Elizabeth was still in high school and she, Betsy and I pledged to save this pup. You have to understand what we were dealing with – we had a 4 day old puppy who was born 10 days early and no longer had a mother. He wasn’t as big as a tiny little mouse.
The first step was for Betsy to have a serious conversation with the vet about what steps to take if we were to have any chance of success. He said that since the pup was able to nurse for several hours that first day, he should have received enough colostrum from his mother to give him the necessary antibodies to have a decent chance of surviving. He gave us a very strict diet to follow for several weeks, the first two being the most critical. Elizabeth, Betsy and I agreed to split shifts to take care of him.
At that time, we decided to name it Bizzy, in honor of Izzy. Bizzy lived in a box in the kitchen with a light on him to keep him warm. Every three hours, 24 hours a day, he had to receive formula milk with a pipette. We used warm, moist cotton to wipe his little behind to mimic his mother licking it to stimulate a bowel movement.
Betsy started getting little stuffed animals his size to put in the box with him to help him feel like he had siblings nearby. As he began to grow, Betsy increased the size of the animals along with Bizzy’s size. He never saw another dog until he was about 8 weeks old. For the rest of her 17½ years, Bizzy will have an affinity for stuffed animals and will always have several to carry and snuggle with.
He developed a very unusual character trait which I am convinced comes from the way he came into the world. We called it “trancing”. He would pick up one of his favorite animals, hold it in his mouth, wrap his front legs around it, lie on his stomach, and come out with his eyes open, truly going into a trance. You might wave your hands in front of his face and get no effect. It could last up to 5-10 minutes, and he was really somewhere else during his trance. I never saw him levitate, but we always expected him to.
Bizzy has become a constant companion and made many friends with her very unusual personality. As a bonus, he was an excellent hunting dog. He had a superior nose and was highly regarded for his ability to track a wounded deer. Bizzy has been so successful as a family dog that after a few years Betsy and I thought we’d like to carry on her family line. Of course, the first step was to find him a wife. Betsy did the research and found Blossom in Aiken, a 6 or 7 week old tricolor female.
Blossom quickly adapted to life on the farm. Like Bizzy, she lived in the house, but outside she was a born hunter. She was extremely fast and agile and could jump incredibly high. She would hunt anything, but her favorites were squirrels and moles. If she smelled a mole in the ground, she would start digging. It should not be refused. She could dig a 50 foot trench across the yard until she found the mole, which she would kill and immediately abandon. Good riddance on the mole, but very harsh on the lawn.
We’ve seen the results of her efforts time and time again when she hands over her squirrel trophies to the reverse gears. His hunting technique was to park under a tree with a squirrel in it and sit still, sometimes for several hours. Sometimes she could trick the squirrel into making its way down the tree little by little, trying to tease Blossom. She would stay still as the squirrel came closer and closer.
The fatal mistake would come when the squirrel didn’t realize how high Blossom could jump. She jumped off the ground with an incredible leap, took several steps to the side of the tree before the squirrel could react, then she darted from the tree with the startled squirrel between her teeth, shaking her head violently. coming down. . The squirrel would have stoned to death the moment she landed.
Bizzy and Blossom had two litters together. The second had only two puppies. We gave the female to Johnny Johnson, our farm manager, and kept the male, naming him Weston. Weston was a great dog with a wonderful temperament, but sadly he spent most of his life in the shadow of his amazing parents. We kept telling him, “One day, Weston, you’re going to be the #1 dog!”
In early 2010 Betsy and I went to Aiken and acquired a 12 week old Jack Russell that we named Dottie. We selected her from a wide selection of puppies because of her beautiful appearance and particularly for her calm and affectionate character, which is what we have always looked for in our dogs. Dottie immediately became my constant companion. She and Bizzy were so similar in looks and manners that I often mistakenly called her Bizzy.
She went everywhere with me. I was working in a “dog friendly” office at the time and discovered what a stress relief it was in the middle of a very hectic day to just hang out with your dog and walk around the piece. I wish I had known about this stuff when I was young looking for girls. It’s amazing how many cute girls will stop you at Five Points to visit with your dog!
Dottie had a very endearing trait that kind of reminds me of Bizzy’s “trancing.” She enjoyed watching TV, especially animal shows. She could be sound asleep, and I’d say, “Dottie, you better come and see!” She would jump, run to the television and watch intently until something else happened.
We have had many great and wonderful dogs and we love them all very much. People often ask me: “Do you have a favourite? I’ve thought about it a lot over the years, and I have a bunch of favorites. The moment I got each one, I would have said, “He’s the best dog I’ve ever owned.” Amos, Bizzy and Dottie are the best of the best.
Our lifelong friend, Cal McMeekin, once said, “Damn, Cate, when I come back in my next life, I want to come back as Billy Cate’s dog. I replied, “Damn it, Slick, when I come back in my next life, I want to come back as Billy Cate’s dog!” There is no question; they got it.
Editor’s Note: Adapted from The farm: the relationship of a family to its land by Billy Cate.