When I was a kid I would make a cave by tucking blankets all around my bunk bed, and hide inside reading The Wizard of Oz . I must have read it about 10 times. The book had beautiful illustrations and Toto was portrayed as a solid black Scottish Terrier. Now, we all know that Toto was the best dog in the whole world, the one source of joy in Dorothy's gray Kansas existence, so in my eight-year-old mind, Scotties became the dogs I knew I wanted to have when I grew up.
My first Scottie, Heathcliff, has already gone to the Eternal Lap, and is buried under the apple tree out in the perennial field. He ruled Egan Gardens with an iron paw for 11 years. When one is only one-foot tall it's hard to oversee things properly, so Heathcliff became adept at climbing. He could get way up high on piles of peat bales or stacks of pots, from which he finally could get an overview of operations around the nursery. Then he was in a position to give orders as befitted his status as Top Dog.
When I brought a baby Willoughby home in '93, Heath snorted derisively. "What do you want another dog for, am I not perfect? Am I not enough?" In time he accepted his little brother, and taught him the important things in life: staying out of the way of cars, hunting rodents, and maintaining a silent, cool, but forceful presence whenever food was around.
Willoughby learned well, and changed from a jumpy puppy to a stolid, portly, dignified old fellow. He tried to pass on the Scottie ways when it came his turn to teach a little brother, Ferguson. Ferg was a poor student, though, and Willoughby just didn't know what to do about him. "This younger generation of Scotties don't value tradition!" he complained.
"Ferguson doesn't take his supervisory duties seriously; he lets the humans get away with anything. He lets total strangers pet him and accepts treats from them. I don't know what the world's coming to." Ferguson doesn't care. The world's great as far as he's concerned. Alas, Willoughby joined Heathcliff 'neath the bonny apple tree and snuggled into the Eternal Lap without success as a teacher and disciplinarian.
Ferguson has no desire to be cool. He'd rather have fun. He's only been around since '99, so he still has lots of youthful silliness in him. Though he also was taught the important Scottie skills of food-watching, rodent-hunting and car-avoidance, he doesn't take any of it very seriously except the car-watching part. Even that he pays attention to as much to see if there are other dogs in the cars as for his own safety. As he gets older, though, his food-watching skills are sharpening. I suspect by the time he's 10 he'll be a Scot old Heathcliff would have been proud to call family. Sorry, Willoughby, some pups are just slow learners.
Update 2011 – Ferguson is now 11, coming up on 12 in May, and has become a “relaxed fit” dog. He takes his time about everything except matters involving food. Haste makes waste. Take life one step at a time.
Rochester joined us out of the blue in September '01. He had been found, a wandering puppy out in the country alone, and was brought to us by someone who knew we had Scotties, hoping we could find his old home or a new one. My plan to foster him for the Scottie Rescue group brought quick results -- it was only a week before my mother decided she wanted to keep him herself. She and my father had had Tam o' Shanter, for many years. Tammy was long-lived, wise and matriarchal, but she never lost her sense of fun and playfulness. She didn't spend much time over with us at the nursery, preferring to rule her own roost rather than compete with the overbearing Heathcliff. She had been gone for about four years when Rochester arrived. It was a good time to get another Scottie, my mother figured, especially since Fate brought one her way.
Rochester is a little wild man. He's rough and tough and big (by Scottie standards) and rangy. He's wonderfully sweet-natured and silly, but he plays too hard, with entirely too much tooth and claw action. He jumps up with muddy paws. And he wants to play with everyone, whether they want to or not. Since he hasn't yet learned the cool self-control of the older Scots, we're keeping him within an invisible electric fence. He'd love to have you go over and say "hello" as long as you're comfortable with the rough manners.
Once Ferguson reached the calm, quiet age of 10, I decided we needed more excitement in our lives. Boy, did we get it! I brought Fitzgerald into the family in the spring of 2010. He resembles Rochester in temperament – fast, playful, and rough. He doesn’t have the long sweeping whiskers and kilt that have made Ferguson and Willoughby such pretty dogs, but it’s just as well. If he did, I’d be combing mud and brambles out of him all the time - if I could catch him.
Fitzgerald feels he was born to hunt and chase. He refuses to accept his short legs as an impediment, and charges high speed after anything that grabs his attention – a leaf blowing in the breeze, a flock of birds overhead, a motorcycle on the road. Impossible to catch? So what? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, he says.
The greenhouse cats, Frank and Casper, tolerate his rambunctious displays of affection good-naturedly, though they get out of his way if they can. If you’re a dog-lover and enjoy tug-of-war with a tough terrier, please play with him and help wear out some of his energy before he wears out all of mine.
Copyright © 2006 by Egan Gardens, Inc.