Remembering Pete

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader.   He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.”  — Author Unknown

Our first family pet was Pete, a beautiful blond Russian Wolfhound.  Pete was born into a family that professionally bred Borzois for show, except that Pete was also born with a heart condition which prevented him from competing.   My father knew the breeders through work, and they agreed to give Pete to our family.  I can still remember, in my three-year old mind’s eye, going to the large home of the breeders’ estate to meet Pete. Beautiful and elegant with long silky blonde hair, Pete stood 33″ at the shoulder.  He fit right into our family with his leggy stride and slender physique.  

My mother, deathly afraid of dogs, having been bitten as a child, took a perch on the top of the couch with me in her arms when Pete first entered our home.   Within a short time though, Pete became attached to us and us to him.  He was happy to let me use him as a pillow as he lay on his side.  He licked my dad’s wounds to make them better–something about dog’s saliva having healing factors, my dad said.  The paradox of how healing factors could override germs, never really clear to me.  

For Pete’s first family outing, we took to the rolling hills of Rocky Gap in Cumberland, Maryland to visit Aunt Ruth’s and Uncle Wade’s farm.  Here, Pete could run and run and run and stretch his long legs to his heart’s desire.  A trip to Aunt Ruth’s also meant a lunch of my favorite, savory scrapple and mustard sandwiches.  I can still see Aunt Ruth in her kitchen, thinly slicing a loaf of “everything but the squeal” pulled from the freezer earlier in the day.  The slices of scrapple sizzled and browned in a cast iron skillet, filling the air with a sagey scent.   After lunch, it was time to head over to the beautiful red barn filled with hay and piles of dried corn cobs.  Years later, my brother joined me on these visits to the country. We loved the novelty of putting the corn through the grinder, separating cob from kernels, and feeding the golden nuggets to the chickens.  Corn kernels strewn on the ground meant mice and mice meant that barn cats were a welcome addition to any farm.

And so, looking forward to the bucolic day ahead and to showing off Pete, our little family drove up the last bit of windy dirt road, parked under the giant maple shade tree in front of the farm-house and stepped out to stretch our legs.  Little did we know, Pete was planning an exit of his own.  As the first car door open, he bolted past us like lightning, making a beeline to the barn cat, who had leisurely observed our approach.   We could do nothing but watch in horror as Pete flew by the cat, grabbing its neck on the way and whipping it high into the air without ever breaking stride, just as his ancestors were trained to do with wolves.  The cat was dead from broken neck before it even landed on the ground.

Pete also a kept a close eye on others who interacted with me, and by now, my younger brother.  He became protective and possessive.  One day, my Uncle Buddy stopped by to deliver some farm fresh eggs.  Amazed by how I had grown, Uncle Buddy reached out to pick me up but never had a chance.  Pete sprang up off his hind legs and bit Uncle Buddy in the face, leaving a wound that bled profusely. 

Soon it was impossible to have my friend and neighbor, Sally, over to play without Pete baring his teeth and growling.  Even when she was in her own backyard, Pete would bark ferociously at her from the other side of the fence.  My parents began to fear for our safety as well as for others, and sadly, we knew that Pete had to be put down.  I know that losing Pete this way was particularly hard on my dad.

My father recalls times where Pete would literally fly around the backyard, running at full speed up the hill, past the railroad ties, and down again.  On one such descent from the hill into the house, Pete forgot that the sliding glass door was closed.  My father marvels that Pete didn’t hurt himself.  While we only had Pete for about two years, he will always be a part of our family.  He was meant to be free and to fly with the wind.


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