Saturday, July 31, 2010

Singing the Dog Gone Blues

We had our 16-year-old dog, Sparky, put to sleep this week.  Steve and I adopted him from a shelter 15 years ago, on July 1, 1995, and he's helped us raise all three of our kids.  He loved to lick their toes when they were babies; he was protective of them when they were toddlers; he never missed a chance to clean up any macaroni and cheese they spilled on the floor, or sniff out goodies left unattended on the coffee table. 

He wasn't the kind of dog to play ball, or do tricks, and he couldn't get around very well during the last few years, as his arthritis hobbled him, but he was happy just to be around us.  Although he was mostly deaf and blind at the end of his life, he still seemed to be able to hear Sebastian practicing his trumpet.

Sparky napping on the dining room floor earlier this year.

I don't know if dogs have much of an appreciation for music, but I know plenty of musicians who appreciate dogs.  My great-grandparents, G. Oliver and Islea Riggs, appeared to be dog people.  I know this because there are several photos of their dogs in the family scrapbook and photo books, with notations like, "My pal."

There's even a dog license pasted into the scrapbook for a dog named Dick that the family must have had when they lived in Crookston.  I can't find a photo of Dick, but I enjoyed reading the personal note on the 1904 license, which cost $1.00: "One of the best dogs that ever pointed a chicken." 

I'm sure there's a good story behind that, but G. Oliver wrote no further explanation.

1904 Crookston dog license for "Dick."

It appears that the family had several different dogs in the early to mid-1900s.  One of my favorite photos is of my grandfather Ronald, his brother Percy and sister Rosalie with their collie, Prince.  Prince reminds my of the wonderful collie my brother and I had growing up on Lake Brophy, named Duffy.

Percy, Ron and Rosalie with their dog Prince in Crookston, Minn.

Other dogs that appear in photos are Laddie, Fritz and Toby:

Laddie, "new member of the family," March 25, 1918



People who knew Islea as a piano teacher in St. Cloud recalled her having a small dog with her during lessons.  I'm not sure if it was Toby, or another small dog. 

Toby, G. Oliver and Islea

I hope my great-grandparents had many happy memories and funny stories about their dogs, just like we have from our years with Sparky.  

Although it broke our hearts to say goodbye, we are better people for having received the unconditional love of such a faithful companion.

Peace, Sparky.


  1. Belated condolences, Joy.

    My wife and I became owners a little more than two years ago. And it didn't take long to see how much joy a dog can bring. I can only imagine your loss. Again, my sympathies.

    Incidentally, we have since added a second dog, a terrier who looks a little like the one in the last of your neat photographs above. Ours also answers to the name Toby.

  2. Thanks, Tom. I appreciate it.

    That's cool that you have a Toby. I hope your dogs bring you many years of happiness!