The first time I met Angus, I laughed. Here was this strange-looking dog, with giant bat-like ears, a hyena body, and a long ringed tail, peering inquisitively down into the kitchen from the skylight. "Angus is on the roof," my brother said, as if it were perfectly normal for a dog to be on the roof. Dad had left the ladder leaning against our roof, and Angus had climbed it. This was a trick he had picked up from James, since my brother is a carpenter and takes his dog to work with him.
James smirked. "I told you," he said. Yes, we had heard about the antics of Angus, the blue heeler, so named because blue heelers are often used to round up cows. When James was in Montana, sometimes the only thing we could get him to talk about was his dog. The key words "How's Angus?" enlivened many a conversation.
One of James's most pragmatic uses of Angus is as an alarm clock. At 7 o'clock every morning, Angus dashes into James's room, barks, licks James's face, and paws him until he gets up for work. (The only problem with this is that Angus doesn't understand days off.)
Since he wakes James up, Angus feels that he has a right to accompany him to work. In fact, the one thing Angus can't endure is being left behind. At first he thinks he doesn't want to go, but as soon as James pulls out of the driveway, Angus dashes after him. He usually catches up several miles down the road and leaps into the back of James's truck. Angus is very popular with the guys at work. When James leaves him at home they all ask where he is.
Another one of Angus's tricks is snowboarding. When James goes snowboarding, Angus stands on the back of the board until he falls off. Then he runs all the way down the mountain, just to make sure James doesn't leave him behind. The snow is so deep sometimes that he is nearly buried in it and has to make funny jolting leaps to keep his head above the snow. Despite his efforts, only the tips of his ears and nose may be visible above the snow.
James has also taught Angus basketball, among his many other talents. James begins by quickly dribbling the basketball close to the ground and then dribbling it higher and higher so that Angus will fly up into the air in an attempt to steal it. A favorite game James and I play is "Angus in the middle."
In addition, the dog loves swimming and canoeing. Once while I was canoeing with James and Angus, James stopped to talk to a kayaker.
"Who's that?" I asked.
"Oh, that's one of the guys Angus rode down the river with during the canoeing races," James said. Then he began to tell me about a Fourth of July weekend when Angus would wait until James got close enough to another canoe, lean forward with his paws on the edge of the canoe, and jump into the other party's boat. Angus rode down the river in many different canoes.
In fact, James didn't see him again until the end of the race. Surprisingly, Angus never capsized James or anyone else.
'People remember Angus's name and forget mine," James jokes. For example, often people in pet stores know Angus before they know James. "Oh, so you're the one who owns that dog," they say and give him free pet supplies.
If Angus isn't James's best friend, he sure thinks he is. He likes to participate in all my brother's activities. Once when James was fixing a sink, Angus climbed right under the sink with him, lay down on his back, and looked up at the sink exactly like James.
Who knows? maybe James will be able to teach Angus to bring him his tools.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society