a nibble. Can't you see we're on the move?"

I guess sheep don't mind walking all squished together but I stared to feel a little cramped. They kept closing in on me closer and closer. I would have liked to have gotten out of the middle of all of them --besides all of the pushing, their fur is kind of scratchy and made me feel really hot-- but we were packed so tight I couldn't get out. I knew that I could always bark and make them scatter again, but I didn't want the sheepdogs to notice me, so I just kept going, hoping that the stockade wasn't too far away.

I didn't know what a "stockade" was, but I guessed it was where the sheep slept. I figured that once we got there they would all spread out and rest. I could get some water and maybe talk with some of them before the sheepdogs ran me off. I was wrong.

All of a sudden we stopped moving as fast as before. The sheep were pressing against me even tighter and I was glad that I'm taller than them so I could still breathe. I looked around and saw that there were fences on both sides of us. The sheep up ahead were walking up a ramp between the fences through a doorway into a huge truck. I decided that I didn't want to go into the truck so, even though I didn't want to cause more problems, I started to bark. The sheep around me started baa-ing, but we were so squished between the fences that they couldn't go anywhere. Neither could I. I barked some more.

"Hey, let me out. I gotta get out of here," I barked as loud as I could. But the sheep kept moving forward towards the truck.
"Help! Help! Shep, help me!" I cried, but Shep and the other dogs were at the back of the flock making sure all the sheep got herded between the fences and they couldn't hear me. I looked around for the men, but they had gotten off the horses and were talking to a lady by the front of the truck.

I thought of a million things to do. I imagined myself jumping on top of the sheep and then jumping over the fence. But I didn't have enough room to jump. I thought that I could just stop moving. If the whole flock stopped surely someone would see me and get me out. But the push of the sheep was too much. I couldn't stop.

The dark entrance got closer and closer.
Then I was inside.

I kept barking, hoping that someone would hear me and get me out. But pretty soon the door closed, I heard the engine start, and then felt a jerk as the truck started moving.


#1: Not a Scaredy-Cat

I love to run. I love to hunt but I don't like loud noises. Unfortunately hunting with humans and loud noises go together. You see, I used to live on this big ranch in Texas with lots of other animals, especially lots of other dogs. The people there put us dogs in the back of a pickup truck and drove us far away from the house so we could hunt with them. I loved finding little animals and birds and taking them back to the humans who would pet me and fuss over me.

I could tell when they were getting ready to take us out and I would get all jumpy with excitement. The other dogs would get annoyed and tell me to sit down and stop bouncing into them. When old T-Bone was nearby, he would give me a history lesson about other golden retrievers he had known from the ranch who had hunted with famous humans or who had done extraordinary things, like Bull who cornered a mountain lion on his own in a canyon or Maggie who killed a rattlesnake. I think he wanted me to be impressed by the dignity of our breed so I would wait calmly, but it never worked. All those stories make me even more eager to get out. I wanted to chase down a deer or to surprise everyone with something I sniffed out and caught in the grass.

There was something that I didn't like about hunting though. The humans had these guns that would explode. The sound of the explosions was so loud it hurt my ears. After a loud BANG, I wouldn't be able to see, I would start to cry and sometimes I even piddled a bit. Some of the other dogs would laugh at me but I couldn't help it. I don't know how they weren't scared. The explosions were very loud and they hurt my head and I had seen how the guns could blow things apart.

One day as we were being driven out to hunt, a couple of Labradors started making fun of me in the back of the truck, "Spike's not a dog, he's a cat, a scaredy cat. Meow, meow, scaredy cat Spike."

I was so mad at them that when we stopped and all jumped out, I ran around to the far side of the truck. I was sniffing around there, not really paying attention so it totally surprised me when BANG a gun went of very close. Aoww, my ears hurt and I started crying. I saw another human lift up his gun so I started running as fast as I could, hoping to get far away before the next shot.

As I ran I heard one of the humans yell, "SPIKE! Spike, come back." But when I slowed down I caught the scent of a rabbit in the grass. Sniff, sniff. Sniff, sniff, sniff. I followed the scent. Suddenly a rabbit jumped out from behind a clump of grass and started to run. I was off. If you've never chased a rabbit you have no idea how fast they run. I run pretty fast though, and since I'm bigger I was sure I could catch him. We ran and ran until he dove into a hole in the ground. I couldn't follow him because the hole was so small I could only fit the tip of my nose into it. I tried to dig him out but the hole kept going. I realized it must be one of the doors to the rabbit city I'd heard other dogs talking about. Since no dog had ever been able to dig to all the way to the city, I knew the rabbit was gone.

I sat there for a minute panting, and looked around. I didn't see or hear anything familiar - no other dogs, no humans talking, not even any guns. I guess I had been so focused on the rabbit that I hadn't paid attention to where I was going. While I sat there trying to decide which direction would take me back to the truck, I heard water running. I was very thirsty after my long run so I followed the sound to a small creek where I drank and drank. The creek was full of interesting smells. Lots of other animals had been there very recently. I could smell some dogs and sheep, lots of sheep.

Now you're probably thinking that I should have finished my drink and gone back to the truck to go home. Maybe you're right. But you have to understand, back home I never got to be around the sheep. Winston and Higgins, the sheepdogs, got to spend all day running after the sheep. They even got to sleep outside with them sometimes. But none of the hunting dogs were ever allowed near the sheep. So I just had to find them. Off I ran.