The Old Man On The Mountain

A View From the Backwoods of NH

The Dogs – Copper Belle

I’ve had seven dogs in my life, Copper Belle, an AKC registered Golden, Schultz, a Shepard mix, Sammi Jo, a Shepard mix, Hunter, a Golden mix, Dakota, a Hound/Lab mix, Blue, a Walker Hound and my boy Max, a Shepard mix that’s still with me. This story is about my girl Copper – she was my first dog and my first best friend.

Copper loved to do what all dogs do, and my fondest memories are of her chasing me as I whipped down the hill during winter in a “flying saucer”. I’d be spinning in all directions, and she’d be right beside me, running along, tongue hanging out, with what could only be construed as a smile on her face. And not just me, but the whole family (except Dad – I don’t ever remember Dad partaking in winter sports, except an occasional skate) – up and down the hill, always keeping up, for as long as we could go.

She was my playmate as a kid, keeping me company when there was no one else around. Copper was the “Hobbes” to my “Calvin”. And I remember the day that I discovered just how loyal she was. I was sliding down the hill that was our front yard, when I went one way and the saucer went the other. As I lay there, Copper came over and licked my face (her way to check to see if I was all right). But instead of getting up or making any movement, I just lay there still and with my eyes closed, waiting to see what she’d do. Well, what she did was sit down – for what seemed like an eternity, then came back over, licked my face, got no response, so she lay down next to me. And she stayed there watching over me until I got up – like a second mother.

Copper and I went on many adventures together as I grew up, having a litter of pups along the way. And she watched over her pups just like did with me, an awesome mom. And life went on. If Copper had any bad habits, it was chasing cars. Not that many came by our house, but enough. I remember one day when a motor-scooter came down our road and went to turn around using part of our driveway. Copper was on him faster than a fat kid on cake, when all of a sudden she went right under, rolling over completely as the scooter rode over her. As the driver took off down the road, I ran to see if she was all right. Luckily for her, all she had was a grease streak all the way around her middle. The scooter driver came back to see if everything was OK and, being a kid who only knew that he “ran over my dog”, I started chucking rocks at him as he beat a hasty retreat.

She always wanted to be with the family – she loved to ride in the car, or in our new boat. I remember being on vacation at Meredith Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee – she was 9 years old by then. We decided to take the boat to “the Weirs” to pick up some stuff at The Superette and left her behind to “stay” at the cottage. As we were returning from our trip, Dad spotted something “bobbing” in the middle of the bay. It was Copper, swimming after us like a nut. She swam more than 2 miles up Meredith Bay following our boat. How she didn’t drown I’ll never know.

I was only 13 when Dad put Copper down. I remember how oblivious I was, not totally grasping the concept of why she needed to go to the vet. I can’t remember exactly when I stopped paying attention to her, other than the occasional petting as I passed by. My life had just moved in a different direction – becoming a teenager. And hers had moved on as well – toward old age. I guess I just moved on and she moved over.

I don’t remember Mom or Dad really spending much time with her toward the end. Mom had always fed and maintained her, while Dad always made sure she had her shots. Copper had just always seemed to “be there”, until the day Dad asked me if I wanted to join him when he took Copper to the Vet. She’d been spending most of her time in the basement, free to come and go through the short stairs out the bulkhead. And I guess she could no longer make the climb up or down. I never asked why she had been banished to the basement (or if she’d just chosen to go there), as she’d always been a house dog. I just hadn’t noticed.

I’m sure Dad knew what was coming, but I didn’t have a clue. And when Dad asked the Vet if there was something he could do, all he could say was that it was time to put her down – and just like that we parted ways. No real time to say goodbye, or thanks for all she’d been to me, done for me or meant to me . Dad just said OK and they took her away. Only later in life have I been able to truly appreciate the treasure that she was – my first best friend.